From the Quad: Realizing the Power of Women at Wharton

“We need to convince her to go to college.”

These were words that caught my attention. Although I had spent the past six months working with a team of three other students to plan the Dollar Diva Conference, it was not until this moment in the middle of the conference that I realized the true value of this day. Those words were spoken by the principal of a Philadelphia high school in reference to a high-school senior who sat at our table. The girl was unsure about attending college. Her principal brought her to Wharton Women’s Dollar Diva Conference to show her the value of a college education.

Every November for the past nine years, Dollar Diva has brought high-school girls to Penn’s campus for exactly this reason: to show them the possible benefits of a higher education. This year, more than 150 girls from five different Philadelphia high schools participated in mock interviews, panels, lectures and more.

As the organizers, we hoped our outreach would make a difference. Even if we were only able to convince a single girl about the value of a college education, all of the time and effort put into Dollar Diva over the previous six months would be worth it.

When I began at Penn in 2009, I searched for an outlet to connect with the community. My parents have engrained in me an appreciation for what I have. It is important for me to give back, as I have as much to learn from the community as I can give.

When I ran for Wharton Women’s executive board in my fall semester of 2010, I thought hard about which position I would want. The organization is well-respected for its support of the personal and career development of females in business through education and networking, but I realized that I wanted a position in the club that would not only give me an ability to influence the experience of Penn students. I also want to offer our members a chance to connect with the community.

So I became Wharton Women’s vice president of philanthropy. In the process, I have realized the value of our organization and the power that a group of motivated women can have.

The potential for what can be accomplished reaches far and wide when women at Wharton congregate for one cause. Being a woman at Wharton stands for many virtues, including strength, perseverance and, most importantly, support. Today, looking around at my peers, women have been able to accomplish just as much as men on campus, and sometimes even more. The journey to achieve such merits, however, has been long. Wharton was established more than 130 years ago, yet women have only been at Wharton for more than 50 years.

The women at Wharton have always been a support community for each other, even before the founding of Wharton Women 40 years ago. As our community on campus has slowly grown, the fighting spirit of women at Wharton has endured. With our roots stemming from this type of energy, it is not surprising that, when women at Wharton come together, the dedication and motivation exist to help us accomplish much more than imagined.

Through my leadership role with Wharton Women, I have realized that this access to our community not only gives me power to impact the experience of students at Penn. It gives me the invaluable opportunity to impact the lives of women in the community and around the globe.

Lilian Chen is a junior at Wharton, concentrating in Operations Management and Finance, with a minor in Chinese. She now serves as Wharton Women’s vice president of alumnae relations. Lilian is also on the executive board of Chi Omega and serves as a Finance 101 TA. She resides in Macau but grew up all over the Midwest.

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