Impact Stories

Jessica Raasch, 2018 Edie Hunt Award Winner, Fell in Love with Forté’s Mission

Growing up, Jessica Raasch thought she wanted to be a lawyer. After graduating from Arizona State with an economics degree, she worked at a law firm as a financial consultant with plans to specialize in mergers and acquisitions one day. But encountering clients who had built companies from scratch piqued Jessica’s interest in pursuing a business career instead.

Finding her purpose through Forté

Jessica “fell in love” with Forté’s mission after receiving a Forté Fellowship and attending Forté’s MBA Women’s Leadership Conference. Being a Fellow shaped her entire graduate school experience: she saw for the first time that gender was a business issue; she met the woman who would become her best friend at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business while at the conference; and she helped create a community of Fellows at Foster. “As part of the first class of Fellows at Foster, we decided to meet regularly because we wanted to make it meaningful, and we wanted Foster to leverage Forté,” she says.

Forté shaped my whole experience from the start. Going to the MBA Conference, I looked around and saw only women. There are a lot of women’s conferences, but not usually about business

“All the things I am proud of at business school came from my involvement with Forté. It had a profound impact in thinking about gender,” she says, and it resulted in her election to lead Foster’s Graduate Women in Business (GWIB) student organization.

Broadening the gender conversation

One of Jessica’s priorities as president of GWIB was to broaden the audience that was benefitting from the conversation about gender. To Jessica and some of her female colleagues, “GWIB seemed to be a province of white, middle class, educated women,” she explains. She thought, “If we don’t make it more inclusive quickly, we are failing at what we should be doing.”

One goal was “to make it safer for men to talk about gender,” and Jessica worked closely with Foster’s male allies group. The experience was not always easy; she found that the gender equality conversation was completely new to some men. A lightbulb moment for Jessica was realizing the need to create more awareness of the challenges women face among a broader audience. “The men who participate in these groups are already allies. The real impact to be made is among men who don’t understand the problem. We have to educate more men about why it is better for business and society,” she says.

Jessica also believes that for the pipeline of women leaders to expand, systemic racism has to be addressed first. “We need to lift women of color and, by starting with racism, [understanding] will overflow into [gender] and other forms of inequality,” she says.

Because of her efforts to make gender equality a front and center issue, Jessica received Forté’s prestigious Edie Hunt Inspiration Award in 2018. The award means a lot to her. “Knowing that my peers nominated me meant they supported my efforts” to address gender issues, and “it felt like I was paying it forward” for the next generation, she explains.

All the things I am proud of at business school came from my involvement with Forté. It had a profound impact in thinking about gender. I wouldn’t stop talking about it.


Continuing to build the leadership skills she began as an MBA

When she was interning for T Mobile, Jessica encouraged leaders there to consider becoming sponsors of Forté, which they did.

Since graduating from Foster in 2018, Jessica has worked for T Mobile as part of its Leadership 2 Executive program, building upon the skills she developed while leading GWIB. “Part of my inspiration to get an MBA was to become a leader on a large scale,” she says. The T Mobile role is challenging – she oversees a team of 84 and has 11 direct reports in an industry that is new to her. “I am leading people who are very different than me,” she explains. “It is a visible role with a high level of scrutiny, and the only way to survive is to be resilient.”

But her previous leadership experiences have prepared her well. As a GWIB leader, Jessica says, “I learned firsthand how challenging it is to navigate when the people you are trying to serve have different understandings of what you are trying to do for them. You have to get people to align with you. I made a lot of mistakes, but we did a lot that made a lasting impact and I can look back and see that we made the school a better place.”

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