Women’s Impact on Business World Celebrated at Holy Cross Conference

The 17th annual Women in Business event encouraged alumnae, faculty, staff and students to share experiences and learn from each other.

Reflect on the past, work hard in the present and invest in the future. These were common themes during the College of the Holy Cross’ 17th annual Women in Business conference offered by the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society, a daylong November event that celebrates, honors and inspires the success of alumnae and students in business. 

In her opening remarks, Elizabeth O’Connell-Inman ’79, a senior lecturer in the Spanish department and director of the directed independent Spanish program, reminded the Hogan Ballroom at-capacity audience to “always remember who came before us and who are coming after us on the path we’ve cleared.”

The message stuck.

During the keynote discussion, Erin Robert ’06, managing director of impact finance with JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Nancy E. Andrews, associate professor of classics, reflected on their time on The Hill, how it shaped their careers and how they continue to encourage women as  colleagues and mentees.

“It’s incumbent on us that when we get to the tables, that we recognize that we’re there and what we can do to continue to open the doors and pull the women in behind us,” Robert said.

Robert shared that she uses her Jesuit liberal arts education to help implement and manage initiatives that incorporate the company’s goals of advancing racial equality, unraveling systemic racism in the financial markets, and combating climate change in emerging markets and putting them into action.

What does this look like on the ground? It means providing a $10 million loan to a nonprofit that wouldn’t otherwise be eligible and supporting capital for people who want to own a home, she said.   

“It’s increasing access to affordable housing, capital for Black and brown entrepreneurs, creating future jobs and providing financial support for all of us through debt and equity investments and by working with counterparts that share our goals,” she said.

Throughout their hour-long discussion, Robert and Andrews noted the influence women have had on the College in the 50 years since the beginning of coeducation and the benefits reaped by all who count themselves as part of the Holy Cross community.

Robert credits the College with preparing her for a career in finance, noting it instilled in her the importance of remaining curious, thinking critically, actively learning and effectively communicating with her target audience. She credits the College’s Center for Career Development with opening her eyes to the opportunity of working on Wall Street, and her college mentors — including Andrews — with sharing their experiences as women working in male-dominated professions, preparing her to enter a field in which women were not often on the trading floor or in the boardroom.

“I want to underscore that when I was applying for roles in finance there was still the question of ‘Do you want to be a woman in finance?” she said.

Robert did and she wanted to use her career in a way to tackle some of systemic discrimination and iniquities that existed, and still exist, in the finance world.  

“It takes decades and generations to work to make the necessary changes. While more work is needed, I’m pleased to use my career in a way to help tackle some of these issues in a small way,” she said. 

She echoed O’Connell-Inman’s comment: “The best way to mentor women is to simply let them see it can be done.” 

This means creating a pipeline to make sure women entering the profession understand the process and providing insight to someone who will be in the same position in five years’ time, Robert said.

And reiterating that women never need to apologize for where and who they are and the questions they ask. “Know your worth. Be yourself. Be proud of who you are,” she said.