Spotlight on…Kristen Bierfeldt ’15

CWiB’s VP of Marketing, Kristen Bierfeldt ’15, is the focus of today’s “Spotlight On” feature.  We have Kristen to thank for everything from insightful Facebook posts that keep the CWiB community up to date on issues that affect women in business to CWiB emails that keep everyone up to date on career info sessions and community events.  Below she shares some of the highlights of her CBS career thus far.

KristenBierfeldtWhy did you choose to come to CBS?

I was pretty sure that I wanted to pursue a career in Marketing/Brand Management and knew that the New York area provided a lot of great internship opportunities. I also wanted to make sure I chose a school that was strong across the board, in case I decided to go down an entirely different path, and knew that going to CBS would greatly prepare me for whatever career I decided to pursue.

What has been your favorite moment at CBS so far?

Listening to my classmates’ CBS Matters and learning about the incredible things they have each been through and accomplished has been so humbling. I have also enjoyed all the opportunities to travel with my classmates over these past two years. I recently went on the Global Immersion to Cuba and the experience was incredible. It was so great getting to meet so many new people this far into school, and to continue bonding with others I have known since the first day of orientation.

What has been your favorite class or professor at CBS thus far and why?

This might sound a little dorky, but I really enjoyed my time in Professor Juran’s Applied Regression Analysis class. I knew this was something I would definitely be using in a future career but was hesitant to take the class as it wasn’t the most exciting topic to me. He made the 3 hours each week engaging and enjoyable and I walked out of the class not only having learned useful skills but having had fun while doing it.

Why did you decide to become involved with CWiB?

I spent five years prior to CBS working in marketing roles at Retail companies. Suffice it to say, I was always surrounded by a lot of brilliant and inspiring women. I immediately knew when starting at CBS that I wanted to find that same network of women to support and encourage one another.

What does being a CBS Woman mean to you?

Being a CBS Woman means being bold enough to pursue your passions, no matter the obstacles that may be in your way, while being humble and open enough to accept criticism and ideas from others.

What woman (CBS or not) inspires you?

I continue to be amazed and inspired by my mother every day. She has remained incredibly strong despite the difficulties that life has thrown her way.

What has been most surprising or unexpected about your CBS experience?

Every time I am in a Hermes info session or on a call with a prospective student they ask me whether Columbia is cut-throat and competitive, and I always tell them that one of the things I love most about CBS is how welcoming and open-minded all the students are.  Coming from a marketing background to a school that has traditionally been known for finance, I was concerned that I may not click with the culture of the school but have been overwhelmed by how amazing and supportive the entire student body is.

What’s something most of your CBS classmates would be surprised to know about you?

I love to travel now but before going to college I had only been on a plane once before in my life (on a family trip to Disney World when I was 10).

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CWiB Around The World: A Journey Out West

While everyone was jetting off to a Chazen or Global Immersion for spring break, I decided to do something a little different. As Will Smith’s song goes, “we going straight to the Wild Wild West.” I did just that. I stayed within the US and hiked over 60 miles throughout Arizona and Utah – shocking, I know. While most people would relish in the opportunity to sit beach side, I decided to get into workout mode and eat a diet consisting of protein bars, beef jerky, and bananas.

Growing up, I was never much of a hiker, but I’m always game to do something new and challenging. I went on this trip with my roommate, Claire, another ’15 CBSer, and a good friend of hers. We started off in Sedona, Arizona where we went on two hikes. A couple days later I would realize that these hikes were warm-ups to what was to come.

After Sedona, we embarked on the famed Grand Canyon. I pictured Arizona as a place full of cacti that was hot year round – oh, was I wrong. The start of the hike was cold and icy, and as we continued to hike throughout the day, it got HOT. I found myself to be a sweaty mess that could barely make the uphill climb back up the canyon. On a normal basis, I work out several days a week, but based on my sloth-like pace, one would have never guessed. As challenging as this hike was, the views were incredibly rewarding.

nadia picturews

Even though all of these hikes were gorgeous and unique in their own way, my favorite had to be our trek to Havasu Falls. We hiked 8 miles to the Havasupai Indian Reservation, where we spent the night. From there we hiked another 2-3 miles to three waterfalls nearby. I’m not even going to lie here, but I have never seen water this blue before. To think that this was hidden away in Arizona – how did I not know about this before?

nadia pics 2

Next up was Zion National Park in Utah, where the highlight was our hike up Angel’s Landing. This was an extremely steep hike that required a lot of climbing, something I realized that I’m obsessed with (Brooklyn Boulders anyone?!). The views from this point were breathtaking, and we decided to just sit for a while and soak it all in (obviously with enough protein bars and beef jerky in hand).

