UNIBusiness - University of Norhtern Iowa College of Business

A Passion for Equality: Q&A with UNIBusiness Dean Leslie K. Wilson

Leslie-Wilson-Dean-UNI-Business.jpg

Since becoming dean of UNIBusiness in 2015, Leslie K. Wilson has pursued her passion of recruiting more women into the school and business field, which historically has been male-dominated, especially in upper management positions.

UNIBusiness' student population is made up of about 37 percent females. In the working world of business, the numbers are starker. In the 2017 Fortune 500 list, there were 32 women in CEO positions. That's just 6.4 percent. And fewer than 20 percent of C-suite positions on the Fortune 500 list are held by women.

We sat down with Wilson and talked about her passion for women in business and her plans for the college and beyond.

Where does your passion for women in business come from?

"There are many different factors. I can say maybe it's because I have five children, all five girls. From a very early time, we had many conversations about careers. I always encouraged them to choose a direction that they found some passion in, whatever that happened to be, but to also look at the financial implications of that particular career choice."

"My mom gave me this perspective. As women, we may get married, we may have children and we might become dependent on our spouse for the finances for the family. There is no guarantee that a spouse is forever. We lose spouses for a variety of reasons, of course divorce being one of them. Generally, much of the responsibility for the child care and upbringing falls to women. So if women don't put themselves in a financial situation to take care of that family while alone, it can be very problematic. The result is poverty for the family and poverty for women in retirement."

"Generally, if you look at career fields and career paths, male-dominated fields tend to be the highest-paying fields. So I encouraged my girls to look outside of their comfort zone and pushed them to consider all aspects of a career, whatever they may be. That was the message I received from my own mom and I passed it on. She gave me this advice because of her own fears. With five children, every day she was afraid that something would happen to my dad and she would be on her own. She always said, ‘Don't get married until you've graduated from college and you know you can financially take care of your family because it could ultimately be your responsibility.' I followed that advice and passed it on to my children."

Why do you believe it is so important to increase the percentage of women majoring in business? 

"The business case for increasing gender balance in the workplace is quite clear. There is research that shows the positive financial impact on companies that have a sustained presence of 3 or more women on their boards. These companies perform better than those companies who have no women on their boards. The companies that have more women on their boards experience stronger stock performance in choppy markets, have fewer governance related scandals, and have cheaper mergers. Other research shows stronger return on sales, equity, and invested capital. The business case could not be more clear!"

"That being said, entrance onto the board requires an expected level of education and experience. The traditional route is through business education. This means we need more women choosing business as a major to be prepared for those opportunities."

Why do you think women are underrepresented in business, especially at the top?

"I think some of it comes from the messages that both men and women receive as they grow up. As a personal example, my oldest daughter was fairly young at the time when my husband stormed in the house and said, ‘Who told my daughter she couldn't do something because she's a girl? Who told her that?' He knew he didn't. He knew me well enough to know I would never say that. So who told her that there are some things girls cannot do?"

"We are hit by these messages at a very early age. I believe that this has some, maybe a lot, of influence over the career trajectory we choose to take. How do you overcome the messages you receive by the movies you watch? By the princess who is always saved by the prince? By the lack of female heroes in our movies? We're hit by this all the time. So how do you change the message? That is very, very difficult and I don't have an answer. It's just something we need to recognize. These messages create the unconscious biases that we have, and we all have them."

How would achieving an equal split of men and women at UNIBusiness help the school?

“It's good for us to have that gender equity in the classroom. I majored in engineering. I graduated in the early '80s. Less than 10 percent of my class was composed of females. It's a very different environment if you feel alone in the room. We need diversity in the classroom to combat feelings of isolation, whether it be gender diversity, ethnic diversity, cultural diversity, sexual orientation diversity-all these different types of diversity. That is the business environment today and we need to create that in the classroom to better prepare students for it. It is not about how this helps UNIBusiness, it becomes how such an environment will prepare students, men and women, for success in their careers."

What are some of the programs or initiatives geared toward women in business you're proud of?

"We talk about it a lot and seek increased awareness around the issue. We certainly try to increase the diversity of our faculty and staff."

"Approximately three years ago, a group of students started the UNI Women in Business student organization and I support their efforts 100 percent. Most recently they established the Women of UNIBusiness Hall of Fame. It is through this hall of fame that we will recognize women who have had significant achievements in their careers in some way. Part of this is to show current students the women who came before them and how they made their mark in the business world. These women, in some ways, paved the way for our females in the workforce today and that should be recognized."

What is your goal for women in UNIBusiness and business industries everywhere?

"What I would really like to see is a more equal distribution of gender across all fields- not just business. I want to see it in engineering; I want to see it in mathematics; I want to see it in nursing; I want to see it in social work; I want to see it in teaching. It's not good if the largest percentage of people that students see in the teaching field are female because that tells a male that teaching is not a career for men. We have to begin changing that a little bit at a time."

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UNIBusiness and the UNI Women in Business student organization are proud to celebrate female leaders who have helped crack the glass ceiling. The Women of UNIBusiness Hall of Fame was established in 2018 and is a symbol of female advancement in the business world. If you know a woman deserving of this honor, please email UNI Women in Business at uniwomeninbusiness@gmail.com.

