Jones School’s 13th Annual Women in Leadership Conference boasts record-breaking attendance

Student members of the Jones School’s chapter of MBA Women International held the 13th Annual Women in Leadership Conference at McNair Hall on Friday, Feb. 2, with record-breaking attendance.

This year’s theme, “The Road Less Traveled: Exceptional Women Paving the Way,” featured inspirational stars in the business world as participants and touched a chord among attendees.

Conference co-chairs Anca Loghin ’13 and Haniya Mian ’13 chose women leaders from diverse backgrounds who have succeeded following challenging, unconventional paths that help redefine what it means to be successful in the modern business world.

Both the opening and closing keynote speakers shared their divergent personal career paths, bookending a schedule that included roundtable discussions featuring Rice alums, successful entrepreneurs and C-suite leaders from several Fortune 500 companies.

MBAWI Conferance

Opening Keynote: Linda Geffin, Chief, Harris County Attorney, Special Prosecution Unit

Geffin’s mesmerizing keynote kicked off the event. The chief prosecutor spoke in-depth about Houston’s unfortunate role as a hub for human trafficking and her own dedication and calling to fight against it. Geffin, who survived being physically beaten during her efforts to stop trafficking in the city, asked audience members to consider “What is keeping you in bondage?” and urged the attendees to be courageous in following their own paths.

Women in the C-Suite Level

A panel discussion featuring C-suite leaders – including Former Freddie Mac Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Subha Barry ’85, Baylor College of Medicine Senior Vice Present and CFO Kim Cotner David ’04, Sysco Corporation Senior Vice President and CIO Twila Day, and GE Oil & Gas Services President and CEO Anne McEntee – followed the morning keynote.

Several of the leaders agreed that, as a female in executive power, having “a seat at the table,” was of utmost value, as their minority presence in the halls of leadership provides a voice, perspective, and source of innovative ideas often overlooked otherwise.

Break-out Sessions

Following the C-suite roundtable were breakout sessions showcasing successful women leaders pursuing international careers, businesses of their own and unconventional paths as well as a session on women and negotiation. Many of the leaders discussed the importance of actively pursuing mentors along the way, urging that women not “wait for someone to adopt you.”

Closing Keynote: Dr. Jennifer Arnold, Medical Director of the Simulation Center at Texas Children’s Hospital and star of The Learning Channel’s The Little Couple

Closing keynote speaker Dr. Arnold gave an inspirational talk titled, “Think Big!” She chronicled her unlikely journey as a woman with a disability into the medical field as not only a doctor but also as a renowned medical director of a center in a prestigious hospital in the largest medical center in the world. Like nearly all of the speakers, Dr. Arnold interspersed the story of her career success with her very personal journey overcoming obstacles. She urged audience members to “take risks” and “never listen to the no’s.”

Organizers of the event held a silent auction, raising over $5700 in scholarship funds for women pursuing their MBAs.

Says attendee Amy Anders, who won the iPad given away at the event, “With my transition from a high school administrator to entrepreneurship, this conference inspired me, gave me new insights and helped me grow as a leader.”

— M. Yvonne Taylor