One of the reasons why Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics is due to Brontë’s accurate, well shaped and genuine character, Jane Eyre. She is an intelligent and fair-minded young woman from the Victorian era who is constantly compelled to contend with inequality and oppression. “I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach.“ (Jane Eyre). Jane grapples with the difficulty and dis- tress of being a woman during the society of its time. With her fervent beliefs regarding social equality and gender she openly defies the Victorian view upon women. Brontë captures society’s lack of acknowledgment of female independent will and leader- ship.
It has been almost 200 years since women walked around in corsets during the Victorian era, but female representation and leadership on influential positions in society are still not often found. This however, is something that WILMA opts in changing at Lund University School of Economics and Management (LUSEM). WILMA is a mentor program founded in 2002 with a focus on providing suitable female business mentors to students. Through networking evenings, inspirational lectures and interactive activities, WILMA stands as a source of inspiration and a possibility to create valuable contacts with the labor market. In addition to that, it’s a way of emphasizing the importance of seeing female leadership equal as that of a man’s. Leadership should simply be leadership. However, in today’s society this is not a matter of course. In other words, WILMA is a well needed committee and a milestone for LundaEkonomerna and the faculty.
According to a study from the World Economic Forum writ- ten by Katja Iversen, women’s groups or groups focusing and highlighting on female rights are a path to sustainable economic development. These movements, including everything from business associations to mentor programs, fortifies the view upon gender representation. These results may sound obvious and self-evident, yet are still far from achieved. Hence I wanted to shed light to the work done by WILMA for the students here at LUSEM. I talked with the Events Coordinator, Ebba Schollin, and the External Relations Coordinator, Elin Gabrielsson, at WILMA.
What do you believe is the most important part of the existence of WILMA?
Elin: Even though we live in Sweden, one of the world’s most equal countries, we still need to keep on striving for maintaining and constantly improving our society. The existence of WILMA enhances the school’s feminism by making female business more visible. It also inspires young women and men to believe that nothing is impossible, no matter sex. To emphasize the equal worth of all students can both inspire and develop.
Ebba: I find that the most important function with WILMA is that it gives you the opportunity to personal guidance. As a student one usually has a lot of questions and speculations regarding both how to manage one’s private life and with one’s vocational goals. It’s a great opportunity to be able to keep con- tact with a person who has gone through some of this, for example balancing family with senior positions. Every time I have met my mentor, Susan, I am consumed by inspiration. That I tell you, is an awesome feeling!
Why should one be a part of WILMA and apply for the mentor program?
Elin: To be able to develop as a person, to be inspired by others and make valuable contacts with the industry. Through the mentor program, one can start to build a bridge to one’s future working life by receiving valuable guidance. But, most of all, it is a relaxed and fun way to learn from others and establish contacts!
Ebba: I want to start by reformulating this question to ”Why should one not be a part of WILMA?” There are no disadvantages with the membership. One can only win from it! You are given the opportunity to establish contacts with amazing women, who are all notable in their areas. In addition to that, you integrate with other students from different semesters or field of studies. Lastly, it’s a lot of fun and an amazing possibility to get out of one’s comfort zone.
This is a great milestone and future thinking project for LundaEkonomerna, what are your hopes for the future of WILMA?
Elin: I hope that we can continue to develop and carry on with this fantastic foundation which WILMA stands on. Sadly, not all the students at LUSEM know that WILMA exists. My hope is that many more will be aware of the existence of WILMA and be a part of it! It’s all about administering and improving the concept. Hopefully, WILMA will be a great network consisting of both previous and active adepts and mentors.
Ebba: The prospect I’m hoping for is that WILMA would be- come a natural part of a student’s time here at LUSEM. The majority applies to Lund University just because of their visions and ambition of the future. It can’t get more “real” than WILMA’s connection establishment. This is a great first leap into your future working life! And of course, it would be great if we would succeed in building a vast alumni network. Think of the strength and possibilities the members of WILMA would possess? Amazing!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and hopes!
Becoming a WILMA-adept can be a life changing decision, so don’t forget to apply before the 26th of February! It goes without saying that this great opportunity is open for female as well as male students. While you’re at it, why don’t you dive into Jane Eyre and experience Jane’s thoughts? Jane’s mind will give you an insight in how closely related our worlds are, despite the 200 years. I’m positive that Jane Eyre would have joined WILMA if she had the opportunity, so why don’t you?