Story By Christina Beals, News Reporter
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Walker College of Business organization, Women of Walker, hosted a “Women in Business” panel in Kenneth E. Peacock Hall on March 1 to explore an array of topics relating to women in the business realm, ranging from obtaining valuable skills to the wage gap.
The summit event, hosted by Assistant Director of the Business Career Services Amy Odom, consisted of a panel of four local businesswomen.
The women featured on the discussion panel were Vice President of Sales for EnCompass Rx Rachel Clifton, General Manager for the Courtyard by Marriott Jessica Smith and District Manager for E. & J. Gallo Winery Claire Duval.
The discussion began with an explanation behind the Women of Walker program.
“For those who may not know who Women of Walker is, we are a professional development program for females in the Walker College of Business,” Odom said.
Odom said that the program started four years ago by computer information systems and supply chain management professor Dawn Medlin, who saw a need to specifically support women who were seeking a career in business.
The program provides workshops for professional and career skill development, and networking opportunities to connect members with employers.
The recommendation-based organization began with nine members and has grown to 22 active members.
Odom began the summit addressing statistics about women’s involvement across campus.
“56.5 percent of our student population are female. When we get into the school of business, it’s a little less. 32.3 percent of females make up the students in the program,” Odom said.
Odom said 41 percent of women are accounting majors, and an important question to be asked is why women in the school of business are drawn to it specifically.
Computer information systems was the lowest major with 14 percent.
Following the brief statistics presentation, the women’s panel introduced themselves and their respective college educations with each panel member being an Appalachian State alumni.
Posed by Odom, the first summit question pertained to a challenge that members may have had to overcome within their respective careers, how they overcame it and what knowledge they wish they had possessed so as to have avoided said challenge.
The vitality of mentorship in the business world was discussed, giving the opportunity for summit speakers to discuss mentors they have had and were key parts in their individual careers.
Rachel Clifton discussed a situation in her professional life when a co-worker was sabotaging conference calls with negative commentary, and Clifton sought out mentor figures she had formerly worked for.
“For the mentors that I reached out to, some of them were good and some were bad. I reached out to them to get their advice and opinions, and I would start to understand how it worked for them and what they had done in certain cases,” Clifton said.
Clifton noted that though mentorship is important, one should detect the good qualities of good and bad mentors and embody said qualities as a professional.
Other topics were discussed, such as potential challenges that summit speakers may have had to overcome within their respective careers, how they overcame it and what skills or knowledge they wish they had possessed so as to have avoided said challenge.
Clifton spoke on the matter of maternity leave and its uniqueness in the sense that it is a factor in the workplace her male counterparts will never have to personally face.
“I think that having strong female mentors is something that is very important, along with knowing that it’s just a part of life,” Clifton said.
Odom introduced a set of questions submitted by audience members before the summit.
This discussion was about what Women of Walker can do to effectively recruit students into the business program, with panel replies suggesting to expose potential members to as many facets of business as possible to make it easier to find one’s professional niche.
Clifton said that giving as many opportunities as possible, such as mentors and internships would be helpful to diversity among majors.
Along with summit meetings, according to the Women of Walker website, the organization hosts professional workshops throughout the year and advises on interview preparation and professional attire.
Story by Christina Beals, News Reporter. You can follow her on Twitter at @Christinalala_
Photo by Christina Beals