Emerging Leaders Participants in this summer's Emerging Leaders Retreat took part in a business pitch experience led by Juliana Casavan of the Purdue Foundry at MatchBOX Coworking Studio in Lafayette. (Photo by Rebecca Wilcox)

Building Gender Equity

Krannert event empowers young women to pursue business careers

The traditionally lazy days of summer were anything but as the Brock-Wilson Center for Women in Management welcomed its inaugural class — an energetic group of 40 high school students — to the Emerging Leaders Retreat, a four-day camp introducing them to empowerment and the opportunities a business degree provides.

Over the course of the week, the students learned about economics, strategy, empowerment, marketing, negotiation, supply chain, accounting and finance from Krannert faculty members Kelly Blanchard, John Burr, Meara Habashi, Brian Chupp, Amy David and Charlene Sullivan. Students also participated in team-building exercises, visits to local women-owned businesses and a 90-second business pitch experience led by Juliana Casavan of the Purdue Foundry.

“Since studies have shown that a young woman’s career choice may be influenced by perceptions that occur early in her life, we believe that it is important to provide pre-college learning experiences that emphasize empowerment and the wide range of opportunities that are available,” says Candi Lange, director of the Brock-Wilson Center for Women in Management.

The empowerment component was the differentiating aspect of the retreat. Through modules led by Habashi, assistant department head of management and research fellow for the Brock-Wilson Center, students participated in interactive activities designed to teach them about confidence and overcoming gender obstacles.

“I liked how it focused on empowering women, because I do think I came in a little skeptical,” says Sydney Ralston, a high school senior from Union City, Indiana. “I came out with a whole new confidence about going into business and meeting people who share your ideas.”

Students participated in business modules, which were structured to help them understand how each area of business is dependent on the others.

“I’ve been in DECA at my high school for the past few years, and I’ve never felt like I had actual business knowledge,” says Paige Fulkerson, a high school junior from Carmel, Indiana. “I felt that coming here would give me that experience and a taste of what a degree in business would be.”

Like Fulkerson, Ralston is a member of the DECA organization at her high school, which prepares students interested in marketing, finance, hospitality and management to become leaders and entrepreneurs.

“I liked the marketing module,” Ralston says. “I compete in marketing for DECA, so I already knew I liked it. This week really opened my eyes to all the different parts [of business], and I learned things that I didn’t know about it.” 

The on-campus experience also gave students a glimpse into college life, including living in a residence hall, eating in a dining court and participating in campus traditions.

“I definitely would do this again,” says Erin Brown, a high school senior from Heyworth, Illinois. “Even if you have the knowledge, it’s the relationships you make with these other young women with similar interests.” 

Lange says the retreat was a resounding success.

“We had an enthusiastic response to our first summer camp, and we hope to grow to offer more sessions and serve more students,” she says.