In her third year of lecturing in the Haas Undergraduate Program, alumna Krystal Thomas, BS 94, realized that 90 percent of the conversations in her office hours involved young women coming to her to have "the conversation."
The conversation goes like this, she says: "I'm freaked out about what happens after I graduate. What's it like to be a women in business? Is it really as difficult as I hear?"
Seeking to provide more support to these young women, Thomas teamed up with Undergraduate Program Director Erika Walker to hold the program's first Women Empowerment Day on April 19, which will bring nearly a dozen successful alumnae back to the school to talk with students.
"If we are talking seriously about building women leaders, then students need the opportunity to meet successful women leaders," says Thomas. "This is a chance for students to ask the questions that they really want answers to."
The afternoon event will feature talks by Kellie McElhaney, faculty director of the Haas Center for Responsible Business, and Valorie Burton, a bestselling author and life coach. McElhaney's recent research has involved studying the positive impact of women in business, and she also taught a new Women in Business course to MBA students last fall. Burton has been a guest on hundreds of radio and TV shows and a speaker who has inspired audiences at such companies as GE, Goldman Sachs, and Accenture.
The event also will feature a tea in which students will speak in small groups with one successful Haas alumna, who will rotate every 45 minutes so that students can meet several different women.
"It will be inspirational, but it will also be very practical because of the tools that Valorie will deliver to help students start thinking about themselves," adds Thomas, who is teaching a Business Communications course this semester.
While other schools struggle to attract women to business majors, the Haas Undergraduate Program has enjoyed significant success, with women comprising 50 percent of its enrollment, notes Walker, who first conceived of an event for female students three years ago.
"I wanted to do something special to highlight that success for our female students and provide additional encouragement to them," Walker says. "This may influence the next generation of CEOs."
The event, to be held in the Wells Fargo room from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., will be open to 100 students. About 75 students were nominated by faculty and staff to participate. The remaining 25 spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Walker will send out a general announcement later this week after the nominated students have had a chance to respond.
Other activities on women at Haas this month include the 17th annual Women Leadership Conference on April 6, organized by MBA students, and the annual invitation-only Women in Leadership Dinner on April 10 for alumnae who give back to Haas. In February, the UC Berkeley Career Center also hosted the Northern California Network of Women Chapter's College Networking and Panel Discussion for undergraduate and graduate students. The title of the event was "The Astute Graduate: Thinking Outside the ABC's – Business Careers in the CPG Industry."