SWIB Conference Continues to Reframe the Conversation on Women in Business

Lilian Tan, MBA Class of 2014

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As she spoke about her experience working with female survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Francine LeFrak gently pulled up her sleeve to show off the glint of a beaded, gold-colored bracelet under the bright lights of the Kimmel Center stage. The bracelet was a piece of handmade jewelry from SAME SKY, an organization that empowers female artisans in Sub-Saharan Africa to become self-employed and self-sufficient.

“When you have the power of a group, you get connections that give you the confidence to go further,” LeFrak said about the organization’s work. “I believe in the philosophy, dream it, do it.”

LeFrak, founder and CEO of the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Foundation, and founder of the SAME SKY initiative, helped kick off the 22nd Annual Stern Women in Business Conference on February 7. LeFrak sat on the stage next to Jo Ann Corkran, a Managing Partner at angel organization Golden Seeds. The two panelists began the morning, alongside moderator Luke Williams, with a lively discussion on risk-taking, entrepreneurship education, and the power of diversity.

This year’s SWIB Conference revolved around the theme “Reframing the Conversation,” and hosted more than 260 attendees, 60 of which were prospective students. Attendees joined in on the discussion on panels such as Evolving Priorities, Mentorship, and Gender Equity, to name a few.

“The overall theme of the conference was based on some prevalent stories we saw in 2013,” Malvika Khanna, MBA1 and one of the Assistant Vice Presidents of Conference, said.

Khanna referred to the inspiration brought on by several high profile discourses about women’s roles in the business world, from the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, to Marissa Meyer taking the helm at Yahoo, to the release about findings on gender equity at Harvard Business School.

The 2014 SWIB Conference frames a robust year for SWIB. In the fall, SWIB hosted a discussion on a New York Times article on the gender equity study at HBS. It also began research to produce a white paper focused on the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles, and hosted several members of the UN committee at an interactive workshop in November.

“We strive as an organization to think critically both about our community today as well as how we will carry forward our shared Stern values to our future roles whether in the workplace or in the community,” Sara Laks, Co-President of SWIB, said.

Looking ahead, SWIB is continuing to research the big questions raised this fall through the Stern Gender Project. The SGP will both gather data on the state of gender equity at Stern and continue the conversation through structured Lean In Circles. The Lean In Circles will serve as a pilot program with support from Sheryl Sandberg’s Foundation, LeanIn.org, to test interest in our community for candid conversations about diversity and gender.

“I’m excited to see where the conversation goes this year,” Khanna said, “And how that will influence and shape the theme of our conference in 2015.”

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