The University of Georgia, Terry College of Business
Category: Engaging a Diverse Community
Location: Athens, Georgia,
Accreditation Status: Accredited
Innovation Title: Terry Women's Initiative
Created with the purpose of inspiring and empowering women in traditionally male-dominated career paths like accounting or finance, the Terry Women’s Initiative helps foster leadership skills necessary for advancement within the business sphere. By helping to bridge the “confidence gap,” participants are encouraged to take measured risks while embracing opportunity.
Call to Action
The Terry Women’s Initiative was inspired by the realization that female students were disproportionately unrepresented in two of Terry’s top majors: finance and accounting. Women were also not applying for leadership roles in Terry’s student organizations and self-reported feeling unconfident during the recruitment process. This initiative was created with the purpose of educating and empowering women, especially those pursuing traditionally male-dominated career paths.
A fundamental aspect of the initiative is to inspire the confidence and hone the leadership skills necessary for success in the professional world by focusing on both hard and soft skills. In addition to feedback received from students, a 2014 Atlantic magazine article, “The Confidence Gap,” helped inform the mission of the initiative. The article suggests that success relies on confidence as much as competence, and that confidence can be developed by taking measured risks and embracing opportunity. This lack of confidence is particularly damaging to women as they enter the workforce—they are far less likely to push for promotions and initiate salary negotiations.
A variety of studies in “The Confidence Gap” noted that even when women are clearly qualified for a leadership role, they often doubt their abilities much more so than their male counterparts. This doubt contributes to the lack of women in top leadership positions in business and many other spheres. “Women” the article claims, “applied for a promotion only when they met 100% of the qualifications. Men applied when they met 50%.”
This points to the idea that women have a tendency to avoid taking risks that would ultimately help them build confidence. The Terry Women’s Initiative is a response to this need to help women develop a positive self-perception that will empower them.
Since its founding in 2015, the Terry Women’s Initiative has hosted a wide variety of events aimed at empowering and developing University of Georgia business students. Past events include:
- A series of panels featuring students, alumni, faculty, and career experts aimed at educating students about different career paths and opportunities
- A golf clinic to educate students about the role of golf in conducting business, allowing them to attend a group lesson to learn the basics of the game
- A summer book club to give students the opportunity to learn and stay connected with other initiative participants throughout the summer and prepare for the following academic year
- Corporate site visits to companies in industries ranging from investment banking to technology
- A mentorship program that pairs underclass students with highly engaged juniors and seniors in their majors
In addition to these successful events, the initiative is planning a student conference that aims to help women position themselves for success after college. This conference will include panels with alumnae and feature topics on entrepreneurship, as well how to succeed in fields that are traditionally male-dominated. There will also be breakout sessions on networking, work-life balance, and a talent assessment. The goal of this conference is to expose our students to a number of highly accomplished alumnae, most of whom will be fairly recent graduates, so they see the different types of success that are possible after graduation.
Additionally, a retreat is planned for the spring that will allow a select group of juniors and seniors to focus on the best way to leverage their potential as they enter the professional world. As the initiative grows, it aims to continue to provide substantive programming that will prepare Terry’s students for success after graduation.
Terry Women’s Initiative has impacted hundreds of students since its launch and continues to explore new ways to better serve students. A Terry senior shared her experience with the program: “The Terry Women’s Initiative is a platform for me to realize my potential; it has exposed me to brilliant women who have not only given me tremendous support and wisdom, but who have also inspired me to reach out to other women and help them succeed in whatever way I can.”
Most of the current programming for the Terry Women’s Initiative focuses on success in business, but the initiative hopes to appeal to students in other disciplines, as well. By aligning with the Women’s Leadership Initiative launched in 2015 by University of Georgia president, Jere Morehead, and provost, Pamela Whitten, the Terry Women’s Initiative envisions an interdisciplinary impact.
Over time, Terry College is optimistic that students who have benefitted from the initiative will feel compelled to give back to the next generation of students by making themselves available for mentoring and sponsorship relationships. For current students, the initiative supports underclassmen as they prepare for their major, exposes them to leadership positions on campus, and provides support for students searching for internships and other opportunities that will position them for success after graduation.
We are already seeing the effects of the Terry Women’s Initiative in fostering a network of alumni and students who are supporting each other during the transition from college to the professional world and creating an impact that extends well beyond the University of Georgia campus.