Our final hike was in Bryce Canyon, which we came to realize was packed with snow. It was a good excuse to go snowshoeing, another thing I could check off my bucket list. With all the snow that covered the trails, we ended up hiking for most of the day and getting the workout of a lifetime. After all of these hikes, I thought I would get “hiked-out”, but each hike was truly different, with its own rock formations and grandeur (check out the image of Bryce Canyon below). Living in NYC, I’m shocked when I see stars, let alone these amazing canyons.

Through Pinterest and Instagram, I came across images of Antelope Canyon. When I discovered that this was in Arizona, I jumped at the opportunity to see it in person. Walking through this narrow slot canyon felt other-worldly, and the way the sunlight shone through added a whole other dimension to it.

Because this journey was all about trying new things, why not end it with a trip to a shooting range? I’ve never fired a gun before, so of course I was skeptical of my hand-eye coordination. Once I got into the hang of things, I was having a blast. Naturally, we concluded this with a trip to a BBQ joint where we inhaled the best brisket I have ever come across.

All in all, Arizona and Utah, you two are gems full of surprises. I was able to step outside my comfort zone and partake in so many new experiences, all within the US. Hope you were inspired to go out West!

By Nadia Iqbal ’15

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Spotlight On…Björg Áskelsdóttir ’16

This week we are featuring our newest member of the CWiB Board, Björg Áskelsdóttir.  Björg joined the CBS community in January and serves as AVP of Careers and Corporate Relations for CWiB.

Bjorg photoWhy did you choose to come to CBS?

I love how international CBS is and the timing of the J-term was perfect for me. It has also always been a dream to live in New York, so that is an additional bonus to the MBA experience.

What has been your favorite class or professor so far and why?

I only just finished the first part of the core and so far Statistics with Glasserman has been my favorite. I found myself having so many aha moments in that class and for the first time I found substance in the applicability of statistical analysis.

What has been your favorite moment at CBS so far?

Even though I only started in January, there are already so many highlights. Currently it is enjoying spring break with so many fellow J-termers in Cartagena. The cluster CBS matters has also been such a great way to learn more about my classmates, as well as all the happy hours and social events.

What woman (CBS or not) inspires you and why?

I have always been fascinated by women leaders and the one that probably had the biggest impact on me was Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. Vigdís was the first democratically elected female president in the world. She was elected president of Iceland (my home country) in 1980 and she was a big contributor to Iceland’s advanced gender equality.

What has been most surprising about your CBS experience thus far?

The impact of the grade non disclosure on the whole academic experience. The focus on learning and not on grades makes people cooperate instead of compete. This makes the learning experience so much richer.

What are you most looking forward to during your time at CBS?

Making even more friends and exploring New York City.

What’s something most of your CBS classmates would be surprised to know about you?

Probably that my favorite object is my sewing machine and that I used to design and make a lot of clothes in the past.

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Women in the News: Germany Mandates Boardroom Gender Quotas

boardroom 2On Friday, Germany passed legislation requiring companies to increase the number of women holding boardroom seats to 30%.  Currently women hold 22% of boardroom seats in Germany.  Women in the U.S. hold only 15.5% of boardroom seats.  Several other countries in Europe have quotas in place that require companies to give boardroom positions to women, including Norway, Spain, Iceland, France, and the Netherlands.  The nature of these quotas differs by country.  For instance, Norway has a mandatory quota of 40% while the Netherlands has a non-binding target of 30%.

While this decision has been lauded “the greatest contribution to gender equality” since German women gained the right to vote, not all opinions of quotas are favorable, even those of gender equality advocates.  Most of the skepticism surrounding boardroom quotas centers around the belief that this measure is a shortcut to empowering women that will not target the structural issues and systematic biases that pervade the workplace and prevent women from advancing to leadership roles.  There is also a fear of tokenism and the perception that women with boardroom seats are unqualified and undeserving of those seats.  There is also a question of how far these quotas go in promoting gender equality.  For example, The Wall Street Journal examined the impact of Norway’s gender quota and reported that although companies have over 40% of women on boardroom seats, only 6% of the managers running these companies are women.  In addition, among large cap Nordic companies, only 3% are led by female CEOs versus 5% of Fortune 500 firms.  Boardroom quota advocates argue that it is an efficient way to facilitate a certain level of gender equality that would happen at a much slower pace if not enforced.  In addition, corporate boards with more females have been shown to outperform those with fewer females, according to a Catalyst study.  While the current number of women occupying boardroom seats is far from optimal, it is less clear what the best path to create gender equality is.

Regardless of the discourse surrounding boardroom quotas, it is certain that more women at some of the most powerful European firms will occupy boardroom seats in the near future.  The question of how the women who land boardroom seats will influence the business world will be exciting to explore!

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Women We Admire: Women on TV

There are so many women in television to celebrate right now.  The media industry, including television, continues to have numerous problems in terms of how it portrays women and minorities and the underrepresentation of women and minorities in leadership positions across the media industry.  However, there are more and more shows driven by women characters and run by women producers.  Women are also pioneering new forms of programming through innovative on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.  We wanted to highlight some of our favorite women who are dominating the small screen right now.tv women

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper played Erin on The Office, and has played supporting roles in films such as Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street.  While Kemper shined in these roles as a supporting character, she’s now starring in a Netflix original series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.  While her show only aired on March 6th, it has already received favorable feedback from critics, and it’s exciting to see more of Ellie Kemper as a lead character.

Jenji Kohan

Jenji Kohan is best known for her work as the creator of Showtime’s Weeds and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.  Both of these series focused on female lead characters in roles and situations that were not typically portrayed in television.  Jenji Kohan received positive critical feedback for both of these shows, and the shows were nominated for and received several awards.  Orange is the New Black was also praised for its large and diverse cast of female characters, including a trans woman played by Laverne Cox.

Shonda Rhimes

No list about women in television list can be complete without mentioning Shonda Rhimes, who owns the production company ShondaLand.  Shonda Rhimes rules the Thursday night network television drama lineup with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.  ABC even branded the Thursday night lineup as “Thank God It’s Thursday”.  Rhimes’ shows are particularly valuable to ABC given their high ratings for which network television advertisers pay a premium.  In addition to the economic value Rhimes is contributing to television, she has also delivered some of the most powerful female characters in television, most notably Olivia Pope of Scandal played by Kerry Washington.

Amy Poehler & Tina Fey

You’ve laughed their sketch comedy genius in Saturday Night Live, ridiculous plotlines of sitcom series including Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock, and wry commentary as hosts of the Golden Globe awards.  They have racked up numerous awards and critical acclaim throughout their careers.  They have also teamed up in comedic films, including Mean Girls, and have each written memoirs of their own.  While 2015 is the last time Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globe Awards, let’s hope we’re lucky enough to see more television and movies with these two ace comics.

Mindy Kaling

After writing for and playing Kelly Kapoor on The Office, Mindy Kaling pitched her own comedy series The Mindy Project.  Not only does Mindy Kaling write and produce this series, but also stars as the lead character Dr. Mindy Lahiri.  Kaling not only brings a more diverse perspective to network television, a medium in which women of color are regrettably underrepresented, but has also openly participated in the discourse surrounding the unfair and unrealistic standards women in media and entertainment confront.

Jill Soloway

Jill Soloway is the creator and director of Transparent, the Amazon original series that focuses on a family whose patriarch comes out as a transgender woman.  Transparent received an approval rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, and won the Golden Globe award for best television series—musical or comedy.  Most importantly, Soloway ventured into new territory for television in depicting a more inclusive portrayal of the human experience and the fluidity of gender identity.

Tatiana Maslany

Tatiana Maslany plays not one but TWELVE characters on BBC America series Orphan Black.  The show revolves around the main character, Sarah Manning, who discovers she is one of numerous human clones created through a scientific experiment that aims to direct human evolution.  Don’t be put off by the mythology if you aren’t a sci-fi person—Orphan Black is one of the most powerful feminist  television shows and deeply explores issues around personal identity and female autonomy.  Despite that the clones are identical in appearance and genetic material, they could not have more diverse personalities.  Maslany masterfully portrays these twelve different characters who are some of strongest and most powerful female characters on television.

There are so many other women doing amazing things in television.  This list is by no means exhaustive and we would love to hear about the women in television who you most admire.  Feel free to leave a comment or let us know on Facebook.

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