Why did you want to run for Co-Presidents of the WSA?
Alexis Wolfer (AW): As I think about the future of the WSA, I want to ensure all women are set up for success when they arrive on campus, supported academically and socially while they’re here, and provided with the necessary resources to thrive after graduation. I want to make sure that both women and men are leaning in to the difficult conversations about what it means to be a woman today. Additionally, I want us to actively address the intersectionality of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status so that women of all backgrounds and interests are supported by the WSA.
I firmly believe that a strong group of committed women can do anything, and that the WSA can help us all to continue to crack the proverbial glass ceilings both here at HBS and in our careers afterward. I want to play a role in ensuring that this happens, and I know that together with Erica, we can do so!
Erica Santoni (ES): The WSA is a fantastic organization, as it brings together all women and many male allies on campus. Running for Co-President of the WSA is a decision I made without any hesitation, as I believe this is the best way for me to promote gender equality at HBS. My experience this year as a Board member of the WSA (I was the Director of Speakers and Keynotes and part of the Executive Committee for the WSA Conference) further confirmed how much we as students can achieve through students’ associations. Working with other awesome women to organize an event that brought 1,100 people to campus and having the chance to engage with inspiring speakers throughout the year has been extremely rewarding and fun. I cannot wait to double down on my commitment next year. Last but certainly not least, I could not imagine a better partner than Alexis to share this journey with. She is as passionate as I am about gender equality and the WSA mission, and I find in her not only a competent and reliable partner, but also a trustworthy friend. We complement each other well and we will work hard to make the best out of the opportunity we have been given!
What drives your passion for gender equity?
ES: Gender equality is truly my driving passion, the reason why I came to HBS, and the focus of my career going forward. I have cultivated this passion since I was a child, and upon confronting the difficult truth that too often for a woman to be successful in the workplace she must behave like a man, I decided that promoting a more equitable world for women would become my life’s mission. Becoming Co-President of the WSA is a continuation of the work I’ve done to promote women’s empowerment in each community I’ve belonged to, from my engagement in students’ associations during my undergraduate and graduate studies, to my experience within the “Women Initiative @ BCG” in my past life as a consultant, to my efforts to mentor young women interested in a career in business.
AW: I’ve been deeply committed to gender equity for as long as I can remember! I hold a master’s degree in Human Rights/Gender Studies and spent seven years before HBS working to increase diversity of body shape, size, and color in women’s media. I have three older brothers, and while I have incredible parents who always told me I could do everything my siblings could, I realized that this wasn’t always the case (for example, in 5th grade when girls weren’t allowed to try out for the football team!). It was then that I knew that fighting for change was essential, and I haven’t stopped since. Notably, I ended up trying out for the football team. You can ask me about it later!
What are your key priorities for the WSA next year?
ES: In such a transformational moment for women, with the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up campaign, the WSA must be a catalyst for change on campus, promoting dialogue and raising awareness about crucial issues such as sexual harassment and advocating for inclusivity – not just diversity.
My number one priority is to include all women – regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, family dynamics, socioeconomic status, and abilities. To do so, we are planning to collaborate with other student clubs, and to continue our advocacy for women across campus. For example, we plan to collaborate with the Administration to develop more robust maternity and paternity leave policies, and to supplement the resources for student parents to build a holistic solution which will enable women to become leaders of tomorrow without sacrificing the possibility of having children.
Additionally, it is pivotal to continue the conversation around the #MeToo movement, creating an environment where women can share their stories and men can hear them. It is of great importance to include men in the conversation: this is not just a “women’s” issue, it is a human one. We plan to do so by leveraging the Manbassador community and the deep institutional expertise at Harvard (e.g., the Gender Initiative at HBS and the Women in Public Policy Program at HKS).
AW: Ensuring that the WSA is a welcoming and supportive community for all who identify as female is my top priority. Along that vein, we’re beginning our term by exploring the best ways to work with and support women from all backgrounds and with all passions and career ambitions. Some tactical objectives that we’re working on include: the installation of a new Board position focused on diversity and intersectionality, WSA-sponsored on-boarding materials for students without finance backgrounds, mid-semester WSA-led review sessions for FIN1 and FRC, and a regularly scheduled weekly time slot that will rotate between tactical trainings (for example, salary negotiations, how to report sexual harassment at work, etc.), fireside chats, and gender equity-related conversations. Erica and I are also committed working with the Administration to help introduce systemic changes in the school’s engagement with gendered issues on campus. Moreover, we are acutely aware that we don’t know what we don’t know! As such, we’ve been seeking input from ECs and welcome suggestions from anyone on campus!
Alexis and Erica will be seeking applications for WSA Board positions during the next few weeks. Look out for details in the WSA newsletter or email them directly to see how you can get involved.
Alexis Wolfer (MBA ’19) is Co-President of the WSA. She spent most of the last decade focused on increasing diversity of body shape, size, and color in women’s media as the founder of both TheBeautyBean.com and the viral Makeup Free Mondays movement. She graduated summa cum laude from Washington U. in St. Louis and earned her Masters in Human Rights from Columbia University; yet somehow she never learned how to ride a bike…
Erica Santoni (MBA ’19) is Co-President of the WSA. Italian by birth and European at heart, she lived in Milan, Paris and London before moving to Boston last August. Prior to HBS, she worked in management consulting, focusing on organizational transformations and change management projects. After HBS, she plans to focus her career on promoting women’s empowerment. She loves eating sushi, going to the theater, and talking about gender equality.