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U of T Scarborough grad aims to empower women, under-represented groups in business and STEM

Vanshika Agarwal, who won the 2021 Management Co-op Student of the Year award, is graduating from the management co-op program at U of T Scarborough (photo by Don Campbell)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanshika Agarwal landed an eight-month, remote internship as an equity research and product intern at Canalyst, a leader in the industry of market data and analytics with offices in New York City and Vancouver. 

Although she was still a student in the University of Toronto Scarborough's bachelor of business administration co-op program, Agarwal was not shy about putting forward her ideas in the office. She successfully pitched the company's CEO to establish a system of automated outreach tactics to offer Canalyst to finance students. In short order, she secured clients from American MBA programs, mainly at Ivy League schools, and increased membership to more than 300 participants across the U.S. within six months.

“No one usually wants to hear what a 20-year-old has to say, but I held sessions with more than 50 people interested in the product. It was a fun and fascinating experience,” Agarwal says. 

Graduating this week, Agarwal says she's eager to put her energy toward leveling the playing field in business once she joins the work force. “Leadership for me means that everyone can be a leader in some capacity. I want to make an impact and help people realize the idea of ‘experience to lead,’” she says. 

Agarwal credits her parents for teaching her determination and about the importance of empowering women. Shortly after arriving in Canada as an international student from Mumbai, she worked for Accelerate Her Future (AHF), a career accelerator for self-identified Black, Indigenous and other women of colour in business and STEM. The accelerator started as pilot at U of T, in 2019. 

At AHF, Agarwal helped develop networking programs as an advisory board member and special initiatives intern through ICUBE UTM, U of T Mississauga’s entrepreneurship incubator.

“I became extremely passionate when I noticed people who didn’t look like me in the industry. Everyone has some power to bring change, and I saw this gap that needs to be filled, especially with women in finance,” Agarwal says.

Alongside volunteering for organizations seeking to advance gender equality in finance, Agarwal also worked at U of T Scarborough as a teaching assistant for five management courses. As a co-op career coach, she also provided students with tips for job interviews, work-term success and networking. 

Last year, she received the Management Co-op Student of the Year award for her extensive work-integrated learning (WIL) experience and impact in fintech.

“It was quite humbling and motivating to have received that award,” she says. “It made me realize how I can start to give back to my peers at different stages of their academic career.”

With her sights currently set on business school and working within equity research and capital markets, she hopes to eventually build a side project to create a pipeline for women to find opportunities in STEM and business straight from high school.

As for her advice for incoming students, Agarwal’s key piece of wisdom includes having confidence in yourself and being open to taking chances.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Never second guess yourself and always be willing to take chances.”

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