On a brisk Friday afternoon, over 100 undergraduate women attended the 2019 Wharton Women Business Conference: EmpowHER. The annual conference is the cornerstone event of the spring semester for Wharton Women, the University’s largest paid-member undergraduate student organization. This year’s theme? Empowering women leaders in the business world through upperclassmen mentorship, inspirational speakers, and practical skills.
The day consisted of a networking lunch, a fireside chat with Lori Tauber Marcus, W’84, Founder of Courtyard Connections, a keynote speech by Jane Sadowsky, C’83, WG’89, Senior Advisor at Moelis & Company, and a negotiations workshop led by Dr. Nazli Bhatia, a lecturer at Wharton. The speakers touched on a range of topics from the prevalence of job-hopping in today’s society, to how to negotiate win-win outcomes, and even the best yoga parallels. However, the salient theme of the conference was workplace equality and its evolution over the years.
Here are three key takeaways from the conference:
1. Understand the importance of mentoring and helping others.
Mentoring is a key resource that promotes internal growth and provides opportunities for valuable connections. Sadowsky referenced a policy that she practices at Moelis & Company: 15 by 15. “By the fifteenth of the month, you have to spend fifteen minutes helping another person. Mentorship increases your network of contacts and is a virtuous cycle that you can do in a minute a day.”
Mentoring is also mutually beneficial — both mentor and mentee gain knowledge and experience. Marcus also emphasized the importance of asking questions, adding that this was her great superpower. ”Be comfortable knowing that you aren’t the smartest one in the room. Ask questions,” she said.
2. Assess the workplace environment.
Dr. Nazli began her workshop on negotiations by expanding on the common “glass ceiling” motif, pointing out that gender inequity in the workplace “is more of a maze: a much more complicated, sophisticated situation that requires careful consideration.” Recognizing the dynamics of the workplace environment is the first step towards discovering if there is a problem.
Marcus said it was essential to know the “tapes” that are playing in other people’s heads in order to understand their unconscious bias. Although undeniable improvements regarding gender equality in the workplace have been made in recent decades, there is more work to be done before women are equal to men in every industry.
Sadowsky recalled her struggles and experiences as a recent graduate working on Wall Street, often the only woman on her team, compared with today’s seemingly more progressive work environments. However, Sadowsky warned that the problem hasn’t been solved. “We have entered an era of a new kind of glass ceiling — deliberate segregation that is more covert.”
3. Do your part.
Change is partly top-down driven and many companies have implemented countless positive initiatives, such as using data and improving recruiting tactics to increase exposure and widen applicant pools. However, a collective force is necessary to make a lasting impact on the workplace. Everyone has a part in ensuring a future where men and women are seen as equals in every work environment. Even amplifying another woman’s positive comments is a step in the right direction.
“Advancement requires opportunity. Advancement requires mentoring. Advancement requires recognition,” Sadowsky said. Diverse opinions come from diverse people and inclusion leads to learning new skills. Keeping those ideals in mind can help establish equal opportunities.
Marcus emphasized the need for a unified effort. “We all have a responsibility. We can’t let those things go. We have to take those shots or things won’t change,” she said.
— Erin Lomboy, W’21
Posted: February 19, 2019