The Forté Foundation aims to launch more women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, professional development, and a supportive network of successful women. Forté Foundation Fellowships are competitive awards recognizing students who exhibit exemplary leadership, represent diverse backgrounds, and have a demonstrated track record and commitment to advancing women in business. To date, the Foundation has awarded $334 million to more than 13,000 Forté Fellows. Meet this year’s Forté Fellows in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives:
Archana Patel, WG’24 (San Francisco)
Archana’s Background: I grew up in India and was introduced to engineering at a young age through my father, who was an electrical technician. I was the only girl in my family who pursued a science education, earning a Bachelor’s in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Mumbai. I came to the U.S. in 2006 for my Master’s in Industrial Engineering, and currently work as a Midstream Engineering Program Manager at Schlumberger.
Supporting Women in Business: I am part of Connect Women, an internal networking community for Schlumberger employees to exchange ideas, promote gender equality, and support career progression. Connect Women provides a safe environment for women to talk about the challenges they may face as they juggle multiple roles in their everyday lives. I also participate in Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED), an outreach program designed to encourage kids, especially young women, to pursue STEM. We visit high schools and put on workshops where students can get hands-on experience with robotics, game design, coding, and science experiments. Finally, I am part of a mentoring program called Women Inspiring, Supporting, and Empowering (WISE), where women support each other to break habits which keep us away from professional growth.
Forté Fellowship Significance: The Forté Fellowship is very personal to me. When I was in India applying to study in the U.S., I didn’t have the financial means to get my visa approved. My life completely changed when I received a scholarship through the Rotary Club of Mumbai. If I didn’t have that scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to clear my visa interview! Organizations like Forté make the impossible possible for so many women. I started my journey with Forté in 2017 when I was just starting to research MBA programs and received so much support from the organization. Being recognized by Forté makes me proud to be a woman and excited to continue supporting other women in their careers.
Archana’s Thoughts on Diversity: When I consider diversity, I think about the freedom of thoughts and opinions. I came to the U.S. 15 years ago and was blown away by the concept of total freedom of thought. It didn’t matter if you believed something different from the majority; in fact, it was encouraged. At work when we problem-solve, we purposely seek ideas from a wide variety of people to increase our chances of covering all our bases and getting closer to a solution. To me, diversity is accepting others’ perspectives and acknowledging that you can learn a lot from someone else’s experiences, just as they can from yours.
Sruthi Mylavarapu, WG’24 (Philadelphia)
Sruthi’s Background: I grew up in Singapore and moved to the U.S. for my undergraduate degree at New York University. I knew early on that I wanted to be in the finance world. I’ve always been fascinated by the economy and how money flows. I began my career in economic consulting and transitioned to Evercore Partners, then Newport Trust Company where I currently serve as Senior Vice President of Financial Analysis.
Supporting Women in Business: When I first joined my team at Evercore, I was the only woman. I had to create a space for myself and even advocate for a better maternity leave policy! Now, women make up half of our team and it’s made a big difference in the work culture. I am involved in WIPN, an organization dedicated to supporting women in their careers, and joined their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee. I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of as soon as I learned about it. We organize events, seminars, and summits to raise awareness and share best practices for creating, structuring and implementing DEI strategies in financial services. Having an open dialogue with decision-makers in the industry is crucial to creating a more inclusive work culture.
Forté Fellowship Significance: I’ve known about Forté for several years, and I admire their mission of encouraging women to pursue formal business education as a path to career growth. There are a lot of structural barriers for growth for women in the workplace. At a certain stage in a woman’s life there may be other responsibilities that can lead to their career taking a back seat. But it’s really important to encourage women and give them the tools to pursue their ambitions. We need more women leading organizations and making changes from within. I’m grateful that Forté has recognized me for the work I have done to help other women.
Sruthi’s Thoughts on Diversity: It’s not just about hiring people to have diversity in representation. We also need leadership to promote equity and inclusion by ensuring employees have access to the same resources and opportunities for advancement. When people feel included and respected they’re happier and more productive. A diverse workplace is most likely a happier and more effective workplace.
Cynthia Obiozor, WG’24 (San Francisco)
Cynthia’s Background: I am an internal medicine physician with training in hematology and oncology. During my time as a clinical oncologist, I developed an interest in pharmaceutical research and development with a goal towards increasing drug availability in areas with limited access. In accordance with this goal, I am currently focused on business development and strategic initiatives to quickly bring drugs to market. Given my medical background, I wanted to ensure that I chose an EMBA program that would provide solid quantitative and strategic planning skills. My long-term career goal is to transition into an executive level leadership role where I can support clinical trials and sustainable access of oncology therapeutics in areas of need. I chose Wharton as I knew the curriculum would provide the organizational leadership and business experience needed to advance my knowledge as well as my career.
Supporting Women in Business: I believe a diverse workforce is an innovative workforce. Two years ago, my colleagues and I built an urgent care facility from the ground up. This was at the height of the pandemic when many ambulatory healthcare workers were discouraged and subject to layoffs. For this reason, we made a concerted effort to provide jobs to women, who oftentimes must work hard to juggle many different caretaker roles – in their personal lives as well as at work – and yet are often overlooked for opportunities. The result was a diverse team with a strong female presence ready to tackle the needs of the community.
Forté Fellowship Significance: I see the Forté Fellowship as a remarkable opportunity. It is not only an opportunity for me to grow professionally, but also for me to provide support and mentorship to the next generation of Forté Fellows and the women I encounter daily within my field. While applying to Wharton, I read about the previous year’s Forté Scholarship recipients and thought to myself, these are some accomplished women! I am so very honored to receive this scholarship and am incredibly grateful to be amongst such amazing women and a part of the Forté community.
Cynthia’s Thoughts on Diversity: Diversity, at its core, is the pathway to growth. Diversity is about interacting with people of various backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks and embracing those differences. If you are surrounded by people who are the same as you, how can you recognize new challenges, learn, innovate, or grow? Diversity is the way in which you become a better, more well-rounded individual than you were yesterday. The power and knowledge that results from such growth can be used to enrich any business and serve any community.
Shilpi Mittal, WG’24 (Philadelphia)
Shilpi’s Background: Where I’m from in India, education for girls and women is free to promote literacy and social independence for women. I attended medical school on a full scholarship and completed my OB-GYN training in India before moving to the U.S. Today, I am an associate professor at Vanderbilt University where I have served for four years as the Neurology Department’s inaugural Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.
Supporting Women in Business: As a physician, volunteering in underserved communities was my initial avenue of serving. As I progressed in my career, I invested more in advocating for women; not only patients, but also healthcare providers and entrepreneurs. After joining the hospital’s DEI Committee, I focused on identifying opportunities to improve DEI across multiple dimensions, including race, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, socioeconomic status, and disability status. Most recently, I was part of a research team addressing the impact of the pandemic on Early Career Women (ECW) in neurology. We identified several factors that contribute to the worsening mental health of professional women in healthcare. Our research was published on the cover of the American Heart Association Journal this year. While our research is focused on women in neurology, it can easily be adapted to other fields of medicine and research.
Forté Fellowship Significance: To me, the Forté Fellowship is an acknowledgement of the hard work women put in to propel their own career while at the same time lifting other women up. A lot of women are held back by a lack of financial advantage, and Forté provides monetary support where it’s needed to help them realize their full potential. As I move forward in my career in a healthcare leadership role, I will continue to work towards creating equity and contributing to the advancement of women in alignment with Forté’s mission.
Shilipi’s Thoughts on Diversity: Growing up in India, I was taught at a very early age about the significance of “unity in diversity”. This is a phrase we heard all the time in school, and it taught us to recognize the beauty in our differences while working in harmony together as a team. My passion for DEI runs deep as a woman of color and an immigrant to this country. In India, I was part of a “majority group” culturally and religiously. In the U.S., I am now a minority. We all have different perspectives based on our lived experiences. The more we can learn from each other, the better we can work cohesively as a team and achieve what we may not have thought possible before.
— Kendra King
Posted: September 2, 2022