The GW Women in Business organization heard from a former first lady of Peru and an international business expert at its first conference in Funger Hall Saturday.
The conference – which centered on ways to turn classroom lessons into real-world experiences – included specialized panels on entrepreneurship, international business, business and government relations and corporate social responsibility, two keynote addresses, and networking opportunities for the 85 GW students in attendance. Two students from American also attended the event. Elaine Karp-Toledo, former first lady of Peru, began by discussing her experiences as an anthropologist working with indigenous communities near Machu Picchu and helping her husband campaign for two years in Peru.
“Life is a constant endeavor,” she said. “I had to apply what was taught and a lot of what was not taught.” Toledo linked her experiences with what she had learned about business, social responsibility and governance .
The panel on international business focused on ways to effectively succeed in the business world. The panelists said a strong leader should keep in mind communication skills, problem solving, adaptability, respect, and humility and gender dynamics.
While discussing a woman’s role in the workplace, Marlene Thorne, a partner at the International Monetary Fund, highlighted that communication is essential when working with people from different cultures.
“Communication is key,” Thorne said. “You cannot assume anything. Clarify your point and ask ‘Do we agree on X?’ This is why we have written agreements today.”
The panel provided insight on excelling in the public sector by incorporating a balance between people skills and having a firm and straightforward approach to business.
Keynote speaker Chad Holliday, former chairman and CEO of DuPont, ended the conference by emphasizing the importance of ethics in the workplace and the necessity of “taking on projects where you can think.”
For senior Dupe Ajayi, a student in the School of Public Health and Health Services, the conference was an opportunity to expand her horizons for the future.
“It was a great conference that provided leverage and networking opportunities,” she said.
Courtney Bernstein, co-chair of GWWIB, said the executive board has been working on making the conference a reality since November and was pleased with the final product.
“We had a great outcome and I am extremely impressed with the quality of questions asked,” said Tricia Reville, co-chair of GWWIB. “It showed that they care about the topics discussed.”