By graduate student Christina Furst

Women’s Month comes to a close, but the new student club is here to stay

A mere one year after its founding, Thunderbird Women in Business (TWB) is one of the most active clubs on campus, indicating the need for a women-centric club all along. The current leadership team, Diana Salas Diaz, Megan Shovlin, Florentina Lang, Lisa Patel and Ana Chavarry Pizzorno, share what they have done in their short tenure to create an alliance of active and determined women and allies dedicated to forging their own way to equality and excellence.

Question: Tell us about the history of TWB. When did it start? What are its big successes? 

Answer: Thunderbird Women in Business was founded in January 2019 by a leadership team of the Fall 2018 class: Alexis Sakellariou, Ashley Esquivel, Damaris Bravo, Salome Opoku, Katty Lin, and Sabrina Barwick, after they witnessed the disparity between men and women in the classroom and leadership positions within the workplace. TWB aims to empower, connect and serve Thunderbird female students and discuss issues surrounding gender equality and work towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

The club is successful because of its solid foundations and its past and current leaders’ hard work. The leadership team is chosen in an open competition based on soft and hard skills during the fall semester of each academic year. TWB is the only club in the school with a mentorship team that supports the leaders during their decisions. The current mentors are Professor Mary Sully de Luque and Kellie Kreiser, Executive Director of Thunderbird for Good. Our business skills have expanded since joining the team. Last semester, before we were part of the leadership team,  Megan and I participated as student Ambassadors in The PLuS Alliance, a partnership between Arizona State University, King’s College London, and UNSW Sydney. We helped in the development of the Transforming Women’s Leadership Pathways initiative (TWLP).

Throughout this spring semester, TWB 2021 is presenting a diverse agenda of events targeted to our community preferences. We started the semester by winning the Club Vitality award. Our first event was a 50-person event where two current students presented their Social Entrepreneurship projects. We brought together Alumni, Faculty members, Thunderbird staff and current students. We were so excited to discover that Dean Khagram was passionate about our topic and delivered an introduction and motivational speech at the beginning of the session. We will be closing the spring semester with eight events in total, three being in person. TWB 2021 believes that the new catalyst for change will be having more women in leadership positions. We plan to leave a legacy at Thunderbird. We want to expand the operations of the club and spread its message to the whole Thunderbird Community. We will make a significant impact because we will bring wisdom, opportunities and a strong community willing to help each other out in the job market. 

- Diana Salas Diaz, President 

Q: What impact does it leave on students and the community? 

A: The Thunderbird Women in Business Club is a supportive, collaborative, empowering force where women can feel comfortable and vulnerable to ask for guidance, support and friendship. Mentorship is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to close the gender gap in business. The club is meant to increase the rate at which we are closing that gap. Furthermore, we want to celebrate women’s success in business and beyond, providing a community where everyone feels safe, uplifted and inspired. 

Q: Where do you see TWB in the next two years? And beyond that?

A: I would like to see the club continue along this path of connecting and empowering one another. Hopefully, we can move past the blockades of the pandemic and create a strong network of current students and alumni who regularly connect to share tips, resources and opportunities. 

- Megan Shovlin, Co-President  

I hope to witness TWB thrive over the next couple of years. Our leadership board is highly dedicated to the long-term success of TWB. We are actively working on improving our organization and are working on creative ways to engage our members.

- Florentina Lang, Marketing Director

I am very optimistic about the future and the role women will play in it. I hope to see young girls take inspiration from global female leaders like Kamala Harris, who made history by being the first woman and multiracial person to become the Vice President of America. I see TWB staying true to its founders and sticking to its core mission—empower, connect and serve women all around the world to become the best versions of themselves and enabling them to make a scalable impact regardless of where they come from, race, color and all the other irrelevant factors that society confines us to.

- Lisa Patel, Communications  Director 

There is no limit to the power of an individual woman, let alone the power of a community of incredible women working for and with each other. We are relatively new in our roles and we have still managed to be one of the most active clubs at Thunderbird. In a short period, we have organized a wide variety of networking, professional development and social events. We have spotlighted our female peers who are changing the world and have many more opportunities in store for our members this semester. I can only imagine we will be better and bigger next semester. I am excited and honored to keep serving Thunderbird women as a member of the TWB leadership team. We can mentor the next generation of TWB leaders and pave the way for a successful organization.

- Ana Chavarry  Pizzorno, Events Director 


Q: Why is it essential to have a club dedicated specifically to women in business?

A: I believe that TWB is essential to the women at Thunderbird. Gender equality in the workplace has still not been achieved, which is why TWB is so important. We are dedicated to building confidence, improving networking skills, and creating a tight-knit community of women empowering each other. With the events and activities we are hosting throughout the semester, we serve our members in various ways. I’m proud to be part of the association and excited about the many fantastic events yet to come. 

Did you know that out of the hundreds of startups that go public every year, only 20 are founded and led by women? Women like Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble and the Me Too movement are just a couple of the million examples that prove gender inequality is still a global issue. We’ve made progress, but much work needs to be done. For these reasons, clubs like Thunderbird Women in Business are essential to have as they provide a space for women to come together, share their stories and empower one another to keep fighting for their dreams.

First, all student organizations are meant to represent a facet of students’ identity. For example, there is a Latin American Business Club because there are many students who identify with and want to celebrate their Latin heritage. There’s also a Thunderpreneurs club. After all, it is in the DNA of some students to be entrepreneurs. In the same way, it is an integral part of our identity to be women. TWB was founded to foster a community of women empowering other women and to create a space for leadership, networking and professional development. This semester, all of us in the leadership team have thrived in creating this community and uplifting each other. As student leaders, it is our responsibility to create a welcoming experience for every one of our peers. We made it our priority to serve, especially Thunderbird women, as a commitment to decrease the gender gap and to shape ourselves and others as powerful women.

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