Your Story Redefined|27th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference at Harvard Business School| A Synopsis
Leave it to the fully empowered and hard-working women of HBS to design and present (yet again) an incredible event for their colleagues and the community-at-large this past Saturday. I have attended nearly ten of these events and each one leaves me inspired and with new connections to fabulous women. I have noticed the last two years in particular, even more openness to reconnecting post conference. While Harvard’s usual Spangler Auditorium is under construction, the less formal atmosphere of the gymnasium for the keynote addresses further contributed to removing any possible barriers to conversation after the talks – a subtle but notable logistical change.
Overall, the power of the “story” is really what defines all of these conferences. The strongest message across the board to the next generation of career-women was to “take control” of your own future. That’s not a new message, but all the ways that one can actually do this…and the novel approaches employed by the extremely successful panelists is what provides on-the-spot coaching for everyone in the room.
Keynote Alison Wagonfeld shared pointers including to “think broadly about all relationships; be curious; keep doors open; practice makes progress; and to remember to thank people.” Important reminders for all of us – students of life!
Other lessons from the keynote panel “Our Role as Agents of Change” were more aligned with today’s issues being raised in the media on the role of women in the workplace. The robust opening panel which included Grant Freeland, BCG, Umaimah Mendhro, VIDA, Natasha Radden, TIAA, and Paula Tolliver, Intel. Each presented their own use cases on dealing with responding to a situation that required a new mindset on work-life balance, diversity, and inclusion. A few of the comments that struck home included:
- The importance of senior management being visible in their commitment and actions regarding diversity and inclusion.
- Words are not enough – in depth change is needed
- Tenacity is critical – don’t expect results immediately – it’s an ongoing effort, it’s not a one-time program
- Expect unconscious bias- we all have it
- Look to the numbers – if you are hiring 45% women, then at each stage of the employee life-cycle that percentage should be reflected
- Implement by appealing first to the head, then the heart, and if that doesn’t work, the “hammer”
I was fortunate to have attended the “Investor and Investee Panel” and the “Making it to the Top: Women on Boards” and extend thanks to all those panelist who articulated clearly the value proposition for companies looking for capital (VC), capital seeking companies (growth equity), and what it will take for women to become better represented in the Board room. A shout out to Anitha Gopalan, Catalant, Anh Hoang, Sofregen, Holly McConnell, General Catalyst, and Parul Singh, Founder Collective and the Board panel: Pamela Craig, Cynthia Hallenbeck, Nkiru Balonwu, and Christiana Smith Shi.
One of the greatest opportunities of this conference is to connect in with global issues on a micro level. Click To TweetFor that, I attended the session led by Professor Gautam Mukunda with Hiltrud Werner: Crisis, Compliance, and Change at the World’s Largest Car Company. This session was truly informative and inspiring. Hiltred showed incredible strength and foresight in her quest to lead culture change at VW – leaving a great job and heading directly into the crisis after it had been revealed. I so enjoyed her incredible perspective on the role of the automotive industry in Germany, impact on the EU, consumer confidence, cultural biases, being sole female board member, the importance of the internal auditing function, and insight captured by this quote, “change only happens if people lose their fear.”
My twitter stream captured a few highlights and since they seem to only appear for a millisecond, here they are!
Keynote with Allison Wagonfeld: @HBSWSA @Google #Cloud on #non-linear career path. Important to keep your eyes open for new opportunities, feed relationships of all types.
Keynote Panel @Paula_Tolliver @HBSWSA #WSAYourstory executives need to be visible in their actions & drive biz imperatives, transparency around gender initiatives
Investment Panel @HBSWSA #VentureCapital “can only exist as an asset class a/outsized return s” @fcollective @gcvp & growing cos @GoCatalant @Sofregen