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The executive board was amazed at how many female students approached the club at Student Organization Night.

For the past two years, four business majors — all of whom are women — have tried to start an organization at JMU to support women who are entering the business world. Last October, that goal was achieved when the students formed JMU’s Women in Business club.

When Kelly Johnson, junior business major and president of the club, as well as five other students went to New York City to learn about different job opportunities, they noticed how small the percentage of women in the business world is, the founders said. A statistic from the U.S. Department of Labor Blog about Women in Management Occupations concluded in 2017 that 45% of workers in marketing and sales management are women.

“A lot of the companies we visited had a lack of women in the companies at the meetings that we were at, but they also had organizations within the company to increase the number of women and increase the involvement of women within the company,” Johnson said. 

The women said that when they heard about these organizations, they were interested in joining JMU’s version. They found out that it didn’t exist, so they decided to take action.

“We want to provide an encouraging environment for all women who are interested in business ... across the university,” vice president Morgan Cox said. 

The executive committee said it hopes that the club’s exposure will grab the attention of all women on campus, especially underclassmen. Treasurer Jenna Sweeney said members should feel prepared when it’s time for them to look for a job, and the earlier they get started, the better. Women in Business has partnered with the Career and Academic Planning Center as another resource available to interested women.

After getting approval from the university to establish Women in Business, the executive board members said they didn’t expect to receive the amount of attention they did. They said they were amazed at how many female students approached them during their first Student Organization Night, saying that they’ve been looking for a group like Women in Business. The club received a large number of sign-ups, and members said they want that trend to continue.

JMU’s student body is made up of approximately 60% women, Cox said, and the founders decided to focus on the ones who have an interest in business as a career. Members have the opportunity to participate in open discussions about succeeding in a male-dominated workforce. 

“Everyone’s going to have to get a job when they graduate,” Sweeney said. “They’re going to have to know how to interview and things like that, and how to build a resume when you apply.” 

While the club is called Women in Business, it’s open to female students in all majors. The executive committee said it’s confident that the organization will support its members in learning professional business knowledge to prepare them for full-time careers after college. 

Johnson pointed out that learning about business is basically understanding those professional life skills as well as financial and managerial understanding. Club members said the group has plans to build its own network to help women find that perfect job which matches who they are.

Members said that within one semester, the club has received more support than they expected from alumni and faculty from the College of Business as well as faculty members from other areas of JMU. They said it’s a safe place for women to get to know each other, to share advice on how to succeed and “to increase the involvement of women in the business world.” 

“We really hope that everyone knows that they can be a businesswoman,” Johnson said.

Contact Gracie Brogowski at brogowsx@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.