A panel of five women leaders, representing a cross-section of various careers, spoke to female students and their mothers at the inaugural "Power of Women: Igniting Tomorrow’s Leaders" event on Sunday, March 31 in Alumni Hall. The panel consisted of Kellie Burke ’90, P ’24 owner of her eponymous interior design firm, Hope Jackson ’99, assistant professor of surgery, division of minimally invasive surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine, Jean LaTorre P ’12, ‘14, ‘19, chief investment officer and senior vice president Aetna, Inc., Wendy Mazo ‘85, director of development for individual giving, 92nd Street Y and Maureen Murphy ’89, director of marketing, head of community management and customer insights, Liberty Mutual Insurance.
The energizing and intellectually stimulating conversation offered students advice on navigating career choices, finding a work-life balance, supporting the fellowship of women in business, and perhaps, most importantly, taking a risk, willing to fail and learning from the mistake. Each panelist discussed the importance of finding and cultivating a career that one was passionate about. Burke said one of her inspirations came from her beloved KO art teacher, Pat Rosoff, who pushed her to create better and better work. “She found in me a passion that I didn’t know I had, to look really into myself and to explore what I love. You can never be afraid to fail. Be who you are and own it,” she said while gesturing to her stylish ensemble featuring a leopard print blazer, red leather pants, and glittering platform heels. Regarding her start-up interior design business and walking away from a steady paycheck she acknowledged, “It was the scariest thing but the most empowering thing I’ve ever done.”
Many students asked penetrating questions of the panelists of their career paths. LaTorre said over the course of her career she has seen tremendous changes in the once male-dominated field. “I used to be the only woman in the room. But, you should never be insecure about it. As a woman, you carry a lot of power.” Jackson shared that today over 50% of the medical student applicants are women. She had a wonderful female mentor who helped in her own growth and development and dispelled the myth that she was too nice to be a surgeon. Admittedly, she said the field still needs to make inroads in pay equity and that organizations need to make a conscious effort to have women in the healthcare field, especially for funding.
Other key takeaways that Murphy and Mazo and the other panelists shared were to think about the next four college years and do a deep dive into what’s right for you. Keep your network connections strong. Be conscious of opportunities as they present themselves. Write thank you notes. Leave room for possibility and change your mind; it’s not a failure. There’s no straight line of a career.
Special thanks to the event's co-chairs Karen Diaz P ‘19, ’22 and Elaine Leshem P ‘14, ‘16, ’19, ’24 who attended to every detail to make certain of the event's success.