The 13th Annual Dynamic Women In Business Conference

The WSA organized the 13th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference at the Harvard Business School on January 24th, 2004. This year over 850 women attended the conference, making it one of the largest and best attended events of this type. In addition to current HBS students, participants included HBS alumni, students at Harvard College and other local colleges and business schools, and women in the Boston community.

“We were very excited with the turnout of panelists and attendees,” said WSA Co-President, Mary Beth Laughton (OD). “The high energy environment made it a great experience for everyone involved.”

The keynote speakers were Ann Fudge (HBS ’77), Chairman and CEO of Young and Rubicam and Ann Moore (HBS ’78), Chairman and CEO of Time Inc. In addition to the keynote addresses, the conference featured three sessions of panels on areas such as consulting, finance, media & entertainment, technology, minorities in business, social enterprise, and work-life-balance. These panels were designed to reflect the diversity of routes available to success.

Jackie Ouellette (NB) explained that “The marketing panel had a great sample of accomplished women from diverse backgrounds. Their industries ranged from consumer products to entrepreneurial marketing and their current company tenure spanned from two to eighteen years.

The diversity was reassuring as it proved that marketing success can come in many different types of careers.”

The keynote speakers, panelists, and conference participants all commented on the valuable role that events, such as this conference, played in providing support networks for professional women, noting that men and women think differently. At the same time, it was also noted by many that successful organizations are those which are able to leverage contributions from diverse groups, including both men and women.

For many attendees, the lunch hour, during which they could converse over a meal with the panelist of their choosing, was the highlight of the day. “I was extremely excited by the opportunity to have lunch with the President of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation,” says Susan Herzog (NF). “I’ve been raising money for her organization for years and it was a meaningful experience to speak with her and learn about her role in the organization’s achievements.”

Another key feature of the conference was that the speakers also shared insights from their own lives, thus, providing valuable and hard-earned wisdom to the students.

Ms. Fudge opened the event with a call to replace all the talk about “work-life balance” with the reality that life is about leadership.

Leadership, she explains is about taking control, guiding and serving. She urged the audience to apply the HBS learning model to their lives. In life, as in the case method, there are multiple solutions and there is no right or wrong answer. The reasons for the choices each person will make will be more important than the choice themselves, as different people have different priorities and needs. Therefore, Ms. Fudge urged the students present to develop a vision and mission statement for themselves, defining what they wanted to accomplish in their lives. This, she said, will help them to make the most of their lives.

“I thought Ann Fudge was phenomenal,” said Rebecca Greenawalt (NG). “She was very candid about the choices she made and the challenges she faced in her life. Her success is inspirational.” Just hours later, Ms. Moore offered more “motherly advice.” Like Ms. Fudge, she urged women to find success by focusing on their passions, values, priorities and what drives them. “Trade your clocks for a compass”, she exhorted, “because where you’re going is more important than how fast you get there.” The key to success is about self-assessment because ultimately you need to write the dance card for where you want to go.”

Ms. Moore also gave some sound business advice to the women present. She recommended that they surround themselves with a support team at work because ultimately everybody gets tired and makes mistakes, and needs the support of those around them. Another piece of advice she gave was to explain that it was the employee’s responsibility to ensure that her values and priorities were in sync with her superior’s. And finally, Ms. Moore made it clear that profits mattered as power accrued to those who produced results. At the same time, she also emphasized that power was not everything.

“Making money”, said Ms. Fudge, is easy. Making a difference is hard”.

The women who attended the 13th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference left with insights into how they might do just that.