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Candid Conversations: Women Leaders Speak Openly with Claremont Students at the Women and Leadership Workshop

By Jessica Azerad ‘17

On Friday, February 19, 2016, the Claremont Colleges Women and Leadership Alliance held the sixth annual Women and Leadership Workshop. This event was designed to support students during their time of preparation for post-graduation opportunities and employment, allowing them to connect with each other and successful women leaders representing various fields of endeavor. This half-day event was developed in direct response to an expressed need by current students for support and information from experienced female leaders as they leave college and move into professions.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dorothy Attwood, the Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy for The Walt Disney Company. In her speech titled “Trial, ErrorWLA Workshop, and a Bit of Luck: How I Landed My Dream Job,” she gave a heartfelt story of her career’s many twists and turns. She started as a lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission, and then became the Chief Privacy Officer for AT&T, and finally she got her dream job at Disney. Attwood’s story left the audience with a clear message that no matter what stage of professional life you are at, we should all be striving to both find and pursue our passions.

To continually improve the programming and meet the demands of the students at the Claremont Consortium, this workshop has evolved each year. This year the event featured new breakout sessions. These sessions were designed to give participants an opportunity to WLA Workshoplearn practical skills in one of three topics: Translating STEM, Women as Leaders, and Financial Literacy. The Translating STEM session taught participants how to communicate complex ideas with a non-scientific audience. The Women as Leaders session focused on identifying challenges of leadership particular to women and how to create from those a pathway to success. The Financial Literacy session taught the undergraduate students how to begin building a solid financial foundation for themselves upon graduation and entering the workforce. Each of these sessions were met with great success and approval, and will likely remain in the workshop curriculum in the future.

The main draw of the workshop every year is the final component, the round table discussions. These discussions are an opportunity for the participants to sit down at a table with two to three female professionals in a certain field and talk to them about any topic of their choosing. This portion of the event has always been the most popular because of the strong relationships and candid conversations that arise. After many hours of learning new and interesting topics and hearing heartfelt and passionate speeches, the round table discussions allow the students and the women leaders to sit down and talk honestly about whatWLA Workshop their thinking, how their feeling, and what they want to do going forward. The roundtable discussions are a safe and open space for the students to ask the female professionals questions that they wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable asking during a formal interview or networking reception. Common topics of conversation include how to assert yourself in a male-dominated field, how to balance work and family life, and what to do if you want to change your field entirely.

The workshop ends with asking students about the main take away from the event. The responses to this question each year was surprisingly similar, students say that they will stop stressing about landing the typical dream job and start focusing on pursuing a career that is unique to their passions. This year’s workshop was a success for the