Fifty female high school students from around the country explored the world of business through Women Mean Business, a weeklong business challenge June 16–24 at the Carlson School. The program, in its third year, encouraged the young women to rethink their perceptions of business through classes, company visits, and a case competition.

“I wanted an opportunity to get an inside look in to the business world, to meet the professionals, and to get more inside help,” says Renata Basic of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “It’s an opportunity to grow.”

Company Visits Provide New Perspectives

The students—from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and California—had the opportunity to visit 3M, UnitedHealth Group, and Land O’Lakes during the week. Lessons from female leaders helped shape their understanding of women in business.

“The highlight of the week would probably be going to headquarters at the different companies, meeting with professional women, and getting their advice,” says Rachel Nierengarten of Edina, Minnesota.

Discussions with women currently in business roles helped students like Ashley Perison of San Diego define their future career goals.

“I really liked talking with a woman from 3M and hearing how she got to where she was,” says Perison. “She was a lawyer and decided it was too individual and she needed to work with people. I originally thought that would be my path, that I would be a lawyer and then go into business. But I love to work with people, so it changed my path.”

A Plethora of Paths

This year, Women Mean Business focused on exposing participants to the more technical areas of business through daily classes and guest speakers. In-depth lessons on majors such as Management Information Systems (MIS), Supply Chain Operations & Management, and Finance broadened their business horizons. The group also heard from speakers like keynote Susanna Gibbons, Director of the Carlson School Funds Enterprise, to learn about areas of business where women are traditionally underrepresented.

“Listening to the classes opened my eyes that there is more out there. I used to only focus on marketing, but now I really want focus on MIS or finance,” says Basic.

For Eman Abdullahi of Rochester, Minnesota, this week was all about defining her future in business.

“I knew I was interested in business, but I didn’t know what sector of business I was interested in. I wanted to see what options I had,” she says. “I thought business was mostly corporate settings and nothing interesting. Then this whole week was interesting to see the women in business and to see how they’ve created it.”

“The best piece of advice I’ve gotten,” she adds, “is to choose what you want to do and go after it with all you’ve got.”