Last spring marked the first annual Women in Business Leadership Conference, organized around the theme “Women Discovering Leadership.” On April 19, 2012 the conference will return with a full slate of speakers, including a keynote address by Julie Gilbert, founder of the consulting firm, Wolf Means Business.
This year’s conference, titled “The Past, Present and Future of Gustavus Women Leaders,” will kick off at 8:30 a.m. in Alumni Hall and run through the afternoon. The conference, as indicated by the title, will revolve around speakers and panelists who are Gustavus graduates. These speakers will relate their experiences in the business world, offer advice on how women can overcome gender related obstacles in the workplace and discuss networking tactics.
Senior Katie Ness, the Co President of Women in Business Leadership (WiBL), points to fundamental women’s issues as being at the root of the conference, as well as the student organization.
“It’s about what you can do to make the disadvantage in the workplace less and celebrating the accomplishments we’ve had,” Ness said.
Senior Co-President Abby Roff stresses the practical goals of her organization and the upcoming conference.
“As women we are faced with some things men aren’t faced with. Sometimes women tend to step on each other [in the business world] instead of supporting each other—that’s what we want to address,” Roff said.
The conference will for the most part revolve around the importance of networking and the benefits of forming bonds between current students and alumni.
“It’s about developing leadership qualities and helping students and alumni make connections. Networking for job opportunities is so important these days. It’s for anyone who is part of the Gustavus community—men are a part of the conference too,” Roff said.
Assistant professor of Management Kathi Tunheim, the advisor to WiBL, said she sees workforce development as the main issue at stake. Tunheim looks to the numbers disparity between men and women at the top as a sure sign that many talents are going untapped in corporate America.
“It’s about talent and tapping the talent of the entire work force. We want all the voices at the table to be heard,” Tunheim said.
Conference attendees can be confident that they will receive advice from credible figures in the business world—one of this year’s breakout panel sessions will consists solely of CEOs. Rather than enlist two keynote speakers, the event will feature a total of six breakout sessions dealing with specific topics, with some geared toward students —others designed for alumni.
Keynote speaker Julie Gilbert has a national reputation as a savvy businesswoman and currently heads Wolf Means Business. Gilbert formerly served as the architect of Magnolia Home Theatre for Best Buy. She successfully convinced the executives at Best Buy that since women accounted for a majority of store purchases, the company had better begin to engage female customers in a meaningful way.
“I have heard of Julie and what she has accomplished for many years. I never had any idea that we would be able to get her at Gustavus,” Tunheim said.
Since last year’s inaugural event, Women in Business Leadership has blossomed as a student organization, with Co-Presidents Ness and Roff presiding over weekly meetings. The organization frequently brings alumni to campus and tabled as a part of Empowering Women Week.
“We make education our main priority,” Ness said.
During their tabling efforts this week, the organization gave input on how to “Dress for Respect” in the workplace.
Tickets to this year’s conference are available at a price of 15 dollars for students, 25 dollars for Gustavus employees and 30 dollar for general admission.