Women’s conference promotes leadership

The theme for the fourth-annual conference was ‘achieve it!’

On Friday, one of the coldest days of the year, female students and business professionals came together in Coffman Union’s Great Hall to discuss the hot topic of corporate women.

“Achieve it! Developing a Strategy for Success” was the theme of the fourth-annual Women’s Leadership Conference put on by the Carlson School of Management, which aimed to level the corporate playing field for men and women.

As of 2006, women working full-time in the U.S. earned, on average, only 81 percent of what men earned, according to the Department of Labor.

Alison Davis-Blake, dean of Carlson, said the conference’s goal was to provide current and future female business leaders with tools they need to ensure success by providing business education at every level.

“There is more than one path to success,” she said. “But you can’t succeed without an education.”

As a way to teach women about business from childhood to college and beyond, the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society was founded in 2006, Davis-Blake said.

Linda Babcock, founder and director of PROGRESS and economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said women learn about the differences between men and women early in life.

An example of this, she said, comes from Saturday morning cartoon shows where only 12 percent of the major characters are female.

“Girls learn that it’s the guys that are out having the adventures and in control and it’s the girls and women that are the secondary roles,” Babcock said.

The messages these girls learn stay with them through college and when they enter the job market, she said.

Another example of this happened when Babcock was the director of the Ph.D. program at Carnegie Mellon. A group of female Ph.D. students came to her upset that the male Ph.D. students were getting more teaching jobs at the college. She said she discovered the men had requested the teaching jobs from the associate dean and the women just waited to hear about an opening.

After learning this, Babcock started researching how women and men negotiate salaries and advancements in their careers.

One of her major findings was that only 12 percent of the women in the 2003 Carnegie Mellon graduating class negotiated their first job offers while 51 percent of the men did.

She said women don’t negotiate as much as men for reasons such as fear of being labeled too aggressive and lack of access to social networks. However, women shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate, Babcock said.

“Always think of opportunities to negotiate because almost anything is negotiable,” Babcock said.

Becky Roloff, chief executive officer of YWCA in Minneapolis who spoke at the conference, worked with Ameriprise Financial for 27 years before taking a job with YWCA.

“I loved my time at Ameriprise and will not let anyone, even in a laughing manner, describe me as a corporate refuge,” she said.

Roloff said she left stock options, a salary she said she once “only dreamed about” and heated parking at Ameriprise to head the nonprofit organization.

When people would ask her why she was leaving money and opportunities on the table, she would reply, “In the end don’t we all leave it on the table?”

Now Roloff said she spends her free time advocating child-care reform with programs through the YWCA and the community to encourage women.

“Be true to your voice, use your voices,” she said. “You are women with power.”

Business and finance sophomore Lauren Frederick and accounting and operations management senior Sarah Sabalaskey, executive board members of the Women in Business student group through the Carlson School, attended the conference.

Sabalaskey said the group’s mission is to build networks between students and business leaders. The opportunity to meet with other local business leaders was important in the mission.

“It was inspiring and a renewal to see so many women who are higher up in the work force,” Frederick said.