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By Alice Cai, Biochemistry ’12

We live in the age of equality. The law protects against discrimination, and the media along with society at large frowns heavily upon sexism and racial slurs. Students in a culturally diverse campus community strive forward optimistically with the impression that these issues no longer hinder their aspirations. Yet Susan Butler, the first woman partner to be named at Accenture, reminded us that pay inequity, corporate glass ceilings, and an underrepresentation of women in business management still exist for women a century after the monumental breakthrough in the woman’s right to vote. In the next ten years, she will push to launch a new decade for women’s leadership, starting from our own UA campus community.

On Saturday, April 3rd, 54 women from a diverse group of colleges registered and attended the Women’s Leadership Conference at the Marriott University Park Hotel. Started in 2002 by Ms. Butler, the conference is closely supported by Eller College of Management and the Colleges of Science, Agriculture and Life Sciences, Engineering, and as of this year, the UA Foundation. Each year, a planning committee of students meets fall through spring to put the conference together. The planning committee selects a theme based on what they feel best serves the women on the UA campus. This year’s theme was Transitioning to the Professional Realm, featuring workshops Building Professional Credibility, The Contemporary Resume, Cultural Diversity in the Workplace, and an Etiquette lunch.

I joined the planning committee last year when I encountered the application in a Molecular Cellular Biology listserv email. Though I am not in business, I had been involved in women’s issues throughout high school and I had planned other conferences for local and state commissions. The process of planning this conference was far more hands on and independent than anything I had done before. We fundraised for money, arranged meetings with local businesses, contacted female leaders in the community, and reached out to every possible listserv when the time came to put on the conference. My communication and business etiquette improved greatly through the conference planning as well as the knowledge delivered by the conference itself.

The morning began with breakfast and a fast networking icebreaker. The icebreaker tested the abilities of the audience to remember important traits about the people they met within 90 seconds, including hometown, appearance, height, and major. Attendees came to network with professional women and other students, and to gain insight from successful female leaders. Our panelists and workshop speakers, from various backgrounds in medicine, consulting, engineering, and banking, answered questions addressing family/work balance, bosses and mentorship in job experiences, as well as remaining true to your own goals despite various obstacles. The conference offered useful tools to assist women as they searched for employment and set career goals. Next year we hope to expand the student participant base to graduates in business management to improve networking opportunities, and to make the conference even better than before. If you wish to join the planning committee and push forward for women in management, keep an eye out for the listserv emails going out in the fall.