Brandie Cook '05 couldn't believe it. Just a few months after officially forming the first-ever Women in Business (WIB) club at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business, she and nineteen other female business students sat in the Lillis Business Complex boardroom listening to Gert Boyle, chairman and former CEO of Columbia Sportswear.
Boyle was originally scheduled to meet with UO School of Journalism and Communication students but specifically requested WIB participation at the meeting when she learned about the new club. Boyle not only shared her experience as one of the nation's most successful businesswomen but also served her signature apple pie, as well as signed copies of her book, One Tough Mother.
"It's become more acceptable in business 'to be a woman,'" said Boyle. "You've got the world by the tail. Don't let anyone discourage you because you're a woman." Boyle became CEO of Columbia Sportswear in 1970 after her husband died. She, along with her son and current CEO Tim Boyle '71, grew the business into one of the world's largest outerwear and sportswear brands.
For Cook, meeting Boyle was the ultimate realization of her goal in creating WIB. "I wanted to join a club that had more female speakers sharing their experiences in the business world. That club did not exist, so I helped create one," said Cook, who is now a Master of Accounting student.
Cook's idea was well received by her peers, and by spring 2005, WIB had elected officers, organized its bylaws, and held its first official meeting. During the summer, the group began contacting prospective speakers and soon secured sponsorship from US Bank, Target, and KPMG, enabling WIB to grow and build its support network. Today, the club boasts approximately sixty active members, making it one of the college's fastest-growing student-run organizations.
In addition to Boyle, WIB has inspired additional connections to the business community. Among these, Robin Burk, US Bank region president, spoke to the club in January. She discussed the importance that community involvement, networking, and philanthropy play in her life and career. She also announced that US Bank has created three $3,000 scholarships for female WIB students.
"Burk has been a wonderful advocate and has helped us make connections with other women in the business community," said WIB President Heather Wilcox '06, a senior accounting major. "To receive these scholarships in our first year as a club speaks volumes. We are very grateful."