College is intended to help students find their passions and empower them to pursue what they love. Ideally, time at an institution of higher learning like Boston College will prepare students to take on this daunting task in the real world with confidence. However, it is highly cited that BC’s female students graduate with lower self-confidence than they had when they entered as freshmen.
This study, conducted by the University's Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment, consisted of two self-evaluation surveys: one completed upon entering college and another upon graduating. Despite reports of high academic performance, the study revealed that most female students at BC “gave themselves weaker self-evaluations in the second survey.”
While this statistic is highly troubling, the number of on-campus organizations focused on BC’s women has continued to grow since the survey’s 2013 findings. From career-oriented clubs to reflection and discussion groups, these programs could make great strides in working to reverse this confidence gap.
Women In Business (WIB) is one prominent on-campus organization focused on the success of BC’s women. Co-Presidents Alexis Teixeira, CSOM ‘17, and Claire Larson, CSOM ‘17, spoke to The Gavel about the club’s mission and its role for female students looking to enter the business world.
According to Teixeira, Women In Business is “an organization, network, and community of undergraduate female students dedicated to their empowerment and education.”
The organization plans a variety of events and opportunities to help its members succeed. “Whether this is through networking opportunities with their dream companies, helping take the first steps to developing confidence to apply and interview for jobs, or spending time with other amazing BC women at our socials and galas, Women In Business hopes to be an outlet and space for females at Boston College to be proud and feel good about themselves,” says Teixeira.
On a personal level, WIB’s programs have helped Teixeira gain confidence as she searches for jobs. “For instance, many of the large info sessions for financial positions are filled with men and it can sometimes be intimidating to raise your hand in those settings,” she explains. “I have found it to be is much easier to walk into networking events with a smaller group of women to have genuine and organic conversations.”
Larson expressed similar sentiments about the positive impact that WIB has on its members, including herself. Says Larson, “Reflecting back on my time at BC, Women In Business has been an essential part of forming my own identity both as a student at BC and as a woman about to enter the workforce...it taught me what it means to be a leader for others and instilled confidence that has stayed with me since.”
Teixeira and Larson both emphasize that Women In Business works to foment relationships between BC’s women as well, through their Sponsorship Program that creates mentor–mentee pairings. As Larson explains, “We hope Women In Business serves as a resource to the undergraduate women of BC and demonstrates how females can be a positive force of support to one another.”
Thrive is another on-campus program dedicated to female empowerment at BC. The program pairs groups of sophomore women with senior leaders, and the groups have weekly discussions, go on a retreat, and participate in other activities.
Teresa Sullivan, LSOE ‘17, is an undergraduate staff member at the BC Women’s Center who runs the Thrive program. She explains that each weekly meeting is focused on a new topic important to the life of female BC students. The topics include relationship with self, family and home, wellness and balance, spirituality, passion and vocations, and communication.
“Through Thrive we hope that the sophomores will be able to build community by expanding their social network, embrace a space of vulnerability, grow personally through intentional reflection, and get exposed to campus resources,” says Sullivan. “I see sophomores as gaining a greater sense of identity through the program, as well as understanding how they can shape their own role in the larger BC community.”
However, Thrive’s program benefits the senior leaders as well. Sullivan explains, “We also hope that our sixteen senior mentors gain leadership skills, reflect on their own experiences, cultivate a greater sense of self, and learn to collaborate with their peers.”
As a new program, Thrive’s leadership is open to developing and adjusting the program to fit the needs of its members. Sullivan admits that “[Thrive] is in its first year, and so we're constantly evaluating our strategy and asking program participants what works and what doesn't.”
Clearly, organizations like Women in Business and Thrive are integral to the development, empowerment, and education of BC’s women. While the existing gender-based confidence gap is an unfortunate reality that many female BC students experience, the continued success and development of these on-campus programs can work to mitigate—and hopefully eliminate—this phenomenon.