Summer 2016 Issue

A Woman's Perspective

Inaugural Summit Inspires Next Generation of Female Leaders

Leslie McCullough

Excited chatter and spirited conversations filled the air at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business last March when more than 200 women came together as part of the inaugural William & Mary Women’s Leadership Summit and Stock Pitch Competition (WLS).

The daylong summit included William & Mary’s first-ever women’s stock pitch competition and a series of panel discussions and speakers designed to offer a uniquely female perspective on building a successful career. More than 140 undergraduates met peers from 13 universities and spoke about personal goals with 60 professional women from across the nation.

“It was a great opportunity for like-minded women to come together and set a strong foundation to start their careers. It is inspiring to see so much potential in this next generation of female leaders,” says Rhian Horgan ’99, a 17-year veteran of the financial services industry who served on the summit’s advisory board.

“Many of the professional attendees were alumni who graciously came back to help enhance the William & Mary education,” says Julie Agnew ’91, WLS co-founder, associate professor of finance and economics and director of the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance. “To have all these amazing women in the same room on the same day was truly incredible. Best of all, the participants walked away with real skills to use in their future careers.”

Katherine Guthrie, WLS co-founder and advisor for William & Mary’s Women in Business Club and Smart Woman Securities, agrees. “The summit reflected the aims of William & Mary’s Women in Business Club, to promote confidence, exploration and drive in all women at the College. We continue to spearhead events that enable women to engage with dedicated professionals in order to gain a broader understanding of their interests and the business world.”

Alice Davison, a vice president at Capital Group, member of the WLS advisory board and William & Mary parent, was also instrumental in making the summit possible. “Judging by the incredible turnout, there is clearly an unmet need,” says Davison.

EMPOWERMENT: The first William & Mary Women’s Leadership Summit and Stock Pitch Competition held in March provided an opportunity for alumnae and students to engage with one another while discussing the female perspective on building a successful career.

“It is amazing to see so many women willing to put themselves out there.”

WLS participant Christina Danberg ’18 found the most influential aspect to be the caliber of women who attended. “I was so impressed by all the women I met and so grateful for the opportunity to make connections I would not otherwise have possibly ever made.”

Two keynote speakers shared their personal advice about being a woman in business. During lunch, Janice Min, co-president and chief creative officer of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group, highlighted 10 tips she has learned in her career, including the importance of knowing what you don’t know.

“Secure people share power — insecure people hoard it,” says Min. “Remember who you are. It will give you the confidence few others have.”

Karen Griffith Gryga ’87, managing partner and chief investment officer for DreamIt, offered a second keynote address during dinner. Gryga encouraged attendees to always be asking “What’s next?” and to be willing to take a chance.

“Women are not always good at telling their own stories,” says Gryga. “Don’t be afraid to self-advocate and always be sure to have fun and be passionate about whatever you do.”

Another William & Mary alumna, Laura Keehner Rigas ’01, led a panel focused on communicating your personal brand through managing your online presence and developing an elevator pitch.

“This summit offers incredible exposure and empowerment to these young women,” says Rigas. “I wish I had this opportunity as an undergrad. I feel honored and excited to be here learning from each other.”

For Valerie Cushman, William & Mary’s director of alumnae initiatives, WLS was a step toward creating a campus-wide event that will engage alumnae and students across many disciplines and all William & Mary schools.

“We hope to bring together alumnae and women faculty and students in a signature event to celebrate 100 years of co-education in 2018-19,” says Cushman. “It’s a great way for alumnae to engage with William & Mary, each other and with current students.”