For students Courtney Peters (McIntire ’20) and Cameron Ngo (McIntire ’21), joining the Women’s Business Forum at McIntire has been nothing short of time well spent.
Peters, the current President, and Ngo, last semester’s Vice President (who’s currently studying in Milan at Bocconi University), both sought out the student organization as first-years, compelled by an interest in the subject, but not knowing much about it or where to start. According to Peters, the WBFM’s reputation for offering a relaxed way to learn about opportunities in various industries while giving her a chance to build relationships and expand her network was too inviting to pass up. Ngo also heard that the group was very welcoming—and the fact that she could just sign up without having to apply sealed the deal.
WBFM provides its members with a forum to discuss issues unique to gender in the workplace, but also exposes members to the business world, and helps them to develop skills that are indispensable for career success. As such, the org helps women to deepen their understanding of careers in all fields—and the necessary steps to advance in them—before their third year, when those who choose to apply and begin their education at the Comm School can fully focus on the road ahead of them.
We spoke to Peters and Ngo about their work with the WBFM and how it applies to their current education and their long-term goals.
Why does the mission of WBFM resonate with you?
Peters: I think it’s so important to be able to recognize and articulate ways women can be disadvantaged within the workplace, but the opportunities and advice provided by the club can help alleviate some of those pain points.
Ngo: WBFM strives to provide an open forum to discuss issues unique to women, as well as opportunities to network, mentor, and improve on vital business skills. This is really impactful to me because these are skills necessary in the business world and during recruiting season, but they aren’t necessarily taught in class. I really value having this forum that allows me to not only learn more from both presentations and mentors, but also to practice these skills at various events. In addition, as a third-year, I really enjoy the mentorship aspect and being able to give advice and answer any questions, because as a first- and second-year, I definitely valued the opportunity to ask questions.
What responsibilities come with your position in the Women’s Business Forum, and what do you enjoy most about the role?
Peters: As President of WBFM, I set goals for our organization and coordinate with the other members of the executive board to carry out these goals through our programming. My favorite part about this position is thinking “big picture” about the needs of our members, who mostly consist of first- and second-year students, and how to best serve these needs in tangible ways. I love seeing an idea grow into a successful learning experience for members.
Ngo: As Vice President, I plan the general body meetings. These meetings are the core of Women’s Business Forum—all of our members gather to learn about and discuss various topics related to women and business. I try to gauge interest in various topics ranging from networking to negotiation, and plan meetings that best serve our members. As a first-year, I genuinely enjoyed the opportunity to broaden my business acumen and learn so many practical skills, so it’s extremely rewarding for me to plan content for the general body meetings that I would’ve found beneficial. It’s even better when first-years feel comfortable asking questions during meetings or stick around after.
What events or activities has the Women’s Business Forum hosted during your time in the group? What are you planning for the remainder of the semester (or next year)?
Peters: Our monthly general body meetings feature guest speakers, from local Charlottesville business owners to McIntire professors, who share about their experiences in business and give advice for our members. We also partner with companies interested in getting to know our members, through events such as a resume review workshop with AB InBev or a breakfast networking event with Oliver Wyman. One of my favorite WBFM events was having Kristin Watson, Founder of pūrvelo, share her story of starting and expanding her successful cycling studio.
Ngo: Some general body meetings we’ve had include guest speakers such as Professor Sherri Moore, who spoke about her experience as a woman in the corporate world; a recruiting and internship panel, during which third- and fourth-years shared their experiences; and a Commerce Career Services networking and negotiation lesson. We also host an annual networking banquet each year, where our members are encouraged to come and put the skills they’ve been learning about throughout the year to use by networking with a variety of our corporate guests.
How has the organization enhanced your overall McIntire experience? Has it offered any insight into your coursework at McIntire or at UVA?
Peters: My time with WBFM has helped me really care about getting other women excited about business. It’s been cool to see McIntire bring to light the incredibly wide scope of ways to pursue business beyond the few highly recognized job types, and I think that’s contributed toward more women seeing McIntire as an attractive place to study.
Ngo: WBFM has enhanced my McIntire experience by allowing me to work with McIntire faculty and meet fellow women interested in pursuing careers in business. It’s also helped me refine skills that I have put to great use this year during recruiting, such as developing my elevator pitch, networking, and fine-tuning my resume. In terms of coursework, I think learning about business through WBFM and discussions with my mentors helped me pick my concentrations. I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about which concentrations are geared towards specific careers and what personality traits and strengths are the best fit for certain concentrations!
How does your experience with the group relate to your career plans?
Peters: My time in WBFM has helped me develop many of the soft skills that are so critical to succeeding in today’s workplace, such as networking, building meaningful and helpful professional relationships, maintaining a personal brand, and advocating for myself in a professional capacity. Also, my role on the executive board has given me management experience with delegating responsibilities and organizing initiatives.
Ngo: Through WBFM, I’ve learned a lot about women in the corporate world and some of the potential struggles I may face. Knowing this, and even how to potentially combat these issues, will prove extremely useful in any future career. In addition, the leadership skills I’ve gained through working with the exec board are great to have going into the workplace and will be useful in any team environment.