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Anderson School of Management hosts women’s summit on empowerment in workplace

The UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Velocity Women’s Leadership Summit invited female executives from companies such as SoulCycle and Anheuser-Busch InBev to discuss female empowerment in business. (Courtesy of UCLA Anderson)

By Camille Ray

April 9, 2022 5:37 p.m.

The UCLA Anderson School of Management held its 10th annual Velocity Women’s Leadership Summit at the Skirball Cultural Center on March 11.

The summit convened women who were advanced in their careers to discuss female empowerment and equality in the workplace with the theme “Rise” and was the first to be held in person since 2020 because of COVID-19 interruptions the previous year. School of Management students attending for the first time said they appreciated how helpful the discussions were and the summit’s support of women entering the workforce.

Heather Caruso, assistant dean of equity, diversity and inclusion at the School of Management, said the event promotes an inclusive environment, which is a key step to achieving equality.

The various panels explored different aspects of gender equality in business and speakers’ individual experiences.

The conference featured fireside chats with Ezgi Barcenas, chief sustainability officer at Anheuser-Busch InBev, a multinational drink and brewery company; Julie Rice, co-founder of Peoplehood and SoulCycle, a platform to enhance relationship dynamics and a fitness company, respectively; and Shivani Siroya, chief executive officer of Tala, a digital financial service.

The event also offered four specialized workshop sessions and three panel discussions.

A common theme discussed throughout the day was empowering women to approach uncomfortable conversations with coworkers with confidence, Siroya said. In her fireside chat with Jennifer Walske, adjunct assistant professor of management and organizations at the School of Management, Siroya shared her personal experience navigating a male-dominated workplace and discussed how staff can encourage employees to communicate with one another.

“Having the uncomfortable conversation of, ‘How did you navigate it when actually, in some ways the past was harder to navigate?’ – it actually allows us to be more in control now that there are more doors open,” Siroya said.

One of the four breakout workshops discussed the fundamentals of effective communication with the guidance of Dana Taylor Old, an alumnus of the School of Management as well as a communication and business coach at Studio DTO. The workshop, titled “Presence: Communicating with Clarity and Confidence,” introduced advice to improve success in work interactions, covering topics such as tone, listening and nonverbal signals.

Old also said it is important to assert oneself while also remaining authentic when in workplace conversation.

“(The conference) offers a safe space to practice and to speak up,” Old said. “Sometimes we don’t in the workplace, and so this is the time where we can practice and flex some muscles and also hear what we’re saying out loud, what’s really coming up for us and (realize) ‘Oh. I’m not alone.'”

Marissa Buffo, a graduate student at the School of Management, said the school ensures female students are given ample opportunities to propel their careers to success.

“Being at Anderson as a woman, it’s clear they invest in women’s leadership,” Buffo said. “There’s great opportunity for students to network with some alumni, executives that can relate to my experience.”

Margot Johnson, also a graduate student at the School of Management, said the summit was a space where women at various stages of their careers could converse with each other without the pressures of an interview in the real world.

“Being in an environment where a variety of graduate, undergraduate and business professionals can interact organically is particularly important for women because we all have shared experiences we can relate to and make connections over,” Johnson added.

Many participants shared their moments of resilience in the face of adversity. Keynote speaker Rice said leading her startup, SoulCycle, into its current success with co-founder Elizabeth Cutler was nothing short of a challenge.

“For two women that had never worked in the fitness business before to decide, ‘We’re not going to take the easy way. We’re going to actually deliver each time you come,’ which is really what we had to do,” Rice said at the summit. “I used to think of it as a little mini production every time you came, it was curtain up when you came and curtain down when you left.”

Despite the daunting workplace, pursuing her goals appeared more attainable ​​after listening to a variety of success stories from female entrepreneurs, Johnson said.

“Being a woman in the workforce comes with all sorts of challenges,” Johnson said. “Events like this have been extremely helpful when it comes to realizing the realities of our career paths and taking the steps we need to achieve them.”

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