Symposium focuses women’s experience in the workplace


Since the ‘60s, the number of women in the labor force has been increasing, according to the Department of Labor. However, the department also points out that there is a wage gap and women can struggle to find jobs.

The Women Who Ignite Student Engagement (WISE) Symposium on Friday is focused on teaching the women of USF how to combat these facts. This is the first symposium of its kind at USF that’s geared toward the students.

The symposium is organized by the WISE advisory council and USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), a section of the USF Foundation.

“WLP gathers women from all across the Bay Area, mostly alumni but a few people who didn’t go to USF,” Sierra Francis, a member of the planning committee, said. “They work together to give back to the community, raise money. Their primary goal, from a student perspective, is that they raise money and then create scholarships for USF students, primarily women.

“In fall they have a huge symposium with really big guest speakers. They wanted to do something like that for students.”

The half-day event includes two breakout sessions that focus on personal branding, resilience, important skills to succeed and how classes are more than just a grade. It will also offer participants breakfast and lunch.

“The first event of the day is a networking breakfast,” Francis said. “That way you can network with people from different career fields. There’ll be people from legal, political, business, there’s everything.”

Pam Iorio, CEO and president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, will be the keynote speaker. She’s been a part of local government since she was 26, serving as supervisor of elections before serving two terms as Tampa mayor.

“The real goal … we want to promote the mission of WLP for students,” Francis said. “The WLP mission is to ignite, promote and engage women development in all different atmospheres and that want to make sure that not only are students following their mission but they also know that there are women in the professional sector that are supporting them and encouraging them.”

Francis is expecting about 150 students to attend the symposium and while the focus is on women, it’s not an exclusive event.

“Obviously it's heavily catered toward the females,” she said. “But of the men who do come, they learn the different perspectives on how women feel. Anytime you’re the majority, you never understand how the minority feels. It gives them the opportunity to see our perspectives, see where we’re coming from, the struggles that we face, how they can help us, how we can work together. It’s also great for the females to that … everyone is geared toward the same goal of equality.”

Students are expected to register for the event. Francis pointed out that given the atmosphere, how students present themselves is important.

“We ask students to remember that this is about personal and professional development,”
 she said. “If you walk up in jeans, introduce yourself to somebody, you’re not going to look as competitive for a potential networking relationship as somebody who’s wearing business casual.”