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George Vlahakis
University Communications

Kathleen Robbins
Kelley School of Business

Diana Caldwell
Safis Solutions

Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008

IU's Kelley School hopes to attract more women into business careers, create new role models

June 10, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Twenty years ago, Diana Caldwell saw fewer female role models in corporate America and fewer women in the classroom when she arrived at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business as a student.

"In terms of the percent of the student population, females were the minority," she recalled. "In terms of who came to recruit on campus and who came to give speeches from industry, it was male dominated as well."

Diana Caldwell

Diana Caldwell

Print-Quality Photo

Today, 18 years after getting her MBA at Kelley, Caldwell directs sales and marketing at Safis Solutions, an Indianapolis-based,entrepreneurial life sciences company that is led by a woman, Ping Poulsen. Things are changing.

"I think the environment for women leaders in management positions has changed," she added. "We see a lot of firsts in the marketplace, including several really high-profile women business leaders making their mark and creating equal brands to their male counterparts."

That's one of the messages that Caldwell plans to share as one of the presenters at the Kelley School's Young Women's Institute this week. The program provides 36 women who have just completed their junior year in high school with a sample of what it's like to attend a world-class business school and, in the process, build their confidence in pursuing a career in business.

The average participant has a grade-point average of 3.9 (out of 4.0). The program began Sunday (June 8) and continues through Friday.

Students will work in teams to analyze a complex real-world business case and prepare presentations of their recommendations, which will be given in front of corporate judges on the last day of the program. To help the groups prepare their case, top Kelley faculty members -- including those who are also women -- will conduct workshops to teach students about major functional areas of business. Participants will gain knowledge in the areas of accounting, international business, marketing, finance, entrepreneurship and strategic management.

The Kelley School and corporate partners are underwriting the program. Participants only need to pay transportation costs and bring personal spending money. While on campus, the students are living in a residence hall near the Kelley School. The week is designed to give students a taste of college life and a solid introduction to the field of business.

"Participants realize that business careers involve a blend of analytical and people skills, and that through a career in business, you have opportunities to improve lives, communities and society as a whole," said Kelley Dean Dan Smith. "The institute also provides an opportunity to meet like-minded friends. Our hope is that through this program, participants will go on to pursue a business education, and of course we hope that the talented young women who attend the institute apply to IU and the Kelley School in the future."

In recent years, female enrollment in business programs at Kelley and other top schools has been in decline. Only about a third of the school's undergraduate enrollment consists of women.

After getting an MBA degree in marketing and human resources at Kelley in 1990, Caldwell traveled extensively and worked in various roles for 16 years at Eli Lilly & Co., gaining experience in marketing planning, sales, e-marketing and brand management. She previously earned a bachelor of arts degree at IU in psychology.

Caldwell plans to tell the young women that they can balance a career and family. She's also the proud mother of three daughters, ages 8, 6 and 2.

"Young women, even those as young as seniors in high school, are already thinking about how to integrate a family into their careers and how best to juggle it all," she said. "I want to share potential career path options, and reflect on my own experiences at IU and how that prepared me for my journey through corporate America and now, into an entrepreneurial environment.

"What I hope for my daughters is that they see examples that show them that whatever they want to do, whatever path they want to choose, it is possible and they can do it."