Stephanie Wong and Angela Bouzanis are Master of Business Administration (MBA) students at the UBC Sauder School of Business. Although they come from different professions, they found common ground in their passion for empowering women.
As co-presidents of the UBC Sauder Women in Business Club, they are sharing their personal experiences and encouraging other members to do the same – with a goal of creating a supportive community and professional network.
Pivoting from nursing to business management
Stephanie Wong is a Registered Nurse who is passionate about finding creative ways to improve the delivery of healthcare. While working at St. Paul’s Hospital, she sought out leadership opportunities, designing quality-improvement projects to better support the patient journey. She also worked in a variety of clinical areas, endeavouring to learn all she could about how hospitals run.
“I really wanted to be a leader in the healthcare system,” says Wong. “I wanted to understand how big decisions are made in hospitals.”
Wong decided to go back to school to study business management.
Seeking female mentors in professions dominated by men
Angela Bouzanis is an economist. She was based in Barcelona, working for FocusEconomics, an international company that provides economic forecasts for subscribers that include governments, financial institutions and multi-national corporations. When she was promoted to Lead Economist, she became the first woman to hold the position in the Barcelona office.
“There’s a lack of female role models in economics in general as it’s a very male-dominated field. So when I attended our leadership meetings, it was me and all the guys,” says Bouzanis.
After more than five years in the role, she began thinking about a career that would offer more team-focused and project-based work. She moved back to Vancouver and began her MBA.
Creating strength in numbers
Having both experienced a lack of female mentorship in their careers, Bouzanis and Wong decided this was an area where they could make a contribution. They became co-presidents of the UBC Sauder Women in Business Club. Founded in 2010, the club’s mission is to encourage women to take leadership roles in their careers and lives to accelerate gender parity.
“Our over-arching goal is to empower the individual to empower others,” says Wong. “If you don’t feel empowered and confident to succeed in the workplace, it’s difficult to go forward and also elevate the people around you.”
Building on the work of club members before them, Bouzanis and Wong have organized two ‘lean in circles’ – an exercise promoted by Facebook executive, Sheryl Sandberg. Participants shared examples of both challenges and victories they’ve experienced in their careers and leadership development. They also organized a golf clinic with a woman PGA of Canada teaching professional, and a boxing class.
“For this team-building event, we invited our members to nominate a male student who has been an outstanding ally to join us,” explains Bouzanis. “We got some great emails that highlighted some of the men in the cohort and what they do to support their women classmates, such as seeking their opinions on different business problems and requesting they be in gender-balanced groups.”
Future plans include a networking event where employers and members meet and have the opportunity to strike up career conversations.
Building allyship and a deep network of business connections
The co-presidents recently completed another ambitious project – they hired a woman videographer to produce a video featuring the Women in Business Club members. The content will be used for marketing purposes. In addition to attracting a steady stream of members year-after-year, Bouzanis and Wong want to build a network of business partners and mentors from every sector of the economy.
Their message to the business community is that UBC Sauder’s women MBA students are passionate about business, skilled at solving complex problems, and motivated to lead teams and organizations.