Student club prepares young women to climb the professional ladder
By Matthew Biddle
“There’s just one rule,” Celine Keefe, MBA ’17, announces to the 20 female UB students who stand in a circle around her. “You can’t do anything wrong—just jump in.”
Using her background in theater performance, Keefe leads the group through an improvisational workshop that pushes them to be confident and think on their feet. In one scene, two hikers are stranded on an Arctic expedition. In another, a woman tries to convince her ex-husband’s assistant to let her into his office. And throughout, the students make bold decisions, support one another—and occasionally erupt in laughter.
The improv workshop was just one of the events UB’s Women in Management club hosted this fall, often featuring UB and School of Management alumnae speakers. Through professional development sessions, volunteer projects and social events, the club provides students with opportunities to build their network and prepare for success in the corporate world.
For business student Jenna Behm, the club has been a key part of her School of Management experience, helping her gain new skills and develop relationships with her classmates. A panel discussion with Citi employees even inspired her to consider a career with the company, where she completed an operations internship last summer.
“By meeting professionals and learning about their jobs, you can merge what you learn in the classroom with what you’ll be doing in the real world,” says Behm, the club’s 2018-19 president. “The Citi panel, in particular, allowed me to meet current employees and decide what I wanted in a company and where I could see myself working.”
Women in Management is open to all UB students, and many meetings are applicable to both men and women who aspire to a wide range of careers. Last fall, for example, Claire Petrie, BS ’14, talent acquisition manager at Remedy Intelligent Staffing, led a workshop on executive presence and personal branding. Later that semester, three Citi representatives—Jennifer Frost, Casey Martineau and Andrea Sticht—discussed interview prep.
“All of our club members are here because they want to learn—not because they want an activity on their résumé—and our speakers are just as excited as our members,” says Gabrielle Lindauer, a senior and the club’s vice president of finance.
Meanwhile, other sessions are tailored to the experiences of young women in the workplace. Emily Grijalva, assistant professor of organization and human resources, shared her research and expertise on women in leadership, and Gwen Appelbaum, assistant dean and director of the Career Resource Center, taught a workshop on salary negotiation and the gender pay gap. One of last semester’s most popular meetings was a hands-on self-defense workshop led by UB police officer and alumna Stacy Tuberdyke.
“A lot of women we bring in draw from their own experiences of not initially feeling confident in the workforce and growing to see they’re just as qualified as anybody else,” says Samantha Frank, BS ’17, a second-year MBA student. “That message can be really empowering for our members. For me, I gained more confidence in my skills and learned how to define my skill set by listening to other people share their experiences.”
Many club alumni stay involved as guest speakers or mentors, encouraging current members to reach out for advice or résumé help. Former club president Stacey Stevens, MBA ’16, participated in an alumni panel last spring to give advice and “see the club from the other side of the table.”
“I still remember the advice alumni gave when I was a member: Get involved, be open to learning new skills, volunteer to do any task and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Stevens, a cost estimator at CannonDesign. “Women in Management is a great club, and I want to do what I can to help it flourish.”
Meredith Kaplan, BS ’16, learned about networking, time management and speaking her mind as a founding club member and executive board member. Today, she says her experiences with Women in Management inspired her to give back, both to the club itself and to similar causes, including speaking to high school girls about careers in finance.
“In this club, I could voice my opinion about things I was going through and know that others in the room would be understanding and accepting of me,” says Kaplan, product control analyst at Citi. “Through Women in Management, we can give women the tools to handle themselves in any kind of situation.”
As the improv workshop winds down, Celine Keefe asks, “How does this apply to life and business?” She had begun the meeting by sharing her experiences in male-dominated industries where she is often the only woman in the room. Now, the conversation shifts to competencies that are critical for success in any industry (and improv)—paying attention to detail, taking risks and being a strong team player. With that advice, the meeting ends, but most club members stick around to catch up with one another and connect one-on-one with the young alumna they just met.