Posted on 24-Apr-18


  






UNIBusiness News

A Passion for Equality: Q&A with UNIBusiness Dean Leslie K. Wilson

Leslie-Wilson-Dean-UNI-Business.jpg

Since becoming dean of UNIBusiness in 2015, Leslie K. Wilson has pursued her passion of recruiting more women into the school and business field, which historically has been male-dominated, especially in upper management positions.

UNIBusiness' student population is made up of about 37 percent females. In the working world of business, the numbers are starker. In the 2017 Fortune 500 list, there were 32 women in CEO positions. That's just 6.4 percent. And fewer than 20 percent of C-suite positions on the Fortune 500 list are held by women.

We sat down with Wilson and talked about her passion for women in business and her plans for the college and beyond.

Where does your passion for women in business come from?

"There are many different factors. I can say maybe it's because I have five children, all five girls. From a very early time, we had many conversations about careers. I always encouraged them to choose a direction that they found some passion in, whatever that happened to be, but to also look at the financial implications of that particular career choice."

"My mom gave me this perspective. As women, we may get married, we may have children and we might become dependent on our spouse for the finances for the family. There is no guarantee that a spouse is forever. We lose spouses for a variety of reasons, of course divorce being one of them. Generally, much of the responsibility for the child care and upbringing falls to women. So if women don't put themselves in a financial situation to take care of that family while alone, it can be very problematic. The result is poverty for the family and poverty for women in retirement."

"Generally, if you look at career fields and career paths, male-dominated fields tend to be the highest-paying fields. So I encouraged my girls to look outside of their comfort zone and pushed them to consider all aspects of a career, whatever they may be. That was the message I received from my own mom and I passed it on. She gave me this advice because of her own fears. With five children, every day she was afraid that something would happen to my dad and she would be on her own. She always said, ‘Don't get married until you've graduated from college and you know you can financially take care of your family because it could ultimately be your responsibility.' I followed that advice and passed it on to my children."

Why do you believe it is so important to increase the percentage of women majoring in business? 

"The business case for increasing gender balance in the workplace is quite clear. There is research that shows the positive financial impact on companies that have a sustained presence of 3 or more women on their boards. These companies perform better than those companies who have no women on their boards. The companies that have more women on their boards experience stronger stock performance in choppy markets, have fewer governance related scandals, and have cheaper mergers. Other research shows stronger return on sales, equity, and invested capital. The business case could not be more clear!"

"That being said, entrance onto the board requires an expected level of education and experience. The traditional route is through business education. This means we need more women choosing business as a major to be prepared for those opportunities."

Why do you think women are underrepresented in business, especially at the top?

"I think some of it comes from the messages that both men and women receive as they grow up. As a personal example, my oldest daughter was fairly young at the time when my husband stormed in the house and said, ‘Who told my daughter she couldn't do something because she's a girl? Who told her that?' He knew he didn't. He knew me well enough to know I would never say that. So who told her that there are some things girls cannot do?"

"We are hit by these messages at a very early age. I believe that this has some, maybe a lot, of influence over the career trajectory we choose to take. How do you overcome the messages you receive by the movies you watch? By the princess who is always saved by the prince? By the lack of female heroes in our movies? We're hit by this all the time. So how do you change the message? That is very, very difficult and I don't have an answer. It's just something we need to recognize. These messages create the unconscious biases that we have, and we all have them."

How would achieving an equal split of men and women at UNIBusiness help the school?

“It's good for us to have that gender equity in the classroom. I majored in engineering. I graduated in the early '80s. Less than 10 percent of my class was composed of females. It's a very different environment if you feel alone in the room. We need diversity in the classroom to combat feelings of isolation, whether it be gender diversity, ethnic diversity, cultural diversity, sexual orientation diversity-all these different types of diversity. That is the business environment today and we need to create that in the classroom to better prepare students for it. It is not about how this helps UNIBusiness, it becomes how such an environment will prepare students, men and women, for success in their careers."

What are some of the programs or initiatives geared toward women in business you're proud of?

"We talk about it a lot and seek increased awareness around the issue. We certainly try to increase the diversity of our faculty and staff."

"Approximately three years ago, a group of students started the UNI Women in Business student organization and I support their efforts 100 percent. Most recently they established the Women of UNIBusiness Hall of Fame. It is through this hall of fame that we will recognize women who have had significant achievements in their careers in some way. Part of this is to show current students the women who came before them and how they made their mark in the business world. These women, in some ways, paved the way for our females in the workforce today and that should be recognized."

What is your goal for women in UNIBusiness and business industries everywhere?

"What I would really like to see is a more equal distribution of gender across all fields- not just business. I want to see it in engineering; I want to see it in mathematics; I want to see it in nursing; I want to see it in social work; I want to see it in teaching. It's not good if the largest percentage of people that students see in the teaching field are female because that tells a male that teaching is not a career for men. We have to begin changing that a little bit at a time."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

UNIBusiness and the UNI Women in Business student organization are proud to celebrate female leaders who have helped crack the glass ceiling. The Women of UNIBusiness Hall of Fame was established in 2018 and is a symbol of female advancement in the business world. If you know a woman deserving of this honor, please email UNI Women in Business at uniwomeninbusiness@gmail.com.

Posted on 24-Apr-18







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Contact Us | Safety | Equal Opportunity/Non-Discrimination Statement
Maintained by UNIBusiness webmaster
Copyright ©2011 by University of Northern Iowa College of Business Administration