Event pairs UW Bothell students with female CEOs for mentorship, lessons

We see the headlines almost daily now, even locally in Seattle, of women being taken advantage of in the workplace or not being treated fairly. The question is no longer whether or not this trend exists, but rather how to rectify it. Powerful women, such as Ariana Huffington, have taken on high-profile challenges to fight for equality in the workplace at companies like Uber, but I would argue it is the unknown soldiers, women such as Susan Fowler, who have had the most dramatic impact on this escalating conversation.

Recently, Voxus PR took part in an event designed to mentor the next wave of Susan Fowlers – the BOLD Women’s Leadership Camp. The camp featured 18 female CEOs and top-flight executives from the Seattle area, including the CEO of Voxus client Silicon Mechanics Eva Cherry. Eva and her peers spent three full days engaging with a group of (mostly) female UW Bothell students currently participating in the university’s undergraduate leadership development program, better known as BOLD.

“The BOLD program encompasses four different leadership programs designed to help our students take charge of these careers,” said Susan Gibson, founder and director, BOLD Undergraduate Leadership Development Programs, University of Washington Bothell. “These programs include our Leadership Lab, which places undergraduates in the work environment; Leadership Voice, which is speed dating with CEOs; Leadership Lessons, featuring guest speaker sessions; and our signature event, the Women’s Leadership Camp.”

Susan Gibson Address BOLD Event Crowd

Nestled in the woods of Bainbridge Island at the impressive IslandWood property, the BOLD Women’s Leadership Camp offered workshops, speeches, panel discussions, networking opportunities and more. The goal of the camp was to help the BOLD students learn how to take charge of their careers by engaging them with industry leaders, and of course, to learn how to stand up for themselves in the workplace. With that said, what we witnessed during these sessions was something not planned – dramatic collaboration between men and women, where the men in the room turned into cheerleaders and supporters.

Gibson created the BOLD program and the women’s leadership camp with a mission to fight back against the negative trends facing women in the workplace, but also to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds, including men. Inclusion and diversity are the keys to BOLD’s success. The fact that the men in the program are standing up in a real sense to support their female peers was extremely encouraging, especially for me as a father of two young girls. I want my girls to have the same opportunities as their male peers. In my opinion, diversity in the workplace is a key to long-term, global success. An all-white, male dominated corporate environment has been proven toxic.

The data from the BOLD program speaks to this diversity commitment. Currently:

  • 49% of its incoming students are the first in their families to earn a four-year degree
  • 70% of its incoming first-year students are from a diverse background
  • 50% of its undergraduates are female

The students we engaged with at the camp were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed (to steal an ancient saying from my father), but also full of talent and drive. There was no entitlement in the room, just young people craving the experience of their elders. And the female executives in attendance did not disappoint. It was an atmosphere that reminded me of a startup accelerator, such as TechStars, where mentorship and experiential lessons take precedence over everything else. These are lessons I had to learn the hard way working in the startup world. The BOLD students are fortunate to learn them prior to graduating, and from such a stellar cast.

The full list of female executives who served as mentors at the BOLD Leadership Camp for Women include the following:

  • Lisa Hufford, CEO of Simplicity Consulting
  • Mary Jesse, Chief Strategy Officer, VRstudios
  • Shannon Swift, CEO of Swift HR Solutions
  • Jae Ellard, Founder and CEO of Simple Intentions
  • Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange, President of Seattle Central College
  • Sue Borgman, Partner at Ernst & Young
  • Shauna Swerland, CEO and Founder of Fuel Talent
  • Deanna Carlisle, CEO of Youth Career Compass
  • Molly O’Donnell, Chief of Staff at Microsoft
  • Tracy White, Chief Human Resources Officer, Clark Nuber
  • Jenni Flinders, CEO of People for Innovation
  • Dana Gray, Vice President at BeCU
  • Wei Manfredi, Chief Architect, Visa
  • Nancy Heen, CEO of Axelerate
  • Leen Kawas, CEO of M3 Bio
  • Bonnie Williams, General Accounting Manager at BeCU
  • Sharon Borough, Vice President of Technology at Visa (on sabbatical)
  • Keri Smith, Director of Human Resources, Bsquare
  • Jean Thompson, CEO of Seattle Chocolates
  • Kristin Nealey Meier, Attorney at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland
  • Pamela Banks, CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Share this article on your social media channels to give a shout out to the leaders listed above for making a real difference in the lives of these students!