New student organization wants more women in business

UI students Maeve McGonigal and Jenna Pokorny want to see more women in leadership roles within the business workforce.


Pappajohn Business Building is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. Fire alarms and sprinkers went off in the building after construction crews hit a sprinkler. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Mastura Ibnat, News Reporter

For seniors Maeve McGonigal and Jenna Pokorny, looking around at their business classes and seeing a disproportionately low number of women is a call to action.

“I often count the number of women in my finance classes or at finance events, and then I figure out the ratio compared to men,” McGonigal said. “I’m usually quite surprised if it’s over 25 percent.”

McGonigal asked her instructor, Director of Professional/Employer Development Cathy Zaharis, how many women were in the business field when she was in it. She told McGonigal that there were many times where she was the only woman in the room.

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McGonigal introduced the idea of a student organization dedicated to supporting women in business to Zaharis in the spring of 2018. She worked throughout the summer on the paperwork when Pokorny, now vice president and treasurer, joined in the effort to start InvestHer.

Pokorny and McGonigal presented to the board of Center for Student Involvement & Leadership and got approved on Sep. 5.

As they start up InvestHer, Pokorny noted the challenges of setting up an organization such as this.

“With needs varying from person to person and the ever-changing nature of needs, our organization is challenged with the need to be flexible and malleable,” she said. “While that can sometimes make planning difficult, we are determined to do so.”

Though there is another organization on campus catered to promote gender diversity in the business world called Women in Business, McGonigal believes InvestHer offers a more specific route to teaching finance.

Jordyn Steinkritz agreed, saying InvestHer has a commitment to promote women in finance.

“We noticed, though, that many of the [Women in Business] participants were marketing and management majors, and there was no organization targeting females interested in finance,” she said.

McGonigal emphasized the importance of an organization like InvestHer with the lack of women in leadership positions. People often see women in the business workforce and overlook the fact that many women are not offered top leadership positions, she said.

“While the increase in women in the general workforce is not to be overlooked and is still a great accomplishment, that line of thinking is flawed,” McGonigal said. “As general consumers, the people we interact with on the frontlines of business are not the people behind the business.”

Pokorny agreed that the increase in the numbers of women, specifically in leadership positions, is vital for the industry.

“As men and women have different perceptions, they have different interpretations, and the diversity of interpretations is needed to create a more thorough and complete set of information,” she said.

However, many factors contribute to the lack of women in the business workforce. Steinkritz believes confidence needs to be boosted among women.

“Females need to be equipped with the confidence to feel as if they are equipped with the appropriate knowledge, perspective, and experience to meaningful contribute and make an impact within their work environment,” she said.

McGonigal said there might be some fault in the already small number of women in business that discourages other women from joining.

“If we don’t have the experiences of knowing or seeing people like us in certain roles, then how are we supposed to know we can be in those roles?” she said.