Women business executives and students who hope to one day be in their shoes will gather in the McDonough School of Business on Friday for a new conference aiming to teach women how to succeed in the business world.

The Undergraduate Women in Business Conference is the first of its kind for the MSB. Only a few other universities, including Harvard University and New York University, have held conferences that focus on women in business.

The main goal of the event, according to conference co-chair and MSB Assistant Dean Nicole Houle, is to empower students and faculty, as well as help them network.

“We really wanted this to be an opportunity for our women business students to find a platform in which they can really connect with their peers and other women to find mentors in the field and in industries and … to find out how to become leaders,” Houle said.

To that end, the conference will feature keynote addresses from successful businesswomen, including former U.S. Ambassador at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer — who is now executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security — Potomac Research Group CEO Suzanne Clark and Deloitte Vice President Cathy Benko. The event will also have an interactive component with opportunities for students to network with the speakers and conference attendees, as well as to attend leadership panels with women executives.

Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Rosemary Kilkenny will deliver an address on women’s leadership in higher education.

“I would like to give people a lay of the land on what the actual representation is of women in higher education in the United States at American colleges and universities, what challenges women face as they navigate those types of positions … and how women can actually position themselves to be successful in positions of that kind,” Kilkenny said.

Planned over the past year by assistant MSB deans and co-chairs Houle and Monija Amani, the conference was a collaborative effort by a committee of faculty and students.

“[Students] really gave us ideas of what they wanted out of the conference, and we took their ideas and hope to materialize them,” Amani said.

Planning committee members Ashley Murdock (MSB ’14), Dana Mitchell (MSB ’15) and Viviana Jaramillo (MSB ’15) worked to make the conference student centered. Murdock attended the Harvard University Women in Business Conference recently to get a sense of how similar conferences function.

“Going to the Harvard Women in Business Conference two weeks ago and being surrounded by thousands of women who are like minded, driven and want to do well within society was just really great,” Murdock said.

MSB Senior Associate Dean and Director of Undergraduate Programs Norean Sharpe said she hopes that the conference will impact attendees.

“I would like to empower women,” Sharpe said. “I would like women to leave the conference feeling confident, feeling motivated and feeling that they can compete in today’s global economy.”

With more than 300 attendees already registered, the conference has attracted the interest of faculty and students from other universities across the country.

“It is hard for women these days, especially within the business world,” Murdock said. “[You can] learn from people in industries that you want to go into. Whether it’s someone who’s the CEO or vice president or high-up executive, you’re able to understand what their journey is and how you can get there.”

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