Mason celebrates International Women's Day with 2-day event

In honor of International Women’s Day, William & Mary's Mason School of Business recently held its annual Women’s Marketing Competition. Offered in conjunction with the Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) and Stock Pitch Competition, the 2-day event drew over 140 students from William & Mary and other top universities from across the nation.

This year, eight teams participated in the marketing competition. Each group was made up of William & Mary students from a variety of majors and ranged in size from individual competitors to teams of four. “One of my personal missions, being a business student, is to bridge business with the rest of the disciplines on campus," said Madelin Bender, the student director of the event. "We had a really wide mix of people and that’s exactly what we wanted.”

As part of the competition, students were prompted to select a business and then develop a marketing promotion relating to the International Women's Day theme of "Be Bold for Change." Submissions were accepted in various media formats including videos, magazine ads, billboards, posters, Instagram posts, Facebook ads - even music and sculptures. Projects were displayed in Miller Hall and three winners were chosen along with a People's Choice Award. Dawn Edmiston, clinical associate professor of marketing at the Mason School and faculty advisor to the Student Marketing Association said the timing was strategic. “The competition opened the week before the summit actually started, so we were hoping to build awareness simply by the presence of these powerful visuals.”

Individual competitor Srijoni Sengupta ’18, won the first place prize of $500 for her Malala Fund billboard. The Malala Fund helps women around the world gain access to education and Sengupta plans to donate some of her prize money to the organization. For her winning design, she took inspiration from graffiti artist Banksy and featured a silhouette of a girl holding a kite in the form of a book. The imagery represents "a mind erupted with science, revolution, and peace,” and includes the tagline “the book is mightier than the bullet.”

The Women's Marketing Competition was a rare treat for Sengupta. “I am a biology major so it gave me an opportunity to dabble in the arts and work with Photoshop, which is one of my favorite things,” she said. She heard about the competition through social media and was intrigued by the fact that students across all majors were invited to participate. “I decided to give it a try. I knew I wouldn't get too many more opportunities like this,” she said.

Lillian Zhao ’17, who is majoring in marketing with a minor in art, won the second place prize of $300 for her Coca-Cola poster. She chose the brand because of their 5by20 initiative which aims to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020. For her strategy, she wanted to capture the spirit of International Women’s Day so her project featured the profile of a woman and the tagline “We are bold. Changemakers. Women.” She said the design was purposely ambiguous. “The woman could either have red hair or it could be a red hijab, depending on your perception," she explained. "This way, it is versatile. Many people can connect with the ad." Zhao was thankful for the opportunity to put the marketing skills she learned in the classroom into practice. “It was really nice to be able to apply my graphics skills," she said. "In class, we tend to focus more on strategy and pitches for theoretical clients rather than actually creating the ad itself."

Art major Kara Peters ’17, and marketing and government double-major Kent Rollins, ’17, won third place. The team created pottery for the Avalon Center, an organization that helps victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The People’s Choice Award went to Patrick Linehan ’17, Liz Jacob ’17, and Shannon Caitti ’17. They created a series of five billboards and two Instagram posts for Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, an organization dedicated to helping young people cultivate intelligence and imagination. The team used photos of female students from William & Mary in various settings to show different qualities of the modern woman.

Next year’s Women's Marketing Competition theme will focus on the role of women at William & Mary, in honor of the College’s 325th anniversary. Professor Edmiston thinks it is a great opportunity to expand the program. “I hope we can far exceed the number of entries we had this year because everyone has a story to tell at William & Mary," she said. "Women’s empowerment is for the entire community.”

Mason School's annual Women's Leadership Summit and Stock Pitch Competition, which celebrated its first year in 2016, brings together hundreds of undergraduate women and business executives for two days of professional development, networking, and mentorship. Along with the marketing competition, the event also includes career coaching opportunities, keynote speakers, panel sessions, and a stock pitch competition that offers a $1,000 cash prize. This year, teams from New York University and Fordham University won top prizes in the stock competition.

Nicole Vidkovic, a freshman at Princeton, heard about the WLS through a business organization at her school and decided to attend because of its networking and mentorship potential. “I think it really is a great opportunity to interact with students my age and older and get to hear their perspectives - as well as hear from executives in the field, and women who have done incredible things.”

Senior Director of Parent and Family Giving at William & Mary and coach for the event, Stacey Summerfield '04, also believes in the power of mentorship as part of the Women's Leadership Summit. “It’s important for young women to know that women in the professional field have a vested interest in their success,” she said.