CMU conference targets women aspiring to leadership
February 17, 2016 12:14 AM
From left, Carnegie Mellon University graduate students Katie Moritz, 26, Megan O'Rourke, 29; Samantha Grant, 25; and Lauretta Wild, 33, inside of CMU's Tepper School of Business on Monday.
Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette 20160215MWHconference Biz From left, Carnegie Mellon University graduate students Katie Moritz, 26, Megan O'Rourke, 29, Samantha Grant, 25, and Lauretta Wild, 33, pose for a portrait inside of CMU's Tepper School of Business in Squirrel Hill on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Wild, O'Rourke, Grant and Moritz are the organizers behind a conference to help mid-career level women make the jump to management that will be held this weekend.
Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette 20160215MWHconference Biz From left, Carnegie Mellon University graduate students Katie Moritz, 26, Samantha Grant, 25, Lauretta Wild, 33, and Megan O'Rourke, 29, pose for a portrait inside of CMU's Tepper School of Business in Squirrel Hill on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Wild, O'Rourke, Grant and Moritz are the organizers behind a conference to help mid-career level women make the jump to management that will be held this weekend.
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A year ago, Samantha Grant and Megan O’Rourke, both MBA candidates at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, were elected ambassadors of the Forte Foundation — an Austin, Texas-based consortium of corporations and business schools that encourages women to advance their careers.
They were so inspired by a Forte-sponsored conference that brought together successful female executives to share advice that they decided Pittsburgh needed a similar event. But the pair soon realized that, as students, they didn’t have the network or capacity to execute it, said Ms. Grant.
Months later, staff from Tepper became involved with the idea and helped bring to fruition the school’s first-ever Women in Business Conference set for Saturday at the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland.
Ms. Grant and three other women MBA students served on the planning committee.
The target audience is “mid-career level professionals, including some considering MBA degrees and some who are not,” said Ms. Grant, 25, who is in her second year of the full-time program at Tepper.
Much of the conference material will help women who are shifting from the role of independent contributor to manager, said Leanne Meyer, program director for CMU’s Leadership Academy for Women. Ms. Meyer, for instance, will lead a session called, “Take Your Leadership to the Next Level: From Worker Bee to Strategic Resource.”
Other sessions will focus on negotiation skills, leading workers in different generations, and managing conflict. CMU faculty who lead the sessions will provide recent research on the topics.
With women still occupying far fewer executive positions and board seats than men, such a conference can embolden females to network, seek mentors and take other steps to move ahead in their jobs, said Ms. Grant.
According to Forte, only 14 percent of senior executives at Fortune 500 firms are women and only 4 percent of chief executives at those companies are female.
Because women still comprise a minority of students in business schools, there may not be enough in the corporate pipeline to alter those percentages anytime soon. Forte’s research shows 34 percent of recent MBA grads are women, while at Tepper’s full-time MBA program, women accounted for about one-fourth of the 417 enrollees as of last fall.
“It’s not just about having more women in these [leadership] roles,” said Ms. Grant, who earned an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College and who worked for two years at J.P. Morgan as a business analyst before enrolling at Tepper.
She is simultaneously earning a master’s in public policy from CMU’s H. John Heinz III College.
“It’s about women doubting themselves and not owning their own skill sets. If a man feels 50 percent qualified for a job, he’ll raise his hand. Women think they need to feel 100 percent for a job. We need to advocate for ourselves. People won’t just tap us on the shoulder.”
One feature of the conference that organizers hope will draw more attendees is child care.
“That really comes from hearing from some women students who are mothers and juggling so much in their lives,” said Emily Archambeault, associate director of master admissions at Tepper.
“They have to make sacrifices about what they do outside of the classroom and we didn’t want to close an opportunity to them.”
Students in Tepper’s full-time program range in age from 23 to 43. The average age is 28, though the school could not break out the average age of men vs. women. Their average level of work experience is five years.
The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cost is $35 and includes the child-care option.
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