Reflections from the 2010 Dynamic Women in Business Conference

Last Saturday I attended the 19th annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference at HBS, which is hosted by the Women's Student Association on campus. I have to admit that last year, although I went to the keynote speech by the founder of Bare Escentuals, I was so bored at the first panel that I promptly left. This year, I had a bit of a different strategy (only go to what sounded truly interesting and spend time doing job search/school stuff in a separate space during the less interesting bits) and found that overall I had a much more enjoyable time.

Perhaps what surprised me most was how much I enjoyed the morning keynote speech by Ann Simonds, the President of the Baking Division at General Mills. Originally, the CEO of Product (RED) was supposed to speak, but she fell ill and had to cancel at the last minute. I was really disappointed and expected a completely boring speech about marketing Betty Crocker, but instead I found myself really engaged and inspired.

Ann's speech was mostly centered around the role that women play in business today and how we can work together to shape expectations for the future. Some interesting statistics that she pointed out:

  • 45% of people report not liking their job. Those that do like their job are 12% more productive (so it pays to do what you are passionate about).
  • Women still earn just 77 cents to every dollar that men earn, but companies that have women in their senior ranks deliver 34% more shareholder value than companies that are run solely by men (so why are they buying us so cheaply?).

What I appreciated most from Ann's speech was how she ended it. She said that she actually gets annoyed when people approach her and ask her how she "has it all," because she says that having it all is a flawed idea -- she certainly doesn't have it all and she doesn't believe that's what the goal should be. Rather she said the goal is to give and be a productive, useful person, whether that be through giving to yourself, family, co-workers or friends.

The afternoon keynote, Linda Easley, the CEO of Limited Stores, was less interesting (she talked entirely about the private ownership of the brand, which split off from Limited Brands a couple of years ago and wasn't nearly as inspirational), so I'm going to skip over her speech and go straight to the third panel session where I attended the Technology, Entertainment and Media panel.

The panel featured a really diverse group of women: Anna Collins, the General Manager of Entertainment and Devices Support, Customer Service and Support at Microsoft moderated, and the panelists included HBS alums Meredith Barnett (Editorial Director, The Inside Source), Patricia Burh (VP of Strategy, Programming and New Product Development, Time Warner Cable), Sara Clarke (SVP Corporate Strategy, Analysis and Communication, Showtime), Jessica Schell (SVP Digital Strategy and Business Development) and a lone non-HBS alum Tai Beauchamp (CEO, The Blueprint Group).

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

  • Jessica Schell commenting on how much value technology has destroyed with DVRs, piracy issues, the delivering of content without cable subscriptions and other disruptive technologies. Anna Collins then trying to defend technology (since she works at Microsoft).
  • Tai Beauchamp talking about finding a comfort level tooting your own horn, which women find more difficult than men (and which leads to women less often getting the promotions and raises that they desire/deserve).
  • Sara Clarke reiterating that it's okay not to know everything and to admit that. She was once assigned a project regarding HD technologies and had no idea what it was all about, but by networking and utilizing internal resources, she quickly became the expert and "go-to" woman in the company.

Overall, I thought the conference was well done -- and I enjoyed the lululemon goody bag (we got Unilever toiletries, 150 calorie warm delights desserts, a candle, a clutch from The Limited and more!). One day I hope that I'm successful enough to be invited back to campus as a speaker for this event!

Next up is this Thursday's Entertainment & Media Conference for which I spearheaded the marketing (along with my awesome partner, Minal!). Will blog about that one soon!

5 Responses to "Reflections from the 2010 Dynamic Women in Business Conference"

MK responded on February 11, 2010 at 2:13 AM #

Hi Gabrielle,
I came across your blog while looking for blogs maintained by current HBS students. I've been admitted to HBS in Round 1 and will be joining the Class of 2012 in the fall, and am excited to start my b-school journey!

I'm a non-traditional candidate, so I was wondering whether you had any recommendations for finance/accounting/statistics/Excel books/resources for me (apart from the HBS tutorials) to bring me up to speed and maybe even cover some material covered during the first semester at HBS. I expect to struggle with FIN in particular, so it'd be great to be a little ahead of the curve. Any suggestions you have would be really helpful! Thanks :)

Gabrielle responded on February 12, 2010 at 5:47 PM #

Hi MK,

Congratulations on your HBS admission! Were you at Admitted Students Weekend this month? Enjoy your time here, it's a wonderful place!

It's very hard for me to recommend useful guides as the ones I used were actually not that helpful (I took classes at a community college in finance, accounting and statistics, and although I thought I learned a lot, it didn't really prepare me for HBS classes). Many of my peers took courses at BYU Online and said they were pretty good. To be totally honest though, given the way HBS classes are taught, I think it's a little hard to get "ahead of the curve" as you say unless you really worked with the concepts and tools that they teach in the cases. This is very hard to explain via a blog comment, so let me know if you'd prefer to chat at greater length via phone or e-mail instead!


MK responded on February 13, 2010 at 9:51 AM #

Hi Gabby,

Thanks so much for your comments. I'm very excited about HBS! I couldn't make it to the ASW for Round 1 admits, but hope to be on campus late April for the ASW held for Round 2 admits.

I've heard good things about BYU online classes and am planning on taking those. I'd love to chat with you more via email (I'm outside the US right now so the 10 hour time difference may make phone calls a bit tricky!). Please send me your email address at, and I'd love to follow up on any suggestions you have regarding HBS coursework. Thanks!


Anonymous responded on February 17, 2010 at 12:37 PM #

Hi Gabby-

I'm in a tough position. I got into both HBS and Stanford. What do you think the main differences are between the schools? How should I decide where to go? By the way, I used to work for Walt Disney in their Corporate Strategy good.


Gabrielle responded on February 18, 2010 at 7:36 AM #

Hi Cooper,

Thanks for your comment!

Unfortunately, I did not apply to Stanford and never visited the campus, so I know nothing about the program in comparison to HBS. If you'd like to post your e-mail address, I can contact you directly and we can arrange a time to chat one-on-one about HBS, but I warn you that I'm definitely biased!


P-S: I love that you used to work for Disney! My friend Laura actually JUST got hired into their Corporate Strategy group!