Business conference empowers women in the corporate world

SF State’s College of Business will focus on teaching women the skills they need to succeed in corporate enterprise at a leadership conference Oct. 8-9.

The Women’s Emerging Leadership Forum, a two day gathering at SF State’s downtown campus, will feature talks and workshops giving young women the tools to navigate the male-dominated world of business, according to the event website.

“These types of events give our women students the chance to network with each other, but also other emerging leaders in business,” said SF State College Of Business Dean Linda Oubré. “If in five years, I can say that women looked me up to tell me what an impact the symposium had on their life and career, that will be a huge accomplishment.”

Oubré is one of the four keynote speakers who will be talking about their experiences within the corporate world and how they reached their level of achievement. Joining the dean are Kieran Casey, business process and compliance manager for Google; Cheryl Lester, vice president of operations strategy and support for Sam’s Club; and Marina Park Sutton, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern California.

Students like Brenda Ibanescu, a finance major and president of SF State’s Financial Analysis and Management Education Organization, said they realize how important it is for young women to have mentors to guide them through their careers.

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“If we can start as early as San Francisco State and even earlier at high school and middle school levels, showing women that there are leaders out there who are women just like them who struggled to get leadership positions, that helps,” Ibanescu said.

Even though women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners and 4.6 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women, according to the Center for American Progress.

“I don’t think women have a real problem getting entry level positions,” Ibanescu said. “But once you are in, the real problem is getting to management level, VP level and CEO level or decision makers at a company.”

According to the Center for American Progress, these statistics have an even greater on impact women of color, who only occupy 11.9 percent of all managerial positions. Of those women, 5.3 percent are African American, 3.9 percent are Latina and 2.7 percent are Asian American. As of 2014, women of color only occupy 3.2 percent of all board seats of Fortune 500 companies.

College of Business Executive Director Orlando Harris said that the he is excited to create a place where young people can learn more about the workforce. The event has the potential to help young businesswomen confidently enter their careers, he said.

“One of the things we wanted to do is make sure that we create a platform for women who want to lead, inspire and share knowledge,” Harris said. ” I enjoy the fact that we can create more awareness around the issues and present opportunities to problem solve.”

Although there has been steady progress in the business world that has given women a louder voice within the industry, more change is necessary to ensure women are given the same leadership opportunities as men, according to Oubré.

“I always like to say that diversity breeds diversity,” Oubré said. “And it takes more than one of anything to start making a difference. How can we expect businesses to have more women leaders if we as business schools have so few deans and faculty and graduate so few women?”

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