Tippie College of Business recognizes disproportion between men and women

The Tippie College of Business wants to bring attention to the disproportion of women in the college as a whole while providing a comfortable space for the individuals who are already there. Student organization groups and role model faculty members are aiding women to success in the college.


Katie Goodale

The Pappajohn Business Building is seen on March 11, 2019.

Sarah Altemeier, News Reporter

Statistics have shown that women are less likely to be involved in a career in business than men — a trend which the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business is attempting to combat after seeing that a little more than one-fourth of women are represented in the school.

Tippie has taken steps to address this disparity — the business school recently hosted its first-ever UI Women in Business Analytics and Leadership conference aimed to combat the disproportion of women and men in its corresponding major.

The gap between men and women represented in Tippie is a common topic at the college — 38 percent of students are women, according to fall 2019 enrollment numbers. Associate Dean Ken Brown said he believes this proportion should look more like the university’s as a whole, which was approximately 53 percent women and 47 percent men in fall 2018.

“We should have as many women, underrepresented minorities, people from in-state, out-of-state, and that’s our goal — to be able to have a microcosm of the university inside our classes, because then the classes will be more interesting and informative,” Brown said.

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Brown said he thinks this disparity begins at the high school level where implicit bias among guidance counselors and teachers often steer women away from technical, quantitative fields and wants to address this issue accordingly.

“We actually are interested in extending this conversation not just inside Pappajohn, but across the campus, in the community, and into the high schools,” Brown said. “We would love for people in high schools to know that you don’t have to be a math whiz … you just have to be willing to learn the material.”

Vice President of Internal Affairs for Women in Business Emily Haarman said her organization brings in community professionals to speak and also pair with students for mentorship. She added that lean-in circles of eight to 12 women help Tippie students focus on certain aspects of business.

“It could be preparing for interviews. It could be personal branding,” Haarman said. “It could be building friendships, that kind of thing, which I think is really important.”

Sarah Tabor, president of InvestHer, said her organization’s mission is to build knowledge and networks in the finance field, establish relationships, explore careers, and invest in women.  

“It’s important to have women championing other women and giving them the support that they need,” Tabor said. “We even need men helping other women and men helping men, but just noticing that the women might need a little extra push to feel confident or a little extra help to find the resources that might just be more easily shared with men because it’s convenient.”

Tippie Professional and Employer Development Director Catherine Zaharis played a big role in Tabor’s career at the UI, she said.

“Just hearing how intelligent she is, and how she’s done it all herself — she’ll give me advice on who to reach out to, what jobs to look at, or suggests news articles to read, that’s helped me a lot,” Tabor said. “I’ve learned a lot from her.”

Brown said he wants to make sure faculty and staff reflect the demographics of the student body. According to enrollment numbers from the Provost’s Office, 32 percent of the faculty and 77 percent of the staff are women in Tippie.

Finance has the smallest percentage of women in Tippie at approximately 22 percent. Zaharis said the field is evolving rapidly, so it’s an ideal time for women to embrace the opportunity, both professionally and personally.

“The challenges of what you can do with a degree in finance, that’s also evolving,” Zaharis said. “As more things become automated, the softer skills aspects of it are going to matter more because those are the things that won’t be automated away. It’s important to understand that there’s a balance between all of these roles.”

Although Tippie officials are still making strides to match the representation of women in the university as a whole, Tabor appreciates that the college is making it a priority.

“I don’t know exactly why [there is still such a great disproportion], but at least now it’s a focus,” Tabor said. “People are recognizing it, and that’s going to help more women feel comfortable.”