Your Kelley Confidante: Learning Business Through Poker

From Finance to Consulting, the historically male-dominated business world can be an intimidating space. As women, societal norms often dictate that certain qualities deemed masculine, such as aggression, are valued and prioritized. In contrast, feminine traits, like compassion, may be undervalued.

Student smiles after winning Poker Round

However, within the Kelley School, there is a refreshing opportunity to reshape this narrative. While the faculty and school have always been champions of women in business, my role as President of the Kelley Women’s Council has provided the opportunity to make incredible strides. This includes encouraging women to embrace their authenticity and recognize their womanhood as an asset to their professional journey.


2023 marks the second year of the Kelley Women’s Council. It is comprised of the 7 presidents of the Kelley Women’s Organizations: Allies at IU, Women & Co., Women In Business, The Women’s Network, Women in Business Technology, Women’s Financial Association, and Women in Accounting. Together, we work to foster community for women in Kelley. This year, the priority of the council has been promoting the philosophy of “Come as They Are” – urging individuals to bring their authentic selves into the business world, while emphasizing that there is a place for everyone within Kelley.

Our three-part “Come as You Are” event series highlights this approach. The first part was held in tandem with an organization called  r, which uses poker as a channel for professional development. The event was an incredible way for people to connect in a comfortable setting while learning how to bring their authenticity into risk assessment and negotiation. We started with a casual dinner, had a brief session about the importance of poker in business, and got to work learning the game! It was so much fun! I only won one round in the entire 2.5-hour event, but it was amazing learning from professional poker players. My instructor, Liz Huey, had even been to the Supreme Court to speak on poker multiple times!

Participants laugh with Poker Power instructor

Through our instructors guiding us through game, we leveraged Poker as a vehicle for authentic business skills. The nature of the game requires you to take calculated risks, empowering women to boldness as success results from the strength of your decision-making. Playing it safe can lead to missed opportunities, so decisions grounded in conviction and bluffing with confidence in poker is great practice. This collaborative and uplifting event was open to all women in Kelley, instilling in us the importance of bringing our own authenticity to the poker table and the board room.


Beyond event initiatives, the Kelley Women’s Council actively contributes to Kelley’s culture. A few steps we’ve taken to highlight that community is by working with the Kelley Women’s Institute to help connect with high school age women and through the creation of a school wide newsletter. This virtual newsletter, automatically subscribed to all women within Kelley, provides insights into events, unique opportunities, and highlights women of Kelley. While a seemingly simple initiative, this newsletter fulfills the need for representation within Kelley, empowering students to operate outside of silos and understand that they have a place in Kelley.

Bio: Madeline Heath is senior year at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business where she is majoring in Marketing and International Business and minoring in Studio Art. Maddie is passionate about the Kelley community and has devoted much of her time to Kelley Student Government where she has served as Director of Student Life and First Year Engagement Lead. She currently serves as President of the Kelley Women’s Council. A creative at heart, Maddie believes in the power of an imaginative approach and is excited to share favorite experiences and insights about Kelley with you!


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