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Preparing Women to Lead in Business

2018-02-28 12:30:00.0

While female participation in the workforce has increased significantly since the 1950s, women hold fewer than 30% of senior roles in the U.S. To start to improve that number, initiatives have begun at the College of Business Administration (CBA) designed to inspire and prepare women to become successful business leaders. For example, CBA Executive in Residence and former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Sandra Pianalto, along with local business leaders and CBA Advancement Council members, Anne Armao and Laura Culp, started a Women in Business (WIB)Roundtable event. The event brings together students, recent alums, and female executives to talk about practices and behaviors that are effective in the workplace. This in turn launched a new student organization, which started in January, and a Women in Leadership Symposium, planned for April.

Women in Business Roundtable

Each WIB Roundtable begins with a keynote presentation by a successful businesswoman followed by small group breakout conversations led by participating executives. The goal is to engage and foster connections between the attendees and to help prepare students for their future careers.

According to Pianalto, "The workplace has changed dramatically over the past few decades. It is critical that we prepare our female students to be successful and to become effective leaders."

"The small roundtable format has allowed for authentic conversations between current students and recent alumni," shared Dr. Deborah Owens, Associate Professor of Marketing at the CBA. "Each lead speaker, such as Jessica McCoy, [VP & GM, GOJO Industries, Inc.] who spoke on bias in decision making, and Sandra Pianalto, whose topic was creating a professional presence, has given the students a new perspective on a current career-focused topic."

Current students and alumni are nominated by faculty to attend. One student, Human Resources Management major, Elizabeth Helbley, had the opportunity to attend all three of the past WIB roundtables. "As a senior looking back on my collegiate experience, I can honestly say that the Roundtables have been one of my favorite, most impactful events I've been a part of," Helbley shared. "Having the chance to interact with executives and hear their journey into leadership, and also hear from recent alumnae about their perspective has really helped motivate me and create a 'You can do it and so can I' attitude." Elizabeth Helbley

The next WIB Roundtable will take place on March 2, just in time for Women’s History Month. Catherine Shew, Executive Coach & Business Advisor, will present the keynote speech on the topic of self awareness.

Student Group Inspired by Roundtables

Inspired by her experiences attending the Women in Business Roundtables, student Elizabeth Helbley decided to start a Women in Business student organization at the CBA, which launched in January 2018. According to Helbley, the organization seeks to encourage the women of The University of Akron through various workshops, collaborative events, and professional speakers. In its inaugural months, the organization hosted entrepreneur and author, Katherine Miracle, who spoke about strategic personal branding, and held several social activities such as a game night and a yoga outing.

In April, the group, along with the CBA’s Institute for Leadership Advancement, will hold their largest event of the semester, a Women in Leadership Symposium. "I’m all about creating the things we wish existed, which is why I’m so excited to launch WIB." Helbley stated. "I hope that this organization can help all our members learn that age and gender should never be barriers to success."

For More Information

For more information on the Women in Business Roundtable, contact Kim Heffernan at

To learn more about the Women in Business student organization, contact Elizabeth Helbley at

Women in Business Roundtable