On Saturday, January 26, 2008, the WSA brought together more than 900 women (and men!) to be a part of the Dynamic Women in Business Conference.
As in years past, the conference provided a unique forum for current and future women business leaders to exchange ideas about their professional and personal experiences. More than three hundred attendees were HBS students; the remainder were HBS Alumni, HBS faculty, distinguished business leaders, community members and students from other business schools – some traveling from as far away as California, Texas and Georgia to attend.
This was the 17th annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference, the longest-running and largest student-organized conference on campus. Through the course of its history, the conference has provided timely discussions on issues that are important to women professionals. This year’s conference was no different. The informal theme of the conference revolved around charting your own path through the business world and being true to yourself and your priorities as you do so.
Inspirational speeches from keynotes Janet Hanson (Founder, 85 Broads and Milestone Capital Management) and Ann Fudge (former Chief Executive Officer of Young & Rubicam Brands) kicked-off and closed the conference activities, respectively.
Janet Hanson spoke candidly about difficulties she encountered throughout her life and discussed how these situations affected her career and led her to create a global networking organization that now includes over 17,000 current and future businesswomen from all types of industries and functions. Janet believes that companies that “invest in the undervalued asset of smart women over the next ten to twenty years will see great returns on that investment.”
Ann Fudge challenged conference attendees to stay true to the “personal power” given to each of them at birth. She contributes her lengthy and successful career in marketing to her diligence in keeping her priorities in line. As a married mother of two when she graduated from HBS, she took the lowest paying offer she received because the position with General Mills and the move to Minneapolis were the right choices for her family. “Be who you are; it is your gift to the world,” Ann told the crowd. She suggested that knowing who you are, understanding what is important to you and realizing your priorities are fundamental to making you a successful business woman and a complete person.
Through a variety of industry specific panel topics, conference attendees benefited by discussing potential career paths and job functions and expectations with successful women in asset management, healthcare, marketing, media and entertainment, private equity, technology, travel and hospitality real estate, retail, and venture capital.
Also compelling were panels that discussed broader issues affecting women in the professional world. The panel entitled, “Managing as a Woman: Navigating Life Cycles,” featured women from companies as varied as Dow Jones and PepsiCo, discussing their leadership challenges and social pacts in the workplace, like recognizing that not every woman at work will befriend every other woman. “Women in Negotiations: Deal or No Deal” taught attendees tactics for making the most of negotiations, both personal and professional. And the “Power Couples” panel brought three couples together to discuss how to successfully navigate dual career paths.
With over 21 interesting and informative panel topics, the biggest problem of the day was deciding which panels to attend!
Friday night before the conference, speakers, panelists, sponsors and conference organizers joined together at a welcome dinner at the Fogg Museum of Art to kick-off conference activities. Highlighting the welcome dinner was a speech given by Donella Rapier, Chairman of the WSA Board of Directors and Chief Financial Officer of Partners in Health (a non-profit organization that provides medical care to the world’s poorest communities through partnerships, training, advocacy and research). She challenged attendees to take the time at some point in their lives to visit a place where poverty is rampant and people are stricken by illness and disease. Her wish for the group was that “each person would feel like they had made a difference in his or her lifetime.” In addition, a performance by Heard on the Street delighted dinner attendees, rounding out the already enjoyable evening.
The conference planning team, lead by Linda Soo (OB), felt the entire weekend was a great success. “I would like to thank everyone who came to experience the conference and everyone involved in making the conference an outstanding event. But most importantly I want to thank my Conference Planning Team for their outstanding efforts and energy during the long planning process.” Her team of planners included Elizabeth Head (OD) – Vice President of Conference Marketing, Amy McGowan (OA) – Vice President of Conference Operations, Sonia Sahney (OA) – Vice President of Conference Speakers, and Marianne Yip (OB) – Vice President of Conference Sponsorships. The Conference Planning Team would like to thank all of those who were involved in making the conference successful. “We couldn’t have done it without the panel chairs, the volunteers, the HBS faculty and the women and men who came and willingly shared their diverse experiences in life and business,” said Elizabeth Head (OD).