BYU award-winning Women in Business Club prepares women to succeed

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It takes one glance at the Marriott School’s Women in Business Club to recognize business is no longer solely men’s domain.

The club was recently awarded the Bateman Outstanding Marriott School Club Award for the second year in a row and thrives on the support of its enthusiastic members and passionate leaders who believe women can thrive in the business sphere and, with the right tools and connections, achieve their dreams. 

Club president Katherine Poulter, a senior and first-year information systems master’s student, joined the Women in Business as a freshman in 2009. Back then, she said, the club only had around 20 members. However, under her direction, by October 2012 membership had expanded to nearly 400.

Poulter attributed the club’s increasing popularity to its focus on providing leadership and networking opportunities and inspiring female role models for BYU students.

“The growth has just exploded,” Poulter said. “It’s been incredible — the women I’ve been able to work with, being able to see them grow and finding out about their passions and how that energy can be put to use within the club.”

This year, Poulter received the prestigious Outstanding Graduate Student award in recognition of her work on behalf of the club, as well as her contributions to the Marriott School. Poulter said she recognizes the personal growth she attained through her involvement with the club.

“I’ve grown in my ability to see need and try to help fill it and organize people and make sure communication is being passed across the right channels — it’s been a great learning experience,” Poulter said.

Tina Ashby, an adviser for the Women in Business Club, said the club’s ultimate goal is to encourage this sort of personal growth that will benefit members no matter their sphere of influence.

“Really what we’re trying to do is teach valuable skills for life and any kind of work a woman might want to take on, whether it be in the home, outside the home, in the community,” Ashby said.

In addition to fostering personal growth, the club also provides training and instruction relating to a variety of specialized skills useful to professionals in any of the business emphases.

“We want to teach financial management, time management, organizational skills and what we call human resource skills — whether that be learning better habits to negotiate with others or meet mutual needs — and strategy and entrepreneurship,” Ashby said.

The club aims to extend education and inspiration to its members through example — a method that results in frequent visits and presentations from successful women in business.

“In most cases these are women who have achieved a certain level of success in the workforce but also have really solid families — they’ve been able to achieve that balance,” Ashby said.

The question of work-life and family-life balance is especially prevalent in LDS culture, according to Ashby, and it’s something the club tries to help its members grapple with.

“Sometimes there’s this preconceived notion that if I’m going into business, then I’m choosing career over family,” Ashby said. “But we really feel like with business, the earning tower is pretty high — and in some cases very high — so you can work less hours and bring in the income that you need for your family, and it can be very, very exciting work.”

According to  Bonnie Anderson, a BYU information systems professor, many women don’t understand the flexibility business careers can offer, or just how beneficial the skills from a business degree can be.

“Women have so many unknowns in comparison with men when trying to figure out a major and a career; men are expected to work, but women — especially in Mormon culture — are kind of uncertain,” Anderson said.

Anderson said this very uncertainty is what makes a business career so fitting for many women.

“We’ve had alumni women come back and talk about how they were in a variety of spots,” Anderson said. “One woman who always thought she’d be married and stay at home with a bunch of kids said, ‘It just hasn’t happened for me, so I’m so thrilled I am doing what I enjoy.’ Another was a stay-at-home mom for a while and now she’s working her way back to part time.”

Kristen DeTienne, a BYU professor of organizational leadership and strategy, said she was also drawn to business for the professional flexibility it offered. Although as an organizational behavior major at California State University, Long Beach, she was not in the business school, DeTienne said she stayed heavily involved in the field as the vice president of the business student council.

DeTienne said the Women in Business Club has a similar open-door policy — all women are invited to attend, regardless of their major.

“That’s one of the things I like about the Women in Business Club — it just gets their toe in, it just gets them a little bit involved and they can talk to people that have that major and they can see what it’s like to major in business,” DeTienne said. “I think it’s a great experience to be involved in the club.”

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