The key to success in business? A strong network of supportive friends, as well as colleagues.
That was the message delivered by several business leaders who gathered on the Cornell campus on February 21 and 22 to form their own new network of businesswomen and students.
The Dyson Symposium on Women in Leadership featured 24 female leaders from a diversity of fields, from basketball to business development, including Barbara Novick ’81, co-founder and vice chairman of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.
“Know the importance of a strong, supportive group of friends and colleagues,” Novick said in her keynote address.
Shelly Porges, ’74, MPS ’77, the national finance co-chair of Ready for Hillary, also emphasized the value of surrounding oneself with high-quality people in her Saturday morning address.
“Build a circle of champions,” she said.
From Friday evening’s kickoff keynote through a full day of career panels, workshops, and keynotes on Saturday, the event teemed with inspiring stories and advice for the 150 student attendees.
Susan Li ’17, an electrical and computer engineering major, felt particularly empowered by a talk by Amy Siskind ’87, president and co-founder of the women’s advocacy group The New Agenda.
“I had heard some demonization of taking jobs that pay a lot,” Li said. “She made me realize that it’s not selfish to want to have a high-paying job, because you have to take care of yourself first.”
Students heard that having a strong personal network is so crucial because making it to the top isn’t easy, and for women it can be even harder. It is important to maintain a positive attitude, and gain something from your struggles, speakers said.
"Quite frankly, when I was in a manufacturing facility, they didn’t want to see a woman,” said Susan Youngblood, director of human resources at IBM (pictured, far right). “But this gave me the confidence that no matter what is thrown at me, I can handle it.”
Yos Bugallo, assistant director of inclusiveness recruiting at Ernst & Young (pictured, far left), brought up the common conflict women face between having a career and having family.
"Several of my friends dropped out of work because they looked at their salaries and looked at the cost of childcare, and it just wasn’t worth it,” Bugallo said.
Some obstacles to women are not so direct. Megan Hughes ’08, head of basketball operations and player relations for the WNBA, said she finds “the lack of physical examples” to be a major obstacle.
"It’s so important to be able to see examples of people doing things that you would like to do," said Hughes (pictured, second from right).
The event was the brainchild of Kristen Barnett ’15, an applied economics and management major, and her professor, Deborah Streeter.
Inspired by the amazing women she had encountered around campus, Barnett wanted to provide a venue for discussion on women in leadership and for forming relationships between women in very different fields.
“My main goal was to start relationships between the various corners of campus,” Barnett said.
The symposium was sponsored by the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the Corporate Leadership Center, and the Moses and Loulu Seltzer Lecture Fund.
Read more about it in this Chronicle story, and on the Entrepreneurship@Dyson blog.
- Andrea Alfano ‘14