Sometimes if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist, you simply create it yourself. That’s exactly what 2018 graduate Caroline Crawford did after discovering that LSU did not have a student organization dedicated to women in business.
This spring, Caroline was fortunate to have a job at a small investment firm where she had the opportunity to be mentored by the firm’s owner. While her college professors were teaching her the principles of business, the mentorship of a female business owner taught her something you can’t learn from a book. Caroline says she learned what it is like to be a woman in the workplace and some of the challenges that women often face. She appreciates that her mentor was open and honest about what to expect and some of the situations that Caroline may encounter. “It was impactful for me,” she says. In her own life, Caroline had not experienced what her mentor described until she worked in a Congressional office answering phones. She recalls that after giving a male caller the answer to his question, he inquired as to whether there was a man he could speak to. “In that moment it was real for me,” says Caroline.
Empowered with the guidance of her mentor, Caroline was eager to learn more. She began to look for a student organization that would provide that opportunity and was surprised to find that nothing existed. “I was honestly shocked,” she says. She remembers thinking, “there’s no way that’s right.” Caroline began speaking with her classmates about her experiences and found that others were interested in the same mentorship opportunities. There was clearly a need, but Caroline never imagined that she would be the one to provide it. However, once the LSU campus closed for the spring semester, Caroline found herself in need of a project, and so she set to work.
Caroline began researching women in business organizations at other universities and made connections at Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania and Ole Miss. What she discovered was a network of female students like herself who were all too willing to share ideas and give advice on establishing a Women in Business chapter at LSU. Caroline found that her LSU advisor was also extremely supportive of the effort. While he was willing to help her get the group off the ground, he also understood the importance of female leadership and recommended Caroline seek guidance from the Director of Diversity and Inclusion.
Establishing a campus-wide organization during a pandemic was not difficult for Caroline. With her passion for the group’s purpose, she was quickly able to make her dream a reality. “It’s important for women to see other women succeed,” she says. “It helps to have an influence in your life you can relate to.” Caroline’s classmates agreed, and the first meeting of the Women in Business at LSU organization was conducted virtually with 26 students in attendance. Caroline celebrates the fact that a wide range of students expressed interest or participated and that even several freshmen shared their experiences from the very beginning. Going forward, Women in Business at LSU has much to celebrate as more female business professionals are scheduled to share their experiences and the group prepares for a joint event with the school’s College of Business.
That Caroline is already blazing trails is no surprise to those who knew her at Episcopal. “Caroline was a great student in the classroom,” says economics teacher Vincent Hoang. “I love the organization she started at LSU and I feel it is long overdue.” It was in Hoang’s class that Caroline discovered her passion. Always interested in math, she initially planned to pursue an engineering degree until she enrolled in economics. “It’s like I knew after our first class,” she says. “Economics describes a lot of how the world works.”
At Episcopal, Caroline says she gained the most preparation for college success through the Honors Thesis program, during which she prepared a 30-page paper and presented her ideas to an audience of her peers. “I loved Honors Thesis,” says Caroline. “I learned how to research and how to communicate it to others.” Caroline’s thesis participation made a lasting impression on co-directors Scott Engholm and Katie Sutcliffe. “I remember her enthusiasm and generosity most in Thesis,” says Engholm. “And it all came from her genuine ambition and excitement for seeing ambition in others. She encouraged the best in her Thesis class, gifting original art that still hangs on my walls and coming early to support her peers for LAUNCH when she didn’t have to.” Sutcliffe is proud of what Caroline has already accomplished in such a short time. “The best way I can characterize Caroline as a student and leader is as a total boss,” she says. “I’m not surprised at all that she is starting an organization. Even as a student she owned her own path and her ideas and gave her peers permission to be unapologetically themselves.”
To learn more about Women in Business at LSU, visit their Instagram page - @womeninbusinesslsu.