Forté Debuts ‘Rising Star’ Program For Women Undergrads

undergraduate women

Madison Braun is only a sophomore at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, but she’s way ahead of many of her peers when it comes to career readiness. She’s lined up an internship this summer with J.P, Morgan Chase & Co., has plans to network with female MBAs on campus and will be flying to New York City this week to attend the prestigious Forté College Fast Track to Finance Conference for undergraduate women.

She’s managed to accomplish these tasks with the help of the Forté Foundation’s new Rising Star initiative, a pilot program launched at ten undergraduate business schools this year that aims to help female students be more competitive and prepared for business careers early. Braun jumped at the chance to participate in the Rising Star program when she learned about it through Kelley’s Women in Business Club this fall. She was keen to get extra career guidance because her major, economic consulting, is made up of about 28% women.

“I do get some support through the Kelley School, but it is less gender focused, “ says Braun. “I strongly believe we as females, particularly going into underrepresented fields, need a little bit of extra help.”

Elissa Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation

Elissa Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation


That dose of extra support provided by the Rising Star program could end up being what ultimately makes a difference in the career trajectories of young college women interested in in business, believes Elissa Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation, an Austin, Texas-based consortium of corporations and business schools working to help women advance their careers and pursue MBAs.

“As they go through college, women need to know what are the key points they need to tick off in order to be successful and employable after they graduate,” Sangster says. “We’re trying to plant the seeds early.”

Sangster and her team came up with the idea for the Rising Star initiative after asking women in mid- or senior-career level positions what type of support they would have liked earlier on in their careers. Many noted that they would have liked more information about business options back when they were undergraduates.

The new Forte program comes a year after Harvard Business School launched an effort to attract more women to its MBA program. The HBS initiative, called PEEK, brought 124 undergraduate women to Harvard’s business school campus last June. That three-day program is an attempt to make the MBA a more attractive proposition to young women who are less likely to pursue graduate work in business than either law or medicine. Harvard is repeating its PEEK program this June, with an April 21st deadline for applications.


In addition, the Forté Foundation has heard anecdotally from its network of 70,000 women that many start their business careers in a circuitous manner, feeling unprepared and behind their male counterparts, Sangster says. Much of Forté’s programming is aimed at women in MBA programs, but the group hadn’t yet come up with a way to reach and significantly impact a large group of undergraduate women.  Sangster is hoping Rising Star will be a game changer, especially after more of its member schools get on board after the pilot is completed this year.

“For us, this is our biggest move in terms of undergraduates,” Sangster said.

Forté designed the program so that women participating in Rising Star, which is open to all majors, could use it as a springboard to explore networking opportunities on campus, take advantage of resume and career support and learn about what qualifications they’d need if they decide to pursue an MBA.