“Exclusivity is not a prerequisite to excellence.”

I was seated in Caffe Strada with Abby Copeland, Berkeley Junior and President and Founder of the on-campus club ‘Women on Wall Street at Berkeley’, when she made this statement.

It’s a simple statement but one almost shocking to hear at UC Berkeley. My personal experience with the community that Berkeley fosters has been overwhelmingly positive, but it is no secret that one of the factors many of us students pride ourselves on, is the selectivity of the school. Many of us have worked hard to make it here, and should indeed be proud of it.

For Business students in particular, this selectivity often continues past our initial admission. After applying to Haas as underclassmen, many of us aspire to spend our free time working on projects in renowned Business, Finance and Consulting clubs – a majority of which boast minute acceptance rates.

So, to hear someone – let alone the Founder and President of Berkeley’s first independent finance network for women and largest Finance club –verbalize, “exclusivity is not a prerequisite to excellence,” was a bit out of the ordinary.

This is the exact reason why Abby started the organization. As a Chinese major with a background in government work, realizing she was interested in Finance was not necessarily aligned with her academic and professional history. She was grateful to find that Berkeley has a multitude of resources and connections in the financial sector, but was disheartened to find that access to these resources was somewhat limited for students not already active in the Business community.

Despite the challenges, Abby worked day and night, spending hours refining her resume, attending dozens of employer information sessions, and eventually securing an internship at Standard Chartered Bank. Working on the trading floor in NYC solidified Abby’s interest in Finance. However, as she talked to female senior managing directors, she realized they validated the narrative that the Finance industry continues to be challenging for women.

While she found this imbalance perpetuated at a global and professional scale, Abby made it her goal to make an impact college-wide when she returned back to Berkeley in the Fall, with the belief that “exclusivity starts on college campuses.” Despite being known to be progressive, Berkeley has never had a Finance club for women, and that had to change.

‘Women on Wall Street at Berkeley,’ (also known as ‘WOW’) was then born as “a space for dozens–if not hundreds–of women and friends [including non-binary students] who are interested in finance to connect with each other, meet like-minded people, and have all the resources and prestige that exclusive clubs at Berkeley have, without the exclusivity.” To its 105 club members, including undergraduates in a variety of majors as well as MBA students, WOW offers a multitude of info sessions with industry leaders and Finance-centric panels, networking events, and internship application workshops. The club also encourages an open door policy and boasts a strong intergrade mentorship program, in which club members (especially those with more experience) clear their schedules to dedicate time and support to younger, newer members who are just beginners in the financial sphere. Abby recalls sitting down with a new member who had a Morgan Stanley interview the next day, and being up until 2am to review her resume and conduct interviews with the younger member.

With the support of Haas, WOW has really taken off. Abby says, “While we pride ourselves on having both Haas students and non-business majors, the Haas community has been extremely supportive of our new organization. For example, I cold-emailed the UGBA 10 instructors and they were kind enough to advertise our student organization to all several hundred of their students, which greatly helped our recruitment efforts. We have flyered at Haas and everyone has been welcoming and accommodating of our recruitment efforts. People have been very receptive to the need to increase the amount of women in Finance and that has definitely been reflected in our interactions with them. Lastly, myself and the rest of the Women on Wall Street team are inspired by the fact that Haas was originally founded by a woman and hope to do our humble part to honor that legacy through our organization.”

This support from institutions and individuals, and WOW’s spirit of inclusivity has begun to generate results, with offers rolling in from Bank of America, Standard Chartered, and BNP Paribas, and multiple interviews at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. More than the titles and offers, though, the most fulfilling result is the constant feedback from younger women that didn’t know there could be a club that’s so supportive and generous on campus.  Regardless of academic history, major, background or other facets of their identity, these women finally feel they have a seat at a hypercompetitive table–which is the ultimate goal of Women on Wall Street at Berkeley.

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