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Female execs share keys to success in a male-dominated field

Alumni , Event Recaps , Smart Woman Securities , Stories Student Organizations & Clubs | Apr 13, 2012 |

by Rebecca Horne (GSB ’13)

From left, panelists Jen Karpf, Christine Dreissen, Roberta Garland and Mary Jane McCartney.

For women, holding a position of authority in a career field full of men can present unique challenges. At this week’s Women in Leadership Summit, five female leaders in male-dominated areas such as finance, sports and energy spoke to Fordham students and alumni about how they achieved success in unlikely situations.

“The main thing I learned from hearing these powerful women speak was that females need to be assertive, aggressive and confident if they want to succeed in a male-dominated industry,” said Melanie Falk (GSB ’15). “Women need to learn how to take their emotions out of business.  At the same time, women must be able to brag about their accomplishments.”

Offering this advice were panelists whose titles alone demanded attention: Christine Driessen (GSB ’77), chief financial officer of ESPN; Mary Ann Bartels (GSB ’85, GSAS ’92), managing director at Merrill Lynch; Roberta Garland (TMC ’73), founder of her own actuarial business; Mary Jane McCartney (TMC ’69), senior vice president at ConEdison; and Jennifer Karpf, founder of the National Sports Marketing Network.

The panelists in sports, in particular, took care to emphasize that women need not shy away from their line of work. “I don’t think I would agree that it’s a challenge for a woman to get a job in sports and excel,” Karpf argued. “It shouldn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman if you go in there confidently and do what you say you’re going to do.”

Dreissen echoed her thoughts and suggested that gender differences can be spun positively. “It’s important to understand that, as a woman, you bring a perspective that a male doesn’t bring,” she said. “I never shied away from being feminine.”

In addition to sharing their specific successes and struggles, the panelists were generous with advice for undergraduates and entry-level professionals. “It’s important to have a mentor, but it’s also important — as you come into your career — to mentor someone else,” Bartels said.

The Women in Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by the Gabelli School of Business and Fordham’s notably active chapter of Smart Woman Securities, an organization for female students who are aiming for finance careers, was open to the general public for the first time this year. Two days of nearly continuous events — spanning topics from personal branding to careers in accounting — emphasized the importance of confidence mentorship, and responsibility.

“We were honored to host a truly outstanding lineup of guest speakers,” said Claire Smith (GSB ’12), chief development officer of Smart Woman Securities. “Their sense of confidence was contagious. I personally felt empowered by the different ideas that the women expressed during the presentations.”

For more information about Smart Woman Securities, visit http://sws.gabelliconnect.com or contact the group’s executive board at swsfordham@gmail.com.


Photographs by Angela Giovine (GSB ’04, GBA ’05).

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