Over 1,600 people attended the Forté Foundation’s annual MBA Women’s Leadership Conference, which ran June 12th and 13th this year. Held virtually for the first time in Forté’s history, the event set an attendance record with more than double the attendance of 2019’s sold-out conference. As a non-profit dedicated to advancing women in business, Forté Foundation hosts the conference to connect women looking to enroll in a Forté partner school MBA program with business leaders, MBA alumnae, experts, and representatives of Forté’s partners. The conference highlighted community, empowerment, and confidence for women ready to pursue an MBA as the first step in their careers.
Conference Begins with Leadership and Career Insights
Over the course of two days, businesswomen led interactive panels and workshops designed to develop leadership skills and offered advice on confidently building a successful career. Day 1 of the MBA Women’s Leadership Conference began with a welcome from Forte’s CEO, Elissa Sangster, and executives from DaVita. The midday “Dialogue with Leadership” session featured an introduction by Kim Cato, Sr. Director of Global Information Systems at the Whirlpool Corporation. Two panelists, Janet Foutty, Chair of the Board at Deloitte, and Sheila Stanziale, the CEO of Spudlove Snacks, then discussed their career challenges and inspiration with moderator Liz Riley, an MBA Prep Coach at Management Leadership for Tomorrow. The dialog covered topics from making time for education and career-building to the where, when, and how of planning a successful career. Cato noted during the panel,
“The Dialogue session today showcases panelists from various industries who have achieved key leadership roles and can serve as examples of where you envision your career in 5, 10, or 15 years from now. Remember, they started their journeys similar to where you are today. Lastly, each of us is unique and different. Leverage your uniqueness and let it shine in your professional and personal lives. Don’t be afraid to try. Experiment small and quickly so that you can learn and adapt quickly. Make your interests known. Volunteer to help. Raise your hand and voice your ideas. But, more importantly, continue to advocate for yourself and align yourself with others that will do the same. Remember, we all rise together.”
During the afternoon, the MBA Women’s Leadership Conference featured three “Career Insights Sessions,” during which MBA alumnae and company representatives discussed different industries, functions and specific opportunities for MBAs. Five to six different industries were covered in each session, including consulting, technology, entrepreneurship, investment banking and more. Day 1 concluded with the “Virtual Career Expo,” which connected Fortune 100 recruiters and over 40 companies with attendees in an online group chat. In addition to networking, participants learned about company culture, internships and longer-term opportunities.
Internship Panel, Career Workshops Fill Day 2
Day 2 of the conference kicked off with the announcement of the winner of the 2020 Edie Hunt Award, which recognizes an individual based on their school or community contributions to advancing women into business leadership positions. The main event for the morning was “Kickstart Your Internship Quest.” Moderator S. Kellogg Leliveld, Director of Career Education and Advising at UVA / Darden, led a conversation about landing the right internship with Allison Myers, Sr. Manager at Accenture Strategy, Lourdes Long with Corporate Business Development at Chevron, and Hong Zhou, Director of Surety Global Operation at Liberty Mutual. The panel of experts discussed their personal experiences with preparing for and navigating the recruitment process, pursuing companies recruiting both on- and off-campus, and taking a personal inventory of goals and aspirations in order to choose a fulfilling and beneficial internship. The panelists also shared advice regarding determining fit with a company’s culture.
The backdrop to all conference events was the current pandemic and the impact it is having on business, education, and career-building. The message to participants was to use this unique time to reshape the way they think about the world, focus on what can be controlled, and take this opportunity to empower each other to drive positive change. When introducing the “Kickstart Your Internship Quest,” Noemie Tilghman, Partner / Principal at Deloitte, said:
“Looking for a summer internship will not be the same as it has been in year’s past. You may be thinking to yourself, ‘I did all of this with the promise of these incredible post MBA jobs and now as I look around those who are graduating at this moment maybe a little bit afraid because offers are being changed, start dates are being changed, potentially rescinded.’ We’re having to reinvent the way we think about the world.”
Following the internship panel, attendees then had myriad workshops to choose from. Featured session topics included “Interview Hero – How to Rock Any Interview,” “Real Talk: Opportunities and Obstacles for Women of Color in Business” and “Set Yourself Apart with Personal Branding,” along with several others. Representatives from Chevron, DaVita, Liberty Mutual Insurance and Whirlpool led the “Real Talk” session. The conference wrapped up with a virtual happy hour for socializing and continued networking.
All sessions were recorded and available for attendees to watch both live and on-demand.