The Milgard Women’s Initiative: Advancing Women as Leaders
The Milgard School of Business is proud of its impressive graduation and employment rates. UW Tacoma ranks 5th in the state for the highest post-graduation starting salary in a recent study from SmartAsset, a New York-based financial advice company.
At Milgard, innovative programs are in place to support the success of each student. One unique program, the Milgard Women's Initiative (MWI), was born to support women in addressing challenges faced in the workplace. Some of these challenges include: managing the struggle for adequate childcare, balancing work and life commitments, pursuing personal excellence and achieving fair compensation. To quote Center for Leadership & Social Responsibility Executive Director Rachel Vaughn, “National statistics show that women continue to earn, on average, 82 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts. These numbers are even lower for women of color. Women are underrepresented in the executive ranks of major companies, and many are balancing a disproportionate set of responsibilities at home. The Milgard Women’s Initiative aims to support women in these challenges, while addressing the systemic issues that underly this inequality.”
One strategy employed to support emerging professionals is mentoring. Through the MWI Mentoring Program, participating graduate students are paired with professional women who share their vast experience and problem-solving skills to build an understanding of women’s leadership and buoy confidence. The MWI Mentoring Program is also open to students who identify as male. "As a male participant in the program I found the mentorship opportunity I was given and the curriculum invaluable to how I view the workplace and the perspective of women and minorities. I know there is much work to be done until we achieve an equitable workplace. I am motivated and knowledgeable to become a male ally."
The mentors in this program model excellence, hard work, and savvy. "This really sets up the student for success in the workplace," said Ellen Hermansen, Alumni Engagement Manager at the Milgard School of Business where she personally stays engaged with alumni, extending support and recognizing achievement.
Another graduate student relates her experience with her mentor: "I loved my mentor -- she happened to have life experience that was extremely relevant to what I was going through." Mentors and mentees are paired intentionally, with an eye to career aspirations, lived experiences, and shared interests. In addition to 1:1 mentoring, MWI Mentoring Program participants are invited to quarterly structured conversations spanning topics from professionalism to implicit bias.
Building on the success of the first two years of the MWI Mentoring Program, Vaughn is excited for the future. “Our MWI strategic plan includes a set of bold goals. Including an increase in mentorship pairs to 45 by 2026." Growing the program to meet demand is a priority. MWI Advisory Council Chair Kathy Keele reports, "The MWI Advisory Council, coupled with CLSR staff support, is well positioned to meet these goals for the future."