Reflections from the Women in Finance Dinner
By Caroline Kelly, Michelle Kilgallon, Katie Miller
The annual Women in Finance Dinner at Kellogg brings together students and alumnae from across the finance industry. This year’s event featured a fireside chat with Dean Francesca Cornelli and Suzanne Yoon, founder and managing partner at Kinzie Capital. We recently spoke with the event’s co-chairs, Caroline Kelly ’23 MBA, Katie Miller ’23 MBA and Michelle Kilgallon ’23 MBA to learn more about their decision to get involved on the planning committee, goals they had for this year's event, as well as a few highlights.
Why did you want to co-chair this year’s event?
Caroline: Following last year’s Women in Finance Dinner, I knew I wanted to continue to strengthen the finance community at Kellogg for women. Throughout my time at Kellogg, alumnae have provided some of the most helpful insights as I navigate my career, and the dinner provides students with the opportunity to network and build connections across the industry with other women who can offer valuable perspectives.
Katie: Last year’s Women in Finance Dinner was one of my favorite events as a first year and I wanted to help grow the event to be even more impactful this year. There are so many talented women pursuing careers in finance at Kellogg but sometimes it can still feel like you are navigating gender bias in the industry alone. Co-chairing this event was one way I felt like I could help strengthen this community at Kellogg.
Michelle: My professional roles in investment banking and real estate private equity have been on overwhelmingly male teams. I’ve seen how being the only woman in the room shaped my early career and how having a lack of gender diversity can impact a team’s culture. The best way to enhance gender diversity in the finance industry is to broaden the recruiting pipeline and bring more female-identifying individuals into finance. This event is a great way to build and support the women in the finance community at Kellogg.
What were your goals for the dinner?
We had three main goals coming into this year’s dinner. The first was to make the dinner more accessible to students. Careers in finance can be intimidating, but we wanted students to realize there are many paths a finance career can take. We expanded our outreach to capture a range of student interests from more traditional paths like investment banking and private equity to newer industries like venture capital, real estate and fintech.
Second, since this event is early in the school year we wanted to create a low-stress environment for first-year students to connect with both alumnae and second-year women to help guide them through the upcoming recruiting cycle. The three of us received a lot of help from the Kellogg community as first years in our own recruiting journeys, so increasing the connectivity between first and second-year women was top of mind as we sought to pay that forward.
Lastly, the event has grown significantly since Professor David Stowell started the dinner at his house years ago and we had 150 students and alumnae in attendance. The event is now a hallmark Kellogg event in the fall quarter and for the first time, we engaged with corporate sponsors to help fund the event. By engaging with corporate sponsors our goal was to highlight all the amazing talent that Kellogg has to offer the finance industry.
What was the highlight of the event for you?
Caroline: We were able to increase the number of both students and alumnae who attended the event this year, expanding the industries represented and fostering meaningful connections. Also, having Suzanne Yoon provide such candid and insightful perspectives increased the impact of the dinner and received positive feedback from the women who attended the dinner.
Katie: Seeing a room full of smart, talented women engaging in meaningful conversation together was definitely the highlight for me. It was rewarding to help bring that group together and I heard from many students after the event that they made a number of helpful connections during the dinner. It was also great to see the alumnae's engagement and excitement around this topic. Some of our table hosts have been coming to the event for years and others were new additions that Caroline, Michelle and I invited from our own networks.
Michelle: Our keynote speaker, Suzanne Yoon, is my mentor through Kellogg’s Advanced Private Equity Experience (APEX) program. Her candor facilitated an inspiring fireside chat with Dean Cornelli and a stimulating Q&A directly with our student attendees. The fireside chat set the stage for thought-provoking discussions at each table, which were organized by finance area and hosted by esteemed Kellogg alumnae in the industry. Creating a forum for those questions to be asked and discussions to be had was the highlight for me.