SWIB Conference Panels: Inspiring Women for 17 years
Published: Sunday, February 15, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 11:09
Each year, the breakout panels at the annual SWIB conference are consistently one of the highlights, and this year was no different. This year's panels featured 12 amazing women, each of whom came to the conference to share their unique stories of empowerment as well as to share some advice with the audience. The attendees split almost evenly across all three panels, indicating the strong interest in a wide variety of topics.
The first panel, "The Female Force, Women Empowering Women to reach their full potential" focused on women who employ their time and talents to assist other women in developing financial, educational or interpersonal foundations required to achieve their true potential. The panel brought together four amazing women with diverse backgrounds who have either dedicated their career or their spare time to helping empower women.
Panel guests included: Stephanie Hanbury-Brown, Managing Director of Golden Seeds, an investment fund focusing on helping fund women's entrepreneurial ventures, Nell Merlino, one of the main creative forces behind the creation of Take Your Daughter to Work day and Founder and CEO of Count Me In, a leading national not-for-profit provider of resources for females, and Karen Whitby, Managing Director of Sales and Trading at Citi. Lizette Hernandez, Executive Director of New York Initiatives at NYU Stern, served as the moderator and asked the panelists questions about their chosen career paths, their opinions on female entrepreneurs, and for any general advice they might have for students and conference attendees.
One of the main topics Lizzette encouraged the panelists to discuss was why they had chosen the path of empowering women in their careers. Stephanie stressed the fact that "the world makes it hard for women to thrive, especially in business." Nell emphasized how few female run businesses make more than $50,000 in revenue a year not because their businesses are not profitable but because the owners do not think that making more is a realistic goal for their business, when in fact it often most certainly is. Both of these women work tirelessly to not only help fund and start women run businesses but also to help open female entrepreneurs' eyes to the possibilities of growing their businesses to million dollar annual revenues. Stephanie reiterated that "we need more female run businesses in this world."
When asked what advice they would give women in the audience considering starting their own businesses the panelists emphasized the importance of knowing your numbers backwards and forwards, and Stephanie proclaimed jokingly "if you don't just make them up!" Other advice for the audience was to know when to ask for help and to delegate responsibility. The panelists emphasized that all too often women feel as though asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in reality no one has the answers for everything. Karen noted that you need to have goals at all times, and "as you achieve them, make new ones." Karen also gave out some candid advice to the audience from her years on the trading floor: "always look your best and ALWAYS think about what you're saying and doing at all times."
The panelists' passion for their careers and dedication to female empowerment was evident throughout the entire event. Throughout the conversation they spoke emotionally about how what their mothers did helped pave the way for what they are doing and how they are paving the way for the next generation of women to do great things. The three panelists all stressed the importance of knowing what you like and dislike so you can spend your life doing something you love. When asked what the audience could do to empower women Nell said "do what you love to the best of your ability" and Karen added "happiness and success are contagious." *************************************************************************************
The second panel "If Wonder Woman can do it, so can you," focused on women who have used their passion and skills to define their own careers in non-traditional roles and career paths. These women have broken down barriers that narrowly define women's career choices and have paved a new path for themselves and many others around them.
Participants on the panel included: Catherine Hannah Behren, an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and NYU, and also the Founder of VenturesVision, a company that provides art tours in the NYC Boroughs; Jemina Bernard, Executive Director of Teach for America; Leslie Lampert, founder and Executive Chef of Ladle of Love, a gourmet food-to-go shop in Mt. Kisco, New York; and Dawn Verbrighe, founder and CEO of Moi-Meme Attire, a made-measure apparel business that designs and tailors custom suits for women.
Moderator Sally Bount-Lyon, Dean of the Undergraduate College at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, asked the women to speak about what inspired each of them to follow their chosen career path, hurdles that they have faced along the way, and encouraged them to offer advice to those women in the audience currently pursuing a career path that may require forgoing pay.
Jemina shared how growing up in a low-income community in the South Bronx, has driven her desire to be a leader to those with a similar background. After earning her M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, Jemina joined Deloitte Consulting, but was motivated to change her career when she found herself working and doing something that she was not passionate about. Since then, she has dedicated her career to helping ensure others who face the challenges of poverty are given the educational opportunities they deserve.
Dawn spoke about the fact that finding friends and support networks are critical when you step out and start your own venture. She also encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience to get entrepreneurial experience by seeking out opportunities at start-ups or in an intra-preneurial department at a large corporation. Dawn's experience at a start-up was invaluable. Here she learned how to be a business leader, take risks, and learn from making mistakes before starting her own company In terms of recognizing opportunities, Leslie believes that while some of us have big "Ah-hah" moments, others have smaller moments of realization. The challenge is always to recognize pivotal moments and to "step on the gas when you see new opportunity."