The Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard Business School

Cindy Li '18, attended the Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard Business School, and shares her experience here. 

The Dynamic Women in Business conference at Harvard Business School was an empowering experience. My friend Briana Tang '19 and I were lucky enough to have received funding from Rocky and the Division of Student Affairs in order to attend this year’s conference. As a senior at Dartmouth with plans to go into management consulting in San Francisco next year, I hoped to learn more about different career paths for women in business.

The conference was a one-day event. I attended three keynote speeches and several amazing panels led by women from various walks of life that all lead tremendous careers. Each session was short, but powerful – leaving me with the eagerness to learn more and room to investigate further.

The first keynote speaker was Alison Wagonfeld, VP Marketing & CMO of Google Cloud. She talked about the blessings of having a non-linear career path, in which she was able to gain invaluable experience from the different roles she’s held – in marketing, technology, education, and as a mother.

The second event of the day was a panel about being agents of change within companies, whether through diversity and inclusion efforts or directional changes for the company. It was amazing to see the diversity of panelists – their various backgrounds, position in their company, race and ethnicities, and gender. We heard from:
• Grant Freeland, Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group
• Umaimeh Mendhro, Founder and CEO of VIDA (an e-commerce platform that offers screen-printed clothes featuring international artists’ designs)

• Natasha Radden, SVP, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of TIAA (a Fortune 100 financial services organization in the academic, research, medical, cultural, and governmental fields)

• Paula Tolliver, Corporate VP & CIO of Intel Corporation

We then got a chance to break out into different industry panels and workshops, which included topics like “Big Data Challenging Traditional Talent Management in Retail” and “Pathways to Careers in Alternative Investing.” I opted to attend a panel called “Profit vs. Impact.” The panel included women from both non-profit and for-profit companies with social missions. I learned about the red tape and funding difficulties of non-profits and the stigmas against for-profit social business, which directly applied to some of the concepts discussed in my Social Entrepreneurship class.

The next workshop series included topics like “Building Your Brand: Creating Your Personal Credo” and “Get Your Communication Right to Navigate the Corporate Power Play.” Briana and I attended the latter, in which two partners from KNP Communications presented empirically-backed concepts and practical skills to help professionals – especially women – succeed as dynamic communicators in the workplace. They addressed the differences in the ways men and women tend to communicate, including insights about body language, facial expressions, voice intonation, language choice, and offered guidance on how to move forward and thrive in today’s corporate world.

The last panel I attended was called “Evolving the ‘She-Suite’ in the 21st Century,” where several high-level executives discussed the barriers facing women who have ascended the corporate latter and the strategies they employed to rise to the top. There was great diversity in age, race, and industry background for these impressive women, ranging from recent HBS grad like Lissy Hu, the CEO and founder of Careport Health to Tracey Massey, President of the Americas of Mars Wrigley Confectionary and Helen Lo, the 70-year-old founder and CEO of Lo & Sons, a travel bag company. The panel started off by discussing the fact that though there are many high profile female CEOs that grab the headlines, the number of women who are actually in top roles is low and has been stagnant over the past couple years. Each woman then went on to share their personal stories and advice on building a stronger pipeline of women looking to lead companies in the future.

The second keynote speech was by Adena Friedman, President & CEO of Nasdaq on the power of confidence. It was incredible to contrast Friedman’s career path with that of Alison Wagonfield’s from the morning. Whereas Wagonfield had a non-linear career path and held different positions at a host of different companies in several industries, Friedman started out as an intern at Nasdaq and rose to the top over time. She offered advice on setting boundaries for work-life balance and maintaining relationships with people she has worked with.

The closing keynote was by Sarah LaFleur, Founder & CEO of MM. LaFleur, a professional women’s fashion company. After quitting her cushy consulting job, she discussed the struggles she encountered with founding a female-focused company, with doubtful male investors and people calling her products “too niche.”

When I think about the women I aspire to be like, the speakers and panelists at the HBS Dynamic Women in Business Conference are those I would love to follow the footsteps of. I was lucky to be able to learn from such accomplished women, and I hope to share what I learned with other women interested in business on campus. 

-Submitted by Cindy Li '18, Rockefeller Center Mini Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.