Students Learn, Network with Alumnae at 11th Annual Women in Business Conference

Clare O’Leary ‘19 offers reflection on “Women on Wall Street” theme, keynote speaker

Criticisms of a liberal arts education run rampant. However, keynote speaker Diane Vazza ’79 and students who attended this year’s 11th annual Women in Business Conference at Holy Cross have certainly proven this sentiment wrong. These empowered, educated, and inspiring women have proven that it is possible to succeed in any field in business, even without a traditional business undergraduate education.

Due to the disproportionate amount of men working on Wall Street and the recent push for more women to enter the finance field, the student planning committee in conjunction with the Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies decided that “Women on Wall Street: Changing the Ratio” would be an appropriate theme for this year’s conference.

The day began with a warm welcome from Margaret Freije, the first female vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. In her address, Dean Freije defended Jesuit, liberal arts education and talked about the College’s urging of students to pursue careers where they can do well and good, succeeding both professionally and personally.

Kim Miles, of Miles in Heels Productions, provided an enthusiastic icebreaker activity to spur conversation among tables and encourage the students and alumnae who sat together to discover their commonalities, despite different backgrounds, graduation years, and professional interests. Miles also provided networking tips with the audience and taught ways to “get past hello” and form meaningful and lasting professional relationships.

The idea of doing well and doing good was carried throughout the day and was also mentioned by Vazza, who is the head of global fixed income research at Standard & Poor’s, during her keynote address to the audience of nearly 200 Holy Cross women. In true liberal arts fashion, Vazza studied classics (Latin and ancient Greek) and French at the College, planning on pursuing a career in international business, even though she did not know what that really meant or what she wanted to do specifically.

After graduation, when the opportunity arose to join a financial management training program that would utilize her multilingual knowledge and offer international business opportunities, Vazza jumped at the opportunity and has been in many roles in the finance world ever since. Vazza provided 10 “guideposts” to help students and alumnae alike navigate the male dominated world of Wall Street. Advice ranged from figuring out how to manage both a fruitful home life and a demanding work schedule, to knowing your worth and not being afraid to ask for appropriate compensation.

In light of this year’s theme, “Women on Wall Street,” a new panel was added to the agenda entitled “Women in Banking.” This panel featured three alumnae with different backgrounds in the financial industry who shared their stories and imparted knowledge on current students so they too can successfully transition from life on the Hill to life on Wall Street. Geared towards alumnae, another new panel was “All A-Board! Joining a Non-Profit or Corporate Board,” which featured three alumnae who have all been and currently are members of numerous boards. The women shared their experiences and advice on how to join and find boards that are the right fit.

The goal of the Holy Cross Women in Business Conference is to provide a place for Holy Cross women, past and present, to connect, network, and share their wisdom. This year’s conference was a great success and we look forward to welcoming many Crusaders back for next years conference scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017!

Written by Clare O’Leary ’19, economics major and anthropology minor, who served as a member of the student planning committee that helped organize the 2016 Women in Business Conference. Other members included: Caroline Keane '17, Marisa Carlson ‘17, Lauren Biolsi ’17, Rosangel Cruz Cabrera ’18, Casey Carty '18 (abroad), and Clare O’Leary ’19.