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Empowering women for C-level leadership

Kellogg hosted a Global Women's Summit in May, with the goal of sparking conversations and meaningful connections to bring more women into the C-suite. About 800 Kellogg alumnae attended the event in Evanston or participated remotely via extension events that were held at several locations worldwide from Chicago to Boston to Hong Kong. Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, was the featured speaker. Breakout sessions provided detailed insights and advice for women at each stage of their career journeys toward the boardroom, from launch to mid-career to executive. Here are recaps from some of the events.

An extension event of the Global Women's Summit held in downtown Chicago


Linda M. Salchenberger '85, vice president at Executive Synergies, Inc., attended the extension location in Chicago. She said she found inspiration from the Global Summit in a variety of ways.

"Hearing the stories of women who were true trailblazers in their fields was inspirational and motivational for women in all stages of their careers," Salchenberger says. "The speakers shared their experiences in a way that everyone could relate to and generated conversations about the unique and yet common challenges that women face."

Salchenberger says persistence, confidence and authenticity were common themes throughout the summit, adding, "These are the words of wisdom that I would share with Kellogg alumnae as they face career challenges and opportunities."

San Francisco

Suzy Taherian '95, CFO at Kinetic Systems Inc., says the San Francisco event was a "fantastically positive environment. The sessions easily ran long because we all had so much to say to each other."

One of Taherian's key takeaways was the reality that women at the top of organizations can often feel a bit isolated. "One of the speakers who was a CEO mentioned that it was one of the loneliest jobs she's had," Taherian says. "Women in leadership roles tend to be more reticent in inviting everyone out for drinks after work. Of course, you can invite people out, but it's not always as natural or easy as it is for men. Women can get better at networking with men and other women. Men often tend to socialize with other men, so they will likely recommend a male colleague for an opportunity. Women need to start thinking of recommending other women too and say, 'Hey, I know a lady who'd be great for that job!' Women can be better advocates for other women."

Dozens of Kellogg alumnae in New York City participate in the Global Women's Summit

New York

Beatriz Luna Vida '11, executive director at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, attended the event via the New York extension location. She says it was a compelling reminder of Kellogg's alumni ties and the power of women when they come together to share their stories and experiences.

"As the conversation evolved, a group of strangers and highly accomplished professionals got to know each other as authentic brave women who have faced similar challenges in corporate America and have boldly overcome them," Luna Vida says. "It was a powerful experience that created an immense sense of belonging ... driving others to also openly share their intimate stories and secrets to their success."

The Hong Kong extension event uncovers powerful bonds of support

Hong Kong

Elaine Co '01, founding partner at Janchor Partners Ltd., sat on the organizing committee for the main event in Evanston, then flew to Hong Kong for the extension event she helped organize. She describes the summit as having the comfortable, friendly, supportive atmosphere of a "fireside chat."

"We're all kindred sisters, and we're grappling with the same challenges, whatever country we live in, whatever race or culture or age we are," Co says. "I wanted this to be like a fireside chat — like girlfriends sitting down together and just talking: 'How can I help you? What are some things that I learned in my career that I wished I knew earlier?' One woman emailed me after the event and said she learned more in two hours than a day of a management course."

Co suggested a few key takeaway strategies, many related to communication. Women and men tend to have different communication styles in the workplace, but unfortunately, women sometimes are judged more harshly for well-intentioned communication.

"For example, in conversations with male bosses, women need to automatically stop saying 'I'm sorry' and then get bogged down in the details. 'Keep it simple' is something I always remind myself," Co says. "I notice this when I hear from some of the women at my firm. The women are quick to say, 'I'm sorry, I did X because of Y and Z and W happened.' I do appreciate them for being honest. But when I ask the men what's going on with a problem or situation, they just say, 'Oh —working on it!'"


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