The neon lights of Times Square, the hustle and bustle of Wall Street, fashion in the garment district, the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange and the theatrical art of Broadway ― all staples that bring New York City to life. But with so many opportunities to experience the city and meet the leaders who live, work and play there, where does a group of Ohio State students start?

They turn to a sisterhood of business women ― leaders in consulting, technology, finance, lifestyle and the fashion industries ― who are committed to doing what they can to build the connections that will help the next generation of women business professionals.

Recently these women gathered to host 19 Fisher students as part of the Honors Cohort Women in Business Summit in New York City. The three-day experience opened opportunities for established and young leaders to share their stories, discuss challenges that unique to women in business, and strategies to overcome barriers, build confidence and inspire leadership.

Paula Bennett (BSBA ’71), former CEO of J.Jill, actively supports the advancement of women in business. At Fisher, she established the Women in Leadership Fund to advance mentorship of female students and support the growth of their leadership opportunities through events such as the NYC trip.

 

“It was an absolute pleasure to help connect students at my alma mater with the colleagues, professionals and trailblazers who, today, are at the forefront of so many top companies and industries. My hope for the Women in Business Summit was twofold ― that each student walks away from this experience empowered by the insights and personal experiences that were shared by so many; and that the professionals who graciously dedicated their time to us are encouraged by the talented young minds that are destined to make positive impacts as tomorrow’s business leaders.

Paula Bennett Job Title

Being in the room with accomplished women such as Bennett created a sense of camaraderie, which struck home for fourth-year finance student Sasha Haines.

“For one generation to be successful, giving back to the next was very influential, as it gave us insight into these women’s journeys and who the person is behind the success,” Haines says.

With a city so vibrant and full of life, the students spent time soaking up the city’s lively atmosphere before getting down to business. After exploring the Chelsea Market in the heart of the Meatpacking District, walking along the High Line, a public park featuring nature, art and design on Manhattan’s West Side, to the green space of Little Island, the cohort visited the neon lights of Broadway for the Tony Award-winning musical “Wicked.”

“When I spent my summer internship at JPMorgan Chase in NYC, I felt like it could be the loneliest city at times[AJ1], but this trip with my friends and classmates made me fall in love with the city even more,” says fourth-year finance student Alyse Cok. “You need to make your own way, but the Broadway lights have always inspired me, and when I see the skyline, I become emotional.”

Making your own way was a recurring theme for the summit. Bennett summarized it best by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the entire staircase.”

“MLK’s quote was a great message for us going forward: to put effort into our first steps after graduation, even if we aren’t sure what the rest of staircase or our careers will look like,” Haines says.

The summit highlighted four areas of business in several key NYC districts: entrepreneurship at Lafayette 148 at Brooklyn Navy Yard, finance at the New York Stock Exchange, unexpected career paths and making it to the top with conversations with women from Tapestry at Hudson Yards.

Entrepreneurship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

The cohort met with Deirdre Quinn, co-founder and CEO of Lafayette 148, a vertically integrated fashion brand, for a discussion on entrepreneurship, challenges and opportunities facing women, finding mentors, believing in yourself and finding your passion.

“It was great to hear how Deirdre jump-started her fashion career when, early in her profession, in a room full of men, she was the only one to volunteer to go overseas to see the manufacturing of the products they were selling,” Haines says. “This really demonstrated that raising your hand and standing up for small opportunities can be the changing and driving force of where you end up.”

There was also discussion of imposter syndrome, which a lot of women struggle with, Cok says. Quinn mentioned she never envisioned herself as the number one in a company, but always saw herself as second in line. When her partner at Lafayette 148 passed away, her hesitation and overthinking originally didn’t let her see herself as the leader.

“Seeing how Deidre made the transformation, I now know that I can be number one because women before me have done it,” Cok says.

The session also featured discussions closely tied to entrepreneurship, including:

Embracing uncertainty

Sapna Harichand (BSBA ’00), an independent consultant and former Honors Cohort member, continued the conversation as an entrepreneur on how to embrace uncertainty in a career journey by being open and flexible to new opportunities and not being afraid to work for different companies or change careers altogether.

Tough changes as women

Participating in a panel discussion on navigating the tough changes as women, Malia Funk (BSBA ’17), entrepreneur and investor at Willistown Capital, Meghna Mathur (BSBA ’01), executive director of production and activation at Condé Nast and Mariah Scott (BSBA '15, MAcc '16), financial services senior manager at Accenture, discussed ways in which being a woman at the business table can be different and more challenging to navigate. They related stories of how being pregnant and raising children can all have an effect on a woman’s career.

“What stood out is how vulnerable all these women were with us in discussing their careers as women and the challenges they faced and how you never know who your allies are,” Cok says. “One of the speakers discussed needing to pump and how unsympathetic her female boss was about the situation. An older man in the company went to bat for her as his daughter had recently gone through the same thing.”

Finance at the New York Stock Exchange

The New York Stock Exchange served as the location for a panel discussion on women in finance, and it featured a tour of the trading floor and the ringing of the bell at the close of trading.

Speakers who took part in the panel discussion on wealth management, cloud transformation business, and private equity were: 

  • Farrah Lkhani, head of worldwide sales planning and strategy for Amazon Web Services
  • Ann Caglioti, investment banking vice president for Deutsche Bank
  • Alvina H. Lo, chief wealth strategist and executive vice president at Wilmington Trust Emerald Family Office & Advisory Team
  • Sheffali Welch, chief operating officer at The Clearing House 
  • Lanchi Venator, chief financial and strategy officer of KFC Yum QSR brands. 

Susan Skerritt, independent director of The Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc., served as the session’s moderator. 

“Having a chance to meet the financial panelists and hear about their journeys ― what they have done, all of their experiences, what they gave up to make it to the top ― made the idea of becoming a top executive seem more attainable,” Haines says.

“Alvina Lo’s advice to stop trying to blend in in a room, particularly a room full of men, that we are different and memorable and need to own it and that we can’t feel any less because we are not what they expected, hit home. I realized my journey is not finished and in order to have confidence in myself, I have to trust in myself, know who I am and know what my skills and weaknesses are.”

As finance majors, both Cok and Haines agreed that visiting the New York Stock Exchange and talking with women in finance was the highlight of the trip.

“It was so inspiring to be on the New York Stock Exchange floor, but I noticed everyone was a white male,” Cok says. “When 20 women walked in, they all noticed our presence. If we keep doing things like this, the floor make-up is going to change.”

For Haines, going to the financial and business district was inspirational. 

“Being in the high-rise buildings and looking over the city was moving,” she says. “It was here that I could feel that ‘something’s in the air’ in NYC that pulls people in. Being on the floor of the stock exchange is surreal. Seeing all the screens and people on their iPads buying and selling…It took my breath away. I want to be the one to ring the closing bell someday.”

Unexpected Journeys at Hudson Yards

Technology took center stage on day two at Meta headquarters. Luba Goldring[AJ2] (BSBA ’08), senior partner lead at Google, shared her unexpected career path from assistant global brand manager of Olay Skincare[AJ3] to senior brand director at Procter & Gamble, to assistant vice president at L’Oreal to her current position at Google. She also relayed her mother’s unexpected career change, going from being a vice president in banking in Ukraine to immigrating to Cincinnati and having to start her career over by cleaning hotel rooms.

“Luba’s openness led to a discussion on gratitude and what it’s like to be a woman in business. It made me appreciate Paula and Sapna for providing this incredible opportunity and my mother for being there and providing everything for me growing up,” Cok says. “I know I have people in my corner who will tell me I can do it, who will be mentors for me.”

For both Cok and Haines, the discussion was a lightbulb moment. They reflected on what a finance panelist commented on ― your career is a marathon, not a sprint and that you need to keep running through the finish line to continue on. They both realized you can have it all, but sometimes you might have to take a side step or a step back to attain your goals. 

Making it to the Top at Hudson Yards

Joanne Crevoiserat, CEO of Tapestry, Inc., discussed her time as leader of the company, which specializes in iconic accessories and lifestyle brands. She also drew from her experiences as executive vice president and chief operating officer at Abercrombie & Fitch and previous roles at Kohl’s, Inc., Walmart and May Department Stores[AJ4].

“Joanne discussed how connections and teamwork are important in your career,” Cok says. “Men are used to playing team sports, but women don’t really have the team mentality. Success is a team sport and women need to start picking other women up.”

Liz Powell, senior director of omni operations and fulfillment at Tapestry, and Jackee de Lagarde, vice president of global licensing for Kate Spade New York, both served as moderators for the session.

“All of the women were really skilled at managing a team and knowing what motivates their team members and how to leverage their skills,” Cok says. “Building confidence in your team members ― like Deidre’s partner did for her ― will help me figure out what makes my future employees tick.”

Tapestry also served as the location for other sessions, including: 

Unthinkable Comedy

Sarah Sommers, co-founder and chief creative officer of Unthinkable Comedy, led the cohort in a spontaneous improv comedy session. Cok says the fun exercise helped her learn how to become an active listener and truly hear what others are saying.

“As women, we have to listen more closely to what people are saying so that we can either agree or agree to disagree and offer other opinions by saying ‘How about we think about it this way as well,’” says Cok.

A Conversation with the Women of Tapestry

Denise Kulikowsky, chief people officer at Tapestry, and Rondette Amoy Smith, global director of equity, inclusion and diversity at the company, closed out the summit with a discussion about  how to effectively implement work culture, diversity, equity and inclusion and employee engagement. 

The discussion was moderated by David L. Casey, chief inclusion and social impact officer at Tapestry.

When they arrived back at Ohio State three days later, Cok and Haines felt empowered by the women who graciously shared their stories and who invited them to join their networks.

“As I enter the next chapter of my life, I have realized there is so much uncertainty,” Haines says. “From work-life balance to finding one's passion to being a woman in the workplace, I gained incredible insight hearing about their approach to life and what they have learned along the way.”

“When you see someone like you who, as a woman, is successful, you realize that if they can do it, you can do it too,” Cok says.