Collat School of Business faculty, staff and students welcomed alumna Janet Herring recently to celebrate the fifth cohort of students in her namesake program. Herring and her husband, Mark, endowed the Janet Herring Accounting Student Professional Development Program in 2014 to assist female students with professional development workshops, job shadowing and mentoring.
The program exposes students to essential skills they need to succeed that are not provided in the classroom.
“It’s such an honor to be able to give back in this small way,” said Herring, who attended the program’s fall kickoff reception at The Club. “When you ask the students, it really is making a difference in their lives and their careers.”
When Herring entered the work force after graduating UAB in 1976, accounting was a male-dominated field that was difficult for women to navigate. Herring broke ground by being the first woman to hold the accounting manager position at the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. Before retirement, she served as the vice president/controller of the bank.
Despite strides made in workforce equality, Herring said women still face challenges in the industry. For example, women who push back on colleagues too firmly are labeled “bossy.” Women must develop soft skills — skills such as interpersonal communication and leadership capabilities — to build relationships and connect with organizational culture, she said.
The mentorship program helps provide those skills by connecting female students with a mentor matched by interests and career goals. Twenty-one students were matched with 21 mentors this year.
“It gives the students a chance to network and get real-world experience and ask questions while still in school,” said Instructor Eddie Nabors, who has worked with the program since its inception.
The program kicks off each fall with a social reception for students, mentors and Collat accounting faculty and staff. The students are able to practice their networking and social skills in a relaxed atmosphere and receive a copy of the book “The Essentials of Business Etiquette.” Throughout the semester students check in with their mentors and receive career and situational advice depending on their needs. The semester ends with luncheon at The Club, allowing students another opportunity to practice socializing at a meal function, which is very common in business.
Herring said she believes the program to be a small step in the right direction for female students. She hopes students utilize the opportunity to network and grow through mentorship so they don’t go through the tribulations she faced while rising in her career.
“My personal goal,” she said, “is to foster the confidence that [students] can learn that they have the power to go on and achieve their career goals.”