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Fellowship without the Fellows: Does Sisterhood Exist in Corporate America?

Members of the C200 organization with the three Pepperdine scholarship recipients.

As the new managing editor of the Graziadio Business Review and an MBA candidate, I attended the Women’s Leadership Forum held at Pepperdine on March 26. The event featured members of The Committee of 200, an invitation-only membership organization of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. I was eager to hear the stories of these high-powered female executives and figure out why they had flown in from all over the world to share knowledge and award three $10,000 scholarships to Pepperdine MBA students, all on their own dime.

Among the impressive panelists were Larraine Segil, JD, MBA, an expert on strategic alliances; Pamela Coker, PhD, a corporate leader in the field of artificial intelligence, software, and integration services; and veteran television executive Judy Girard, who led the Food Network to prominence and guided HGTV through a rebranding process before retiring in 2007.

Here’s a few words of wisdom I jotted down during the day-long conference…

  1. Negotiating:  Many executives labor under an unrealistic view of their own company. Before you approach the negotiating table, you must first deeply and truly understand your company, what you have to offer, and your place in the market. In addition, you must understand not only what the other party wants, but why they want it. Finally, you must understand the other party’s culture on both a corporate and global level. Research them until you know them better than they know themselves.
  2. Ethics: In many cases, the person who talks the most about ethics is the least ethical.
  3. The Glass Ceiling: You may run into hubris, chauvinism, and inequality along the way, but remember, you cannot change someone else; you can only change your reaction to them. Be smart, not adversarial.
  4. Culture Match: The content of a job is less important than its culture. When you are interviewing with a new company, make sure that you consider what traits the organization values; how mistakes are handled; how people treat each other, and whether or not those values align with your own.
  5. Politicking: Company politics are unavoidable. Ignore them at your peril. By honing your “company antennae,” and learning who the major decision-makers are, how their decisions are getting made, and who is directly influencing them, you will be aware and prepared.
  6. Public speaking: No matter the level of success you achieve, nerves never really go away. Embrace them as a reminder that you are alive and that you thrive on a challenge. Treat the audience with love and the love will come back to you.
  7. Career Planning: Dream big and defy convention! If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’ve arrived.
  8. Mentors: Mentoring relationships can be instrumental in your career and invaluable when you are too close to something to make an objective decision.

And the main lesson I learned at the Women’s Leadership Forum is that, despite all the malevolence that you hear about and may have experienced among women, sisterhood does exist and can be a fortifying supplement to a woman’s work and personal life. It is the reason that all of these incredibly successful, busy women came together to share their wisdom and provide financial support to promising young businesswomen. The energy and inspiration I felt leaving that conference, and the careers and ideas that will  burgeon out of The Committee of 200’s outreach and mentoring are just a few examples of the amazing things that can happen when women work together and support each other.

– Audra Quinn

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Graziadio Business Review
Graziadio Business Review is an online journal that delivers relevant business information and analysis for business, government, and non-profit managers. From accounting and finance to ethics and work/life balance, the Graziadio Business Review extends current business debates in new directions that you can use to advance your business and professional career.
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