On November 15, 300 women gathered at the University Club of New York to learn, network, share experiences and expertise and discuss the challenges of navigating the corporate lattice. The theme of the conference was “Creating Your Own Rules,” a theme echoed in each of the six break out panels, two keynotes and other speeches and conversations taking place throughout the day. CWiB members, prospective and incoming students, alumnae and professionals left the conference with new ideas and tactics for approaching the workplace, a signed copy of keynote speaker Debora Spar’s book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection and, hopefully, a little inspired.
Whether you were able to attend the conference or not, you can relive all the best moments with recaps of each panel and speech below. Panels featured conversations about entrepreneurship, leadership, angel investing, corporate social responsibility and personal finance. We’re starting to plan for the next conference in fall 2014, so leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you enjoyed about this year’s event and what you would like to see in the future from CWiB. See a full list of our panels and speakers here.
The conference included two very accomplished and engaging keynote speakers: Ann B. Glover, chief marketing officer for ING U.S., and Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College.
Glover, a former marketing executive at Pepsi-Cola Company and The Hartford, opened her speech with the story of climbing Mt. Washington with her brother and skiing down. Though she was intimidated and scared by the mountain, she conquered her fears and then was able to compare every difficult moment in her life from that point on to standing on the top of that mountain. She went on to juggle family and career — deciding to hire new nannies for her children often, a fact her daughter recently wrote about in college application essays. To Glover, “having it all” is about making tradeoffs. “What are you willing to trade off?” she asked her audience. “What is your definition of ‘all’?”
Spar also had stories of challenging moments balancing work and home life. In fact, she recently wrote about one particularly trying day for The Wall Street Journal, which asked college presidents to write essays in response to college application prompts. Mainly, however, Spar discussed her recent book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection, an examination of feminism from the point of view of Spar’s generation — women born in or around 1963, the year Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published. “There was not one publisher who would publish a book with ‘feminism’ in the title,” Spar said, pointing out the unpopularity of the word. “So they put ‘sex’ in the title instead.”
Spar pointed out that although women outnumber men in undergraduate institutions and graduate programs, and the male/female student ratio is about 50/50 in medical and law school (business school lack in this area), women only make up around 16% of top executive positions at companies across the country, no matter the industry. What accounts for this drastic drop off? She encouraged conference attendees to “give up the idea of perfection,” and bring men into the conversation about helping women succeed professionally.
Other notable speakers at the conference included Karis Durmer (right), a recent CBS alumna and CEO of fashion company Altuzarra. Durmer spoke about changing careers post-business school. “I was interning at 30 years old and loving it,” she said of following her dreams. She told attendees, “Don’t be afraid to take a step back to take a step forward,” and added that it’s never to late to change your mind. Columbia Business School Dean R. Glenn Hubbard also spoke to the conference about the power of women entrepreneurs. “There are 8.6 million women-owned companies in the US, earning $1.3 trillion a year and employing 7.8 million workers,” he boasted. Traci Entel, chief human resource officer at Booz & Co., closed the conference with her remarks. Like Durmer she advised attendees to create their own path in their career and not be afraid to make unconventional choices.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Balancing Shareholder Interests and the Public Good
This panel on Corporate Social Responsibility included representatives from MAC Aids Fund, Etsy, Dane PCG and Inspiring Capital. The panel examined CSR from the company’s point of view, looking at the incentives to engage in CSR and how to balance maximizing shareholder value while also acting in the public’s best interest. All of the admirable women on the panel came to their positions in the CSR world through different career transitions, and discussed how they leverage these diverse experiences in their current roles. A key takeaway from the discussion is that we are moving towards a time when, for many companies, CSR will no longer be an isolated aspect of a company’s strategy, but will instead be fully integrated throughout the value chain, thereby maximizing benefit to the company as well as the public good.
Find Your Angel, Fund Your Path
Topics and themes of this angel investing panel included when to raise money, how to do it, the importance of picking the right investors, when investors are impactful and when they are not, and general advice on growing one’s company. Panelists were four of New York City’s most active angels: Jo Ann Corkran, Joanne Wilson, Deborah Jackson, and Shaula Yemini, who touched upon common mistakes to avoid as entrepreneurs.
Times of Crisis: Women in Leadership
This panel centered on panelists’ personal reflections on facing and managing various forms of crisis in their professional and personal lives. Panelists included Julia Bates, head of Investor Relations for JP Morgan 2005-2009; Colonel Maritza Ryan, a graduate from the third class of women at West Point and a cancer survivor; Ellen Moskowitz, lead advisor in the BP oil spill litigation; and Irika Slavin, Vice President Communications, Public Relations and Talent Relations at Food Network and Cooking Channel who worked with Paula Deen. They each discussed their own experiences, including the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, prominent corporate litigation, celebrity scandals, personal illnesses, and the the sea change felt when West Point first admitted female students. The group imparted some basic crisis management learnings such as important actions that can help mitigate crisis, as well as some of the behaviors most beneficial (and most destructive) when leading teams during crisis. Additional topics included the importance of authenticity and prioritization, as well as building trust with clients and colleagues. Panel participants were especially engaged discussing the advantages and challenges that female leaders face during crisis situations, and how the panel had combatted feeling overwhelmed with emotion and avoided being too consumed by the never-ending demands that crisis brings.
Ideate, Execute, Repeat: Women Entrepreneurs
The conference’s entrepreneurship panel was a hit! Panelists discussed getting that flash of insight, best practices for customer and market development (research, research, research), preferences between institutional vs. individual investors, and lessons learned for future entrepreneurial endeavors (be relentless and seek devil’s advocates). Things started to heat up during the question and answer session where a lively debate erupted about whether it was good to have a co-founder or not. Overall, a wonderful hour spent talking about the pursuit of entrepreneurial happiness!
Show Me the Money! How Investing Can Help You Build Wealth
Lorena O’Brien from J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank and Stephany Kirkpatrick from LearnVest addressed attendees’ questions ranging from what to do with their investment portfolios to dealing with debt to how to think about real estate in the context of building wealth. The two panelists’ differing experience allowed the audience to think about investment strategies and wealth management in terms of both the current day as well as from a few years down the line, when they have accumulated more significant assets.