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By Libby Koerbel

Engaging a room of more than 100 people for two straight hours is no easy task, but the Women’s Business Association (WBA), Professor Victoria Medvec, Dean Sally Blount and an all-star panel of three female alumnae pulled it off. One of the panelists summed it up perfectly afterward when she said, “I knew we had hit a nerve when 80% of the crowd’s hands were raised to ask a question.”

The Women’s Leadership Seminar focused on preparing current Kellogg female students to achieve quick success, position themselves in the corporate world and overcome challenges that sometimes provoke women to leave their corporate roles in their 30s and 40s.

Professor Medvec and Dean Blount developed the Women’s Leadership Seminar in partnership with current students Rebecca Sholiton — who initially had the idea for the program — Blair Pircon, Danielle Lozier and other leaders from the WBA. The school’s vision for the program was to ensure that high potential women are equipped to aggressively pursue and successfully navigate careers that have impact as well as personal meaning.

As a woman in the business world who has participated in my fair share of women’s leadership trainings and programs, I have to admit that at first I was a little skeptical about what this program would offer. After the first session, however, those doubts were quickly erased, partially due to the thoughtfulness that the program was designed with, but more so due to the incredibly authentic energy and insights from our guest panelists. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear from a panel of three women, each approximately 15 years out from Kellogg, about the challenges they have and continue to face professionally and personally as successful, working women.

Although much progress has been made on gender equality and women leadership in business, my classmates and I are still asking a lot of the same questions that women have faced in the generations preceding us. How do I deal with gender discrimination? How do I overcome the confidence gap? How can I balance a family and a career? How can I craft a career path that is successful in my own eyes?

The panel felt so energizing because the women shared their stories in an unscripted way that put the room at ease. It is uncommon to have an opportunity to pass back wisdom in this way. Moreover, bringing together 120 second-year women in one room where we had the opportunity to connect over shared concerns, fears and hopes was equally powerful. We left inspired for the next 15 years of our careers, and our lives in general Everyone I spoke to after the seminar expressed a newfound sense of inspiration as we prepare to reenter into the workforce and to become leaders in our respective fields.

A few concrete lessons that I took away:

  • Take a long-term perspective – sometimes what seems like a risk in the short term will pay dividends down the road
  • Mentors in your professional life are very powerful, but so are mentors in your personal life (that person who lets you know what is going on in the community and reminds you when it’s your turn to bring snack to school) as well as anti-mentors (that person who is so miserable to work for and who teaches you exactly what not to do)
  • Focus on how you define success personally instead of how it is defined for you – this may mean ignoring prestige and not being afraid to take what others might consider a step back

This program is a truly great example of how student-led initiatives can make an impact on the Kellogg experience – a big thanks to Professor Medvec, Dean Blount, Rebecca Sholiton and the rest of the WBA for pulling this program together.

Libby Koerbel is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year MBA Program. Libby is an expert strategist with experience at the Boston Consulting Group, Pandora, Universal Music Group, Muzooka, and Pritzker Group Venture Capital. After graduation, she will be leading growth strategy initiatives at Pandora, based in Oakland, California. She is a Colorado native with a passion for music, mountains and adventure.