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Passing the Torch: Interview with 2019 Co-presidents – Caitlan Howle

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I am a third-year student studying a combined commerce and science degree. Outside of uni, I enjoy singing and I am currently working for the Australian Girls Choir to fulfil this passion. After graduating from university, I am hoping to go into a management consulting role.

 

What motivated you to join Capital W?

In my first year, I was approached by Capital W members at the Business School student orientation. They were incredibly passionate about the society so I went along to the first-year social and met a number of like-minded women which prompted me to join. It was a great female community and I really resonated with the mission of trying to connect female students with industry and equip them with the skills to be career-ready.

 

What was your first year in Capital W like? 

The landscape of the team was so different! Capital W was much smaller and I joined in a cohort of only seven subcommittee members. Our team was very close, which I think is a tremendous benefit and some of my closest friends today are from that team. 

I was part of the IT portfolio, who at the time, was in the process of redesigning the website and relaunching the blog. I was fortunate to have a real impact in this process which had both technical and creative components. We were also allowed to move around portfolios so I got to experience being in HR where I helped organise the welcome back social for Semester Two. It was a great experience and the reason why I chose to continue my journey with Capital W as I felt like I was really part of the community. 

Additionally, the exposure to the industry is incredible and is something that I wouldn’t have engaged in during my first year had I not been in Capital W. I definitely credit a lot of the skills I have developed to the role models that I had in Capital W as a first-year student. 

 

Are there any experiences have you been through in Capital W before becoming the Co-President that you think is crucial and had a big impact? 

Taking on initiatives as a Director, putting my hand up to take on additional tasks and helping to organise different workshops gave me lots of experiences that have been invaluable in the Co-President role. In particular, running the 2018 subcommittee drive where we expanded our team quite significantly was a great learning experience. It was a big undertaking and being able to manage the workload of Capital W responsibilities, my studies and part-time work was a valuable opportunity to learn how to effectively time manage which I think is crucial especially when being Co-President. The workload is very significant and I was grateful to have had a brief taste of that during subcommittee recruitment. 

We also didn’t have an events portfolio last year, so I was quite heavily involved in the logistical side of Annual Dinner. It taught me a big lesson in balancing a large number of personal preferences and needs which is an important part of my current role.

 

I know that balancing between the presidency, school work and work is very hard and I would like to know how you managed all the three things?

Balancing the three requires a lot of planning; knowing what are the times that are non-negotiable in terms of work, Capital W and uni commitments, as well as being available for last-minute emergencies that are quite inevitable. A great thing that Henrietta and I have done when the work became a little bit overwhelming was to both have an evening off Capital W where we just ignore all the emails and messages. We have been referring it to our “date night” where we can just focus on either work, uni or social life and this has been a real help. With everything being so digital now, it’s very easy just to be constantly on your phone checking emails, checking messages, so sometimes, you just need to block off time, switch off and focus on something else. 

 

How would you describe your experience as a co-president of Capital W?

Challenging and rewarding at the same time. Managing the annual changes with new Directors as well as introducing new portfolios, events and sponsorship models has been challenging at times. On the other hand, some of the opportunities that have come as part of this role have been amazing! Speaking in front of over 200 people was something that I don’t think many university students could say that they have done, and I was fortunate to do this at Annual Dinner in a room filled with students, sponsor representatives and special guests. As well as this, I was able to lead our O-Week team where I was able to meet the next cohort of female students at the UNSW Business School.

 Despite this, the most rewarding part has been working alongside Henrietta. She has had incredible experiences both at university and at work and I honestly don’t think I could have done the job without her. I have learnt so much in this role and am so privileged to be part of a team that genuinely cares about fulfilling our mission.

  

What makes Capital W special to you?

I think the community of people that are so passionate about helping women to be career-ready makes Capital W truly special. The conversations I have had with students at events have always been fantastic and we are fortunate to have so many connections with sponsors who have been helpful in giving students opportunities to build their skills. Working as part of a team where we all get along also makes Capital W so enjoyable.

 

What do envision Capital W to be like after your presidency?

Each year the presidents, Henrietta and I included, go in with these grand ideas of things we want to accomplish and it’s really hard to manage everything. Having said this, I believe the incoming Co-Presidents will do a great job in continuing some of the initiatives that we have started this year and further increasing our reach. I know there have been discussions about changing the sponsorship model lately and I can see them bringing in new sponsors that would broaden Capital W’s reach to not just business students, but also more STEM students. Additionally, I can see a continuation of the Women in AI series as it is both a great opportunity for Capital W and the broader UNSW community. Continuing a tight-knit team with the Capital W culture is also something I think the incoming Capital W Co-Presidents would want to continue and strengthen. 

 

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Paving the Way: Interview with 2019 Co-presidents – Henrietta Chui

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I am a fourth-year Commerce Co-op Student majoring in Marketing and Information systems. I am currently doing my Co-op placement at American Express in its Channel Strategy team. In my free time, I like to do hot yoga. I also play instruments like the piano and trombone. 

 

What motivated you to join Capital W?

When I first started uni, I didn’t know what societies to join and a 2nd year marketing Co-op student recommended me Capital W. She said I should definitely join if I wanted to do something meaningful and meet some great students. 

 

What was your first year in Capital W like? 

I was part of the marketing portfolio back then and I have continued my journey in Capital W as a marketing director. 

A lot has changed since I first got into Capital W in terms of culture and social media. We have developed a stronger focus on digital analytics and STEM this year.

There has also been a drastic increase in the number of members of Capital W. When I just started in Capital W, we probably had a team of 20 and now we have 40. It is really hard to still see every person and get everyone together with such a big team.

Overall, we are trying to develop more of the social side – it is a lot more social and open now. We see the ideas from subcommittee members more and more as the get involved. The case competition and the planning of careers fair are more subcommittee members driven this year, including the subcommittee members-led event as well. 

 

Were there any experiences have you been through in Capital W before becoming the president that you think was crucial and had a big impact? 

The Beyond mentoring program, which I had to lead when I was the VPA. We just knew that we wanted a mentoring program, but we didn’t know what would it look like, what events we want, and how we would structure it. That gave me a lot of experience and leading them and learning how to delegate tasks. We didn’t have as many subcommittees members back then for mentoring, and so the VPA had to look after the event. It was a really good experience to talk to sponsors and students. I also liked the freedom of changing things and developing new events like the Case Crack. We always get feedback from mentors and mentees so we could change the events around the year. That was a really good experience and I want to make sure the team has the space to explore and develop their new initiatives and ideas.

 

I know that balancing between the presidency, school work and work is very hard and I would like to know how you managed all the three things? 

The best thing about Capital W is that most of the time you have the Co-presidents and directors, which means that you always have someone that you could talk to and support you. I do believe that it is important to have that person no matter at uni or work.

I think doing more things, staying in the societies and working at the same time pushes you to not procrastinate. Getting things done, I spend lots of my time writing emails on the train. It’s also important to trust the team, let go and believe that the team can get things done so that you don’t have to do it all yourself. If you enjoy what you do, you wouldn’t think that the workload is heavy. I enjoy work as there is a good culture there, I love being part of Capital W so sometimes I don’t feel like there is much of a workload.

 

How would you describe your experience as a co-president of Capital W?

Rewarding – I truly believe that we have to remember why we are doing and why we run the events. With events such as Annual Dinner, it’s a lot of work and I know a lot of people don’t continue societies in their final year because they just want to relax and don’t have to worry about things but I am really glad that I continued because it is rewarding to see great events happening, and first years growing and end up leading their own events, which is something I find really special. 

Coffee – I really like it when I get to catch up with my mentee and other sub comms, VPs and have coffee with them.

 

What makes Capital W special to you?

We have extremely high standards and expectations in running events. We are known to companies for being the most professional to work with. We do everything possible to run a great event and support their goals of what students they would want to recruit. The only reason we are able to do that is that we have a team that cares. Our team is very high achieving and busy and to have a broad range of skills and degrees. The events that we run also make us really different. We are one of the first all-women societies and the first women in business society in Sydney out of all the universities to start off with. This history gives us a really strong background, we have a lot of alumni that are still involved and invested in what we do. 

 

What do envision Capital W to be like after your presidency?

A lot more companies are looking for diverse people, so more focused on STEM backgrounds and running events that align with that. 

More unity is also something I would like to see in the future, I have always thought that somehow in some way, male students should be involved in Capital W. They do attend the International Women’s Day Breakfast but if we really want to achieve our goal to empower women in the workplace, we need to empower each other at every level. This is what I would like to see in the future, more unity in both genders and across universities. 

 

What are your plans for the future after being the president of Capital W?

When I go into full-time work next year, I hope I can still be involved in a women’s network or a diversity network. Maybe coming back as a sponsor representative one day! With our generation, everything is open, with so many opportunities to change our careers, so I think it is really great that I have learnt about different industries through Capital W. Even though I have no idea what I will end up doing, I am excited to start. 

Capital W Alumna: Leader With a Vision

Lauren Maxwell

Lauren Maxwell was Co-President of Capital W in 2017, after leading the Marketing Subcommittee as Marketing Director in 2016. 

Lauren graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce/Media (PR & Advertising) in 2017 and is currently Marketing Manager in the Business Marketing Team at Commonwealth Bank after finishing the Graduate program there.

With a vision of smashing through “1000 Cracks in the Ceiling”, Lauren and her co-president, Tina Vo, continued to urge young women to take risks and “creating their own doors when opportunities do not come knocking.” We now talk to Lauren to hear her favourite Capital W moments and advice for current students!

What was the most rewarding part about being in Capital W?

The most rewarding part of Capital W was the opportunity to connect with like-minded and motivated female students.  Later in my degree, it was the opportunity to give back and inspire younger female students through our events and workshops.

Can you tell us about your favourite/most memorable Capital W experience?

One of the most memorable experiences during my time in Capital W was my first Annual Dinner. I put my hand up to organise the table decorations which, I soon found out, involved getting up at 4am to go to the flower markets the day before the dinner. My house became a make-shift florist as the team and I hand arranged bunches of flowers for the table decorations. At that year’s dinner, the absolute stand out for me was our key note speaker Elizabeth Broderick. Elizabeth told a serious but inspiring story about her work as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner in the Armed Forces. Her speech reinforced the fact that Gender Equality is the unfinished business of the 21st century.

Can you tell us about your current role at Commonwealth Bank?

I recently finished CommBank’s graduate program and started a full time role as Marketing Manager in the Business Marketing team. I work on marketing initiatives for industries within CommBank’s Business Bank including Retail, Healthcare and Not-For-Profit.

What advice would you give to current students?

Get involved in as much as you possibly can while you’re still at university. Find societies that align with your passions and even if you’re only vaguely interested, take the time to apply for exchange! It was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The theme for this year’s Capital W Annual Dinner is ‘She Means Business’. What does this theme mean to you? 

The first thing that came to mind when thinking about this theme was resilience. Personally, this theme stands for the women who mean business, regardless of what they’re faced with. It’s a call to action for those who sub-consciously (or consciously) continue to act in ways that prevent women from advancing. To me, it’s a call to action for advancing gender equality. 

Capital W Alumna: The Catalyst

Stephanie Pow

Stephanie Pow founded Capital W in 2007 with a group of like-minded young women, all passionate about equipping young women to “tackle any role”. 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance), Stephanie completed an MBA from University of Pennsylvania- Wharton School and MPA from Harvard University. Stephanie is currently Strategy Director at Vend, a cloud-based POS software company. 
 

Keen to learn about Capital W’s influence on her life, we asked Stephanie about how she helped catalyse the women empowerment movement in UNSW.

What motivated you to start Capital W?
At eighteen, I had my first practical experience in business – an internship at UBS, working on the largest trading floor in the southern hemisphere. I continued in a part-time capacity during my second year of university and I often represented the firm at campus recruiting events. On multiple occasions, upon hearing that I worked on the trading floor, young women would exclaim, “I could never do that!” Truth be told, I would have said the same thing a year earlier if it were not for the fact that UNSW Finance Co-op had placed me there. Inspired by the opportunity to empower other women to tackle any role, as well as my own experience, I pitched the idea of Capital W to a group of like-minded friends and the rest, as they say, is history!

How has Capital W helped shape who you are today?
When I reflect on the early days of Capital W, I am reminded of the resourcefulness and tenacity of the founding team. The launch of Capital W was a success because the team truly believed in the mission we were out to achieve. We were all willing to go the extra mile, whether that involved asking friends of friends of friends for introductions to potential sponsors, working on Capital W related activities after wrapping up long internship work days or making awkward promotional videos to show at lectures (thankfully this was before YouTube was really big!). Over time, I have come to realise that the chance to be part of something like this is exceedingly rare. To this day, the fulfillment I experienced as part of the Capital W founding team continues to be my benchmark for whenever I am evaluating a new opportunity – and it’s a high bar to clear.


The theme for this year’s Capital W Annual Dinner is ‘She Means Business’. What does this theme mean to you?

When we started Capital W in 2007, the focus was very much on broadening the opportunity set for female business students (the ‘Lean In’ approach if you like). In the ensuing decade, we’ve seen a greater acknowledgement of the structural and systematic barriers that make it difficult for women to enter certain industries and to ascend. To me, the theme for the 2019 Capital W Annual Dinner ‘She Means Business’ speaks to the growing momentum around addressing and dismantling these barriers – recruitment methods, work arrangements, promotion criteria, the process for handling harassment and parental leave policies, just to name a few. While the task ahead is daunting, sorry is the fool who underestimates her.