Last year Jennifer Mikhli-Forkosh, now a senior majoring in psychology, was the president of the student government and the first woman to hold that position in more than a decade.

“I found that extremely surprising given that women comprise the majority of the student populace at this college,” she said. Women account for 60 percent of the student body.

“I looked to other campuses and noticed that women’s initiatives were highly prevalent,” Mikhli-Forkosh, continued. “So we needed to have one of our own.”

It wasn’t that Brooklyn College didn’t already offer plenty of women-oriented opportunities. There is a Women’s Center, the oldest in the CUNY system, which last year had about 9,000 visitors and this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. There is also a Women’s and Gender Studies degree program and preliminary plans to add a certificate in women’s leadership. The Magner Career Center had also been bringing in women alumni to mentor students or participate in luncheons and panel sessions.

Still, Mikhli-Forkosh, spoke with President Karen L. Gould and other women leaders around the college about ways to further empower female students and provide them with opportunities to network and reach out to potential mentors.

The college decided to combine much of the programming it already offered into the Brooklyn College Women’s Initiative, which was informally launched last fall with a mentor luncheon during which women of distinction—mostly alumnae of the college—broke bread with a group of women students who were interested in their career fields.

“There have always been old boys clubs,” Sau Fong Au, director of the Women’s Center told the crowd at the luncheon. “That’s why old girls clubs are very important.”

Over the intersession, the Magner Career Center organized an daylong conference titled “Women Leaders: Taking the World By Storm,” with support from President Gould’s office, the Brooklyn College Foundation, Estée Lauder Companies and the Women and Gender Studies Program.

Florence Cohen Rosen ’59, the founder of the Rosen Fellowships that give undergraduate students the opportunity to create projects outside of the classroom that will enhance their degree work, was among the group of distinguished alumnae who participated in panel discussions and a Q&A session. Marge Magner ’69, a business leader, and creator and benefactor of the career center named for her, was also in attendance. They were joined by rising leaders and seasoned professionals from organizations including CBS, Goldman Sachs, SUNY Downstate Medical School, Estée Lauder and the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center.

“Be an advocate for yourself and for the women around you,” Magner advised, adding that when she looks back on her success, the moments she was most proud of involved helping or working with other people.

“I think both events fed into the concept of female solidarity on this campus that might not exist in the day-to-day college life,” Mikhli-Forkosh, said.

The Women’s Initiative will also include an externship program overseen by the Magner Career Center, in which students shadow professionals, as well as future luncheons and conferences. The Women’s and Gender Studies Program plans to hold a number of conferences this spring, and the Women’s Center will host a day-long series of panels for their 40th anniversary in March highlighting, among other topics, women’s activism at Brooklyn College.