In celebration of International Women's Month, the Business Department partnered with the Hiatt Career Center's Rise Together Mentor Network and Forté Foundation, a female leadership program, came together to present a Women In Leadership Alumni Panel on March 7 at the International Business School. Six influential female alumni joined students to share their experiences in leadership positions and how to navigate male-dominated fields. 

Emily Chou ’24, a Business Undergraduate Department Representative, organized this event. When Chou attended a Forté Foundation conference last semester for women and business, she found herself surrounded by like-minded women in the business field, which is a traditionally male-dominated industry. She was then inspired to organize this event allowing students to connect with female leaders.

One of the featured alumni was Chastity DeLorme ’14, a program manager for Strategy and Transformation at Pegasystems and winner of CRN’s Women of the Channel Award in 2021. DeLorme oversees the governance of Pegasystems’ strategy and the initiatives that support it. Erica Granor ’15 is a product designer at Markforged, where she designs on-screen interactions on industrial 3D printers. Christine Phan ’14 is a senior business analyst at King Arthur's Baking Company. Irina Gaziyeva ’22 is a project/program coordinator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Startup Exchange, where she fosters collaboration between MIT-connected startups and corporate members. Blanca Rodriguez ’22 is an analyst at Berkeley Partners, where she identifies and underwrites investment opportunities. In attendance also was Stephanie Yan ’19, an associate at Northpond Ventures

Chou asked the alumni a series of questions ranging from what it means to be a woman in leadership positions, how they grew into their leadership roles and the biggest advice they have for students. 

Throughout the event, DeLorme emphasized the importance of trying new things and bringing more diversity to the workplace. She encouraged students to "[recognize] the differences that [they] bring and the power of those differences," and remarked that everyone can "bring [something]  a little bit different" to the table.

DeLorme commented that she was often told that she was too informal or that her emails were too flowery. She advised students to find someone they trust and filter through the feedback — feedback that is supportive and feedback that is critical. Additionally, she discussed the importance of finding a support group but also taking your own unique path: "Do not compare your journey to others." In order to make a difference in the world, women need to support one another through their unique journeys.

When asked what being a leader means to her, Phan discussed the stereotype of needing to be loud and assertive in the room. However, as a quieter person, she emphasized redefining leadership, telling the audience to "Redefine what leadership means to you, what success means to you." For Phan, this approach means being a kind and empathic leader.

Adding on to the other panelists, Rodriguez mentioned that part of being a leader is taking initiative and thinking outside the box. Rodriguez reminded students that when entering a new position, regardless of what field, beginners in their career will not know everything and that it is important to figure some things out themselves.

Later in the event, Phan discussed the importance of learning how to take a compliment, and how it is difficult for some women to take compliments. She also advised students to  find work-life balance early on and not sacrifice mental health for a job. All the female panelists highlighted the importance of sticking true to themselves throughout their careers.

Granor mentioned the importance of showing up as well as finding a support group earlier in one’s career. She commented on imposter syndrome, the feeling of being out of place even if you are outwardly succeeding. She explained how if a person receives a position at work, they were probably picked for a reason, especially after a tough interview process.

Sharing similar sentiments as Granor, Rodriguez discussed the mindset of imposter syndrome and how it is entirely internal: "You are your worst enemy." 

"We are enough,” Gaziyeva said. She discussed the feeling of failure and the importance of getting back up everytime and highlighted the importance of being present in the moment even when it is easy to get overwhelmed. 

Yan expanded on how, in a male-dominated field, it is important to find people to feel like you belong. Yan discussed receiving feedback, especially when students are starting their careers or in new roles. One set of feedback Yan received frequently at the beginning was that she was not confident enough, saying that many women receive this feedback. She said not to take it personally or take offense to it. Yan advised students to find a mentor, someone they can confide in, and a sponsor who actively supports them in their next role or challenge. The importance of networking and keeping in touch with people from previous jobs was something Yan promoted.

Gaziyeva highlighted the importance of asking for help and receiving feedback as well. Gaziyeva informed students to be self-aware and not afraid to ask questions or ask for support. She told students to "Be brave; take little steps."  After the questions students were given an opportunity to network with these alums.