Success strategies on display at Women’s Business Association Conference By Deborah Leigh Wood
1/1/2005 - In her keynote speech at the 2005 Kellogg School Women’s Business Association Conference, Clif Bar CEO Sheryl O’Loughlin ’94 advised making best use of the tension involved in succeeding professionally while also balancing family obligations. This theme ran throughout the daylong conference which offered participants insights and lessons from successful female leaders.
Held Jan. 19 at the James L. Allen Center, the WBA conference included panel discussions that explored the work/life balance, entrepreneurship, enhancing the role of women in the workplace and using one’s MBA in non-traditional industries. Also discussed were the roles of women in finance and opportunities to use business skills for social benefit.
O’Loughlin said that acknowledging tension can help women solve problems. As a company leader and mother of two, she said she makes it a point to work no later than 5 p.m. whenever possible, and to exercise every day and “live in the moment.” At Clif Bar, she said that she and other employees try to “live and love the tension” of balancing the company’s commitments to the business, employees, brands, community and planet.
Delivering the conference’s second keynote speech, Janet Hanson, founder and majority owner of Milestone Capital Management, chronicled her accomplishments: beating cancer, rising through the ranks at Goldman Sachs, where she became the firm’s first woman promoted to sales management; founding 85 Broads, a ground-breaking global women’s network; and being named managing director and senior adviser to the president of Lehman Brothers.
Hanson spoke proudly and passionately about 85 Broads, which she said numbers about 5,500 members worldwide, and about the need for women to help other women succeed. She urged the audience to “think big” when it comes to goals, get comfortable with technology and “do whatever you have to do to stay healthy.”
Other panelists encouraged women to make sure they have all the skills necessary to assume more senior responsibilities in their organizations, have a good support network at their company, and set work/life priorities and regularly update them.
Hope Wolman ’93, director of marketing and public relations for the Joffrey Ballet, told women interested in using their MBA degree in a non-traditional way that learning from failure is hugely important to success and that “a mentor can do more for your career than any job.”
Barbara Thomas ’79, CFO of HBO Sports and a former actress, boxer and auditor, urged women to “take risks at the earliest opportunity, because it’s harder [to do so] as you age and have kids.” In the late 1980s, Thomas took a risk and left her family during the week to commute from New York to Los Angeles for six months as director of financial operations and reporting while she helped establish the HBO partnership E! Entertainment Network. Afterward, she returned without a job, but with the experience to do big things closer to home.
In the not-for-profit arena, panelists said it’s important to make volunteers an integral part of the team and to say “thank you” to donors in frequent communications. Experts noted that working in a not-for-profit environment requires that professionals be skilled as both staff members and board members.
The advice most repeated at the conference is that when trying to manage business and home life, women must devise a plan that works for them and the company.
How well this planning works might be assessed using Janet Hanson’s reminder: “Success is happiness.”