Future female leaders get taste of business world at camp

By Colleen Rerucha '06

It was the kind of thing that could put even a seasoned professional on edge: a room full of potential employers conducting multiple rounds of speed interviews.

"I'm a little nervous," said Bridget Bailie, just before starting the practice interview session at the Young Women in Business Leadership Program camp.

Bailie, a high school student from the Chicago area, was one of 38 campers who got a taste of the business world, and the jitters that sometimes come with it, during the five-day business camp for rising high school seniors at BGSU.

The program, hosted by the College of Business, is designed to prepare young women for the business world through experiential learning opportunities, from preparing an elevator speech to participating in speed interviews. The camp's mission is to encourage self-assurance in the very early stages of a business career.

"Business colleges typically comprise approximately 35 percent females and 65 percent males," said Susan Kosakowski, recruiting manager with the College of Business and camp director. "At BGSU, we are striving to increase the number of qualified, confident females preparing to successfully enter the business world."

A full itinerary of business boot camp sessions included entrepreneurialism, identifying a leadership style, developing a personal brand, managing stress, and business on the golf course. Campers were also tasked with launching a community service project with $100 seed money to jumpstart their ideas.

The keynote session of the week connected campers with female business leaders from a variety of companies and industries.

The professional businesswomen spent an afternoon on campus conducting speed interviews and networking with campers, introducing the importance of female mentorship.

"There's more to it than just a little speed interview," said Carris Ruffing, a corporate recruiter from Cooper Tire & Rubber Company in Findlay, Ohio, who volunteered her time to meet with the campers. "The more I recruit, the more I know the importance of women to support other women. It can be challenging in different niches of business. When I got this opportunity, I was extremely excited."

Kristin Kerestman, an early careers program specialist with Avery Dennison, traveled from Mentor, Ohio, to offer guidance to the young women developing newfound business skills.

"We want to make sure they have the support they need and the tools they need to get them there," she said.

"I really like the idea of having more female empowerment," said Bailie, who hopes to attend BGSU and specialize in accounting or marketing.

"Our campers can identify with the challenges of being a female in the business community," Kosakowski said. "All of our female mentors present strong leadership skills and a sincere interest in the ongoing success of these campers."

The business camp also provided a preview of campus life, with campers living in residence halls for the week.

"I really like it. We're all experiencing the same thing at the same time," said Anika Singhania, a camper from Sylvania, Ohio. "The dorm life is a lot of fun. I get a taste of independence."

Singhania knew she wanted to attend a BGSU summer camp after her sister participated in Tech Trek, a similar BGSU summer camp for girls in STEM. Singhania plans to major in computer science, but felt exposure to business skills would be beneficial for any career path.

"Business is everywhere," she said. "Even as a computer science major, I'm going to be interacting with business. I thought it was important to explore other options."

This is the second year for the business camp, which sold out in the spring. A portion of the cost of the camp is underwritten by the Women in Business Leadership Conference, an annual event to promote and support female leadership and equality in the workplace.