Female Leader Panel

Alexandra Parrish walked out of a recent Leadership and Character class with fresh insight from three successful leaders with deep ties to Fisher and Ohio State: Paula Bennett, Rachel Friedman and Elizabeth Mily.

The alumnae were part of a Women in Leadership panel invited to speak at the class. The event provided an opportunity for Bennett (BSBA ’71), Friedman (EMBA ’02) and Mily (BA ’90) to share their personal and professional experiences in hopes of preparing Fisher students to lead.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities for females to see other successful females, and that’s something this class has given us,” said Parrish, a fourth-year marketing student. “It’s cool to see their roots at Ohio State and the different paths and how they became successful.”

A focus of the event was how character impacts leadership.

“My leadership strength has come from creating clarity and alignment around our vision, strategy and goals. This shared commitment motivates, inspires and guides the team, at the same time building trust and setting the expectation of leading with character,” said Bennett, the former president and CEO of J.Jill, a women’s apparel company.

Managing Director and Chairman of Global Lifesciences at Barclays Elizabeth Mily said leadership and character are especially important and often on display during crises.

“At a very foundational level, character is absolutely critical because it is what makes you become someone others can trust and someone others aspire to be,” she said. “It’s helpful for me during trying moments to be very self-aware and to think about how I am going to get through these challenging times and find where my blind spots might be.”

Student Samantha Oberdier was struck by the fact that her decision to major in neuroscience would not pigeonhole her in terms of leadership.

“I was very impressed to see three different female panelists, which was a very interesting experience and the different range they had between their fields,” she said. “That was inspiring for me. Rachel Friedman was originally a fine arts major, so I thought there’s a wide berth for me to keep having these experiences.”

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Elizabeth Mily (left), Rachel Friedman and Paula Bennett participate in a Women in Leadership panel discussion.

Friedman is founder and CEO of TENFOLD, LLC, a strategy and creative firm that was recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. She, along with Bennett and Mily, spoke about the importance of leaders creating and fostering positive work cultures, reinforcing the adage: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends,” she said. “At TENFOLD or any other company, it’s pretty darn close to picking your family. So you need to pick right. And where there’s good culture, there are good leaders.”

Bennett reflected on the years she was a student at Ohio State. During that time, Martin Luther King Jr. was very active as a leader in the civil rights movement.

“One of the things he said that always stuck with me is ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase,’” she said. “None of us have all the answers, but what that leads me to think is stay curious. Life is about constant learning, constant growth and constant listening to yourself about what’s meaningful to you.”

The panel discussion represented the latest in a series of programs and ongoing initiatives at Fisher designed to promote women in leadership and business. The college is a sponsor of the Forté Foundation and the Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD) organizations.

Student organizations Fisher Graduate Women in Business and the Undergraduate Business Women’s Association provide opportunities for students to grow personally and professionally through leadership activities, education, networking support and community service.