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2012 Stern Women in Business (SWIB) Conference: Leading with Purpose, Making an Impact

SWIB conference, Ariana Huffington

People will tell you no, but remember that means not now or not yet.

This article, written by MBA student Amanda Davis, originally appeared in The Stern Opportunity. Visit sternopportunity.com for more coverage.

As Arianna Huffington took the stage to address the more than 300 women in attendance at Stern Women in Business 20th Anniversary Conference on the afternoon of February 3, the excitement among the crowd was tangible. She did not disappoint, candidly sharing with the audience her personal recipes for successful leadership while frequently drawing laughter from the sell-out crowd.

She discussed the importance of making personal connections with employees, talked about how to better manage priorities, and shared some crucial advice for women in their late twenties: have a good time. The editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post also opened up about the negative health consequences she suffered as a result of overworking herself and urged attendees to nurture themselves before they reach their "breaking point." She talked extensively about her mission to create a culture within her company in which employees put their health first.

Arianna's keynote address fit perfectly with this year's conference theme, "Leading with Purpose, Making an Impact." While Arianna Huffington's name was the biggest of the event, participants had the opportunity to hear a wealth of prominent businesswomen across a variety industries discuss what it takes to be an effective leader.

Pattie Sellers, editor-at-large of Fortune, kicked off the day by moderating a conversation between two Stern Alumnae: Susan Jurevics, SVP of Global Retail CRM and Brand Marketing at Sony, and Christine Schneider, a former member of the Relationship Management team at QS Investors LLC. Pattie told attendees to "think of your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder," and encouraged the audience to take advantage of the increasingly matrixed workplace and seek out new professional opportunities. The three women were in agreement as to how to define success in an increasingly dynamic workplace, which is simply love what you do.

The conversation about leadership continued during the three morning panels that followed: View from the C-Suite, Opportunities and Challenges in Entrepreneurship, and Leading for Change: Transformational Leadership. Great mentorship and diverse professional experiences were credited by the panelists of View from the C-suite as helping them reach and then cope with the complexities of C-level corporate positions.

During the entrepreneurship panel, Claudia Chan, founder of Claudia Chan Media, told the women present that there is no such thing as failure, "only obstacles and learning." Tereza Nemessanyi, Co-Founder and CEO of Honestly Now, echoed Claudia's sentiments, telling the audience that "people will tell you no, but remember that means not now or not yet." The Transformational Leadership panel explored how leaders can effectively create change within an organization. All four panelists underscored the importance of having a strong vision, aligning employees behind that vision, and then supporting and cheerleading employees until change has been achieved.

The annual Distinguished Alumna Award was presented to Phyllis Putter Barasch, a 1981 graduate of Stern and current NYU Trustee. When accepting the award, Barasch highlighted the value of speaking up, especially as a woman, stating, ""if you never ask, you will never be able to get to yes.""

The final three afternoon panels of the conference were entitled View from the Boardroom, Leading for Social Change, and Under Pressure: Leadership in times of Change & Crisis. Members of the first panel advised the audience that brevity is key to success in the boardroom; to be effective women should be able to ""get to the point in one sentence.""

During the Leading for Social Change panel, attendees were able to hear from women representing a range of socially-minded organizations about how different career paths and skillsets can ultimately achieve the same purpose: doing good by doing well. In discussing leadership during times of crisis, Anita Sands, Group Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of UBS Wealth Management Americas, told women to remember the "three As:" 1) be Authentic 2) Ask for what you need to be successful and 3) Advertise your success.

The day concluded with a cocktail event featuring remarks from Sheila Wellington, a Clinical Professor of Management and Organizations at Stern and former president of Catalyst, the preeminent non-profit organization on women's private sector leadership. Wellington, a leading advocate of women in business, spoke of the importance of the SWIB network, both today and in the future. "It's not what you get from a network," she stated emphatically, "it's what you give back."