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Students and business leaders mingled at a reception following the Undergraduate Women's Career Day on Friday. [Alex Noether/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

With only 32 out of the 260 Wharton faculty members being female, some female students and alumnae are concerned.

Two organizations teamed up to take a step towards alleviating this problem by hosting several panels about career opportunities for women in the first ever Undergraduate Women's Career Day on Friday.

Highlighting the day was keynote speaker Phil Laskawy, a Wharton graduate and former chief executive officer and chairman of global accounting firm Ernst and Young.

Speaking informally over lunch, Laskawy addressed the almost entirely female crowd, many of whom said they were pleasantly surprised to hear from a businessman at a women's conference.

"It was interesting to hear a male's perspective on women in the workplace," Wharton junior Katrina Niehaus said.

It may seem ironic for a women's career day to boast a male keynote speaker, but Laskawy's appearance was not such an odd fit, as the event was funded by Ernst and Young. The business giant donated a sizable grant designed to put together the very same conference for the next ten years.

Over that period, planners said they hope that the conference will expand, but for now they believe the inaugural event was a modest success.

"All the participants were happy with the panel," said Wharton Women President Elizabeth Abrams, a Wharton and Engineering senior. "Phil gave a great speech."

Intimate panel discussions, each attended by about 30 students, allowed Wharton undergraduates to pick the brains of successful businesswomen, MBA students and others.

"I came basically to hear why women should get an MBA," College freshman Coral Chen said.

With panels entitled "Why Get an MBA?" and "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Entered the Workplace," the discussions directly answered many of the students questions.

Organizers and participants said the conference aimed to be informative and helpful while offering students a realistic view of the business world for women.

"I've actually had to fight a lot for my promotions and where I've gone," panelist Christina Hughes said.

But Hughes, who holds an MBA from Wharton and is now successful in the business world, also offered personal advice.

"You should enjoy the fight," she added.

Although Friday's conference was geared toward ambitious females looking to break into the business world, not everyone in attendance was a woman.

College senior Hasani Sinclair, a writer for the Wharton Women newsletter, was one of only a handful of males at the conference.

"I'm someone in the College who has no interest in business," Sinclair said.

As a contributor, Sinclair said he gives a male perspective to the otherwise all female newsletter.

"I'm a male in a female's world," he said.

At the reception held at the day's end, Abrams said she was pleased with the the first Undergraduate Women's Career Day.

"I hope they get out of it an optimism about women in the work force," Abrams said.

Wharton Women and Wharton Women in Business, a similar organization managed by Wharton alumnae, co-hosted the event.

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