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George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Anne Auer
Kelley School of Business

Last modified: Thursday, June 22, 2006

IUís Kelley School hopes to attract more women into business careers at an earlier age

June 22, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Next week, 30 young women will arrive on the Indiana University Bloomington campus for one of its many pre-college programs. The mission for this group is somewhat unusual: to allow young women to sample what it's like to attend a world-class business school and, in the process, build their confidence in pursuing a career in business.

IU's Kelley School of Business has organized its first Young Women's Institute, which will begin Sunday (June 25) and continue through June 30. The participants all are high school sophomores or juniors with a grade-point average of 3.3 or better (out of 4.0).

The 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 will conduct workshops to teach students about major functional areas of business. Participants will gain knowledge in the areas of marketing, finance, operations management, entrepreneurship and strategic management.

Most of their instructors will be women, including many successful alumni of the Kelley School. The students' case study project will be judged by a panel of vice presidents from John Deere, all of whom are women. Also underwriting the program are Ford Motor Co. and Daimler Chrysler.

The majority of the 23 students are from Indiana and another seven are from outside the state. In recent years, female enrollment in business programs at Kelley and other top schools has been in decline. The most recent publication from Catalyst, a non-profit group dedicated to advancing the cause of women in business, indicates that females' applications to business schools are on the decline nationwide. Only about a third of the school's undergraduate enrollment consists of women.

"This can be attributed to a number of factors: few female role models in business, a perception that business careers are not family-friendly, and the view of business as a competitive rather than cooperative environment," explained Carolyn Wiethoff, clinical assistant professor of management and the program's faculty adviser, who has studied issues that some women and minorities face in an increasingly diverse workplace.

"Organizations across the globe need well-trained female employees who can break through the 'glass ceiling' and assume leadership positions," Wiethoff added. "Research indicates that companies with women in top leadership positions provide all employees with better opportunities for work/life balance. Diverse leadership teams also help organizations make better strategic decisions."

Dan Smith, dean of the Kelley School, said programs like the Young Women's Institute have a "trickle down" effect on the school.

"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," Smith said. "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."

Corporate partners have completely underwritten the program. Participants only need to pay transportation costs and bring personal spending money. While on campus, the students will live 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.