UDREAM panelists share their thoughts on "Empowering the Next Generation of Business Women."

Empowered businesswomen

UDREAM panelists share thoughts on opportunities for women in workplace

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9:46 a.m., April 29, 2013--From setting priorities to asking intentional questions, a panel of successful business women representing industries from pharmacy and banking to accounting firms and aircraft manufacturing advised over 120 students how they can empower themselves to advance in business.

The event, “Empowering the Next Generation of Business Women,” was sponsored by the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics Career Services Center and UDREAM (yoU Develop Resources for Excellence in Academic Management) and was held recently in the Lerner Hall Atrium on the University of Delaware’s campus in Newark.

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For over an hour, students had the opportunity to ask businesswomen from Ernst & Young, Deloitte and Touche, JPMorgan Chase, Boeing and the American Pharmacists Association questions regarding how they climbed the career ladder and how they balanced both their professional and personal life commitments.

When asked about work-life balance, Alyson Filippone, audit senior manager at Ernst & Young and a devoted mother and businesswoman, talked about the importance she placed on being present in the home and being available at work.

“I wanted to work full time but I also wanted to spend quality time with my daughter,” said Filippone. “So I compromised with my employer and my schedule and worked hours during the day, came home in the evening to have dinner with my daughter and put her to bed, and then worked late at night from home.”

“It really is work to think about what you need and to set your priorities, but that’s OK,” added Joan Chinnery, senior engineer of airworthiness and certification for Boeing Company. “If you make your decisions clear and tell your employer your needs, they will be more willing to work with you. But you need to clarify what you want to do, where you want to go and set boundaries so you will be able to move on a path forward.”

A supportive spouse or partner can also help when it comes to making an unusual schedule work for you, said Karen Tracy, senior vice president of communication for the American Pharmacists Association.

Tracy, who was unexpectedly faced with a personal situation that meant she needed to be home more often than at work, also emphasized the importance of having no regrets, regardless of the work-life decisions you make.

“You don’t know what life will bring, from incidents with your children to death in the family to wanting to take educational courses,” said Tracy. “Life happens. I decided I needed to work part-time so I could spend time with my daughter after a brain injury left her in intensive care. But I also knew the importance of being transparent with my employer. I had a big book of business and that business needed to continue for my company, so I was respectful of their needs by being transparent and they were flexible with my personal scheduling needs.”

One student, curious about finding a way to determine options for upward movement in a company, asked how she could tell whether she would find opportunities to advance once she joined a company.

“Ask a lot of questions,” said Tracy. “It’s fair to ask where the company will be in five years, where your interviewer sees her or himself in the future, what the industry trends are.”

Considering the size of the firm is also important, said Donna Glass, managing partner at Deloitte and Touche.

“Some of you may like a small firm and will be willing to take a chance on a more entrepreneurial company, while some of you might find more comfort in a large firm,” said Glass. “Look at the tracks of those who have gone before you.  But regardless of where you end up, if you’re smart, willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard, ask questions and take responsibility for your actions, you’ll be successful.”

Added Chinnery, “Don’t be afraid to move around. What your parents experienced with long tenures at one company isn’t really the same for your generation. Keep in mind it's a new world and the reality of people moving jobs is there.”

And what about that glass ceiling, asked another student?

“We have many women before us to thank who laid a path for us to advance,” said Kate Mann, executive director of investment bank core processing at JPMorgan Chase. “The percentages of women and men in the workforce are changing and it comes down to your independent path, your chosen goals and your responses to situations.”

Changing perceptions of men and women are also altering the presence of the glass ceiling, said Glass.

“Men of your generation have been raised by working mothers and they see women more as equals so I see this changing for you,” she said.

Many of the panelists agreed.

“I have seen a lot of changes over the years and there are many equal opportunities at my practice,” said Filippone, who also noted big firms like hers understand the benefits of a diverse workforce and so the glass ceiling tends to be less present.

Tracy again suggested asking questions is key.

“Ask about the culture of the organization,” said Tracy. “Surround yourself with likeminded people who want to advance without using gender as an excuse.”

Added Chinnery, “Everyone has their own glass ceiling. Know your limits and what you’re comfortable with and you can be successful.”

Students also asked questions about conflict resolution and facing issues with supervisors and coworkers before joining the panelists for a networking reception at the end of the event.

Cindy Walkusky, who works in the Lerner College’s Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Services and helped coordinate the event, said students were impressed with the quality of the panelists. She also noted UDREAM Advisory Board members Darius Browne, Ella Fernandez, Karoline Guerrero, Lauren Hines, Tayo Lapite, Melinda Wang and Eric Womack helped spearhead the event.

Other groups who sponsored the event included: Society of Women Engineers, Nutrition and Dietetics Club, Alpha Kappa Psi, Association for Information Systems, Accounting Students Association, Delta Sigma Pi, Delta Gamma Sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority, Minority Business Student Association, National Association of Black Accountants and the Department of Accounting and MIS.

Article by Kathryn Meier

Photos by Duane Perry

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