WiIN, a program of the Magnuson Center of Entrepreneurship, provides mentorship, training, and support to Dartmouth female students who are drawn toward innovation and entrepreneurship
Aly Milich, D’21
Darya Romanova, D’21
While working in finance internships, Aly Milich, D’21, found herself intimidated by an all-male office, making her nervous to contribute during team meetings; Darya Romanova, D’21, who is aspiring to enter the entrepreneurship space, wanted to establish a community for students to discover and explore entrepreneurship. Together, they created WiIN, a community of women drawn to innovation and entrepreneurship where students can develop the entrepreneurial and innovative mindset, explore opportunities in the field, and build soft skills such as confidence.
After working in two finance internships in the past year, Aly Milich, D’21, realized that, despite her qualifications and creative ideas, she was hesitant to express herself or make contributions during meetings in the male-dominated office.
“As one of the few women in my workplace, I felt that I did not have the support or encouragement to feel confident about my contributions and ultimately, it was inhibiting my own success,” says Milich, who is studying quantitative economics, a statistics-based approach to economics through data analytics.
When she returned to Hanover, she realized that the few female students in certain classes – namely economics and mathematics - were less likely to participate in class, even if they had something constructive to add.
“This led me to realize that there is a serious problem not just in the workplace, but also in the classroom,” Milich says. “Women do not feel confident in their intelligence and are often intimidated by male peers, coworkers, or bosses.”
Meanwhile, Darya Romanova, D’21, an economics and Chinese double major, aspired to enter the entrepreneurial world and believed she can explore opportunities by connecting with peers, alumni and getting work experience.
“I have always wanted to start my own business, or pursue something of my own, but I had this image that entrepreneurs were predominantly men,” says Romanova. “The field felt intangible and unwelcoming, so for a long time I dropped the idea and started to look into a career path in more traditional fields.” Romanova explains further, “Over the last year and a half, I talked with Dartmouth alumni founders, investors, and found internship opportunities at various startups. The world of entrepreneurship opened up to me,” says Romanova. “Since then, I’ve wanted to bring entrepreneurship to the forefront for Dartmouth students to easily discover and explore the field as well as to build a community around it.”
Milich and Romanova realized that women needed more encouragement to build their confidence, regardless of their major or intended career path. Last spring, they founded Women In Innovation (WiIN) a student program, with the intent of helping self-identifying female students become more confident in themselves to share and develop their ideas.
Women in Innovation seeks to provide an encouraging community where students can discuss ideas, share resources, and support each other. WiIN provides programming that showcases speakers, both male and female, who are experts in innovation and supportive of WiIN’s cause. From experienced mentors to venture capitalists to human-centered design pioneers, WiIN has attracted speakers from different careers. Milich and Romanova believe this speaks to Women in Innovation’s core: recognizing that innovation is inherently interdisciplinary and welcoming female students of all majors and backgrounds. In addition to a speaker series, Milich and Romanova plan to have workshops that encourage women to develop their entrepreneurial and creative thinking skills. They are also hoping to expand their mentorship program to match upperclassmen with young alumni working in the innovation or entrepreneurial fields. Through these platforms, WiIN aims to provide a space for women to grow their confidence, share their ideas, and become more innovative, creative and entrepreneurial.
“Taking ECON 25: Competition and Strategy, taught by Mark Bernfeld D’78, I had the opportunity to listen to Dartmouth alumni founders and create a company in a team to pitch to investors. I realized that I really enjoyed the process,” Romanova said. “Not only that, but my team, who was all female, worked so well together and received really great feedback after our pitch. This experience gave me the confidence to pursue entrepreneurship and innovation.” Romanova explains, “I was inspired to learn more, but found that there wasn’t a community of students to discuss these topics with or to share resources. Through WiIN, I’m excited to help build a space where students from all backgrounds and interests can explore their curiosities, discover new paths, and pursue their passions.”
Now, WiIN aims to provide that community to other Dartmouth students, under the guidance of the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship. As she and Milich expand WiIN, they hope to get many more female students involved.
“We are still in our very early stages and are continuously evolving and incorporating ideas from our community,” Romanova says. “We are committed to creating a program that truly serves and meets the needs of the community and are always open to suggestions, thoughts, and would love to chat with anyone interested.”