Mentoring their own
Through the Council of One Hundred, women graduates of the Kellogg School share their knowledge and experience with the next generation of female leadersBy Amy Trang
9/8/2009 - When Susan Henken-Thielen ’83 was asked to join the Council of One Hundred in 1993, she was one of the first members to be named to the elite group of Northwestern women graduates.
And it came at the right moment. The Minneapolis-based marketing professional was 10 years into her career and was looking for a new way to make an impact on the next generation.
“When I was approached by the council to join, I thought, ‘What a fabulous way to give back to students and an opportunity to share some of my wisdom along the way about the business world,’” Henken-Thielen said.
The Council of One Hundred is a mentoring organization composed of women who are leaders in their fields. All have expressed a willingness to share their knowledge with Northwestern women and young alumnae. Henken-Thielen is one of 11 Kellogg graduates who serve on the council.
The group was conceived by the university in 1993 after exit surveys revealed that although young female Northwestern alumnae were equally as accomplished as their male counterparts, they were less confident in the workplace, said council chairwoman Candy Deemer. In addition to mentoring, the group now addresses a variety of issues women face in the workplace, such as work-life balance.
Kellogg women add to the diversity of the group, sharing their leadership insights and career experiences with the students and young graduates. Membership in the council is by invitation only, and women come from a diversity of fields, including marketing, engineering and the media.
“There is an element of composure and self-confidence that Kellogg women have,” Deemer said. “They accomplish a lot in a very calm, directed way.”
The council provides an opportunity for women to mentor students and young alumnae one on one, offer ideas and advice and provide important connections in the job market. The council meets twice a year with Northwestern students and young alumnae in Evanston and Chicago, organizing panel discussions and networking activities. Throughout the year, the organization hosts networking events in cities nationwide, including Washington D.C., New York City and Los Angeles.
“The great thing about the council is that there is no common personality or character, and as a mentoring organization, we want a lot of breadth and range,” Deemer said. “But there is a common characteristic among us and that is a true desire to help other women and make it easier for them in the workplace than it was for us. All these women are really exceptional, but all of them are incredibly down to earth and have elements of curiosity and humility.”
Henken-Thielen has worked in various marketing capacities throughout her career, from government to large corporations to start-ups. She is now developing a consulting firm for small businesses that produce high-tech products.
“When they come to our meetings and hear our stories they realize that every step along the way adds value,” said Henken-Thielen, who has served twice as head of the council’s programming committee. “We want them to understand that their options are much broader than they ever thought possible. And that the decisions they make along the way are going to give them much more depth as a person and make them marketable.”
Jan Weiland ’79 has been a council member for more than 15 years. She says she appreciates the opportunity to return to Northwestern and give back to the institution.
Weiland, vice president of investments at the Cascade Investment Group in Colorado Springs, Colo., added that the council also gives members a chance to cultivate relationships with Northwestern peers outside the Kellogg network.
“Northwestern is a very diverse institution, with many parts and pieces,” Weiland said. “In the Council of One Hundred, there is a lot of diversity in what the members studied and in the career paths they chose. The council members are the best of the breed — women who have excelled at what they do. They all bring their own perspective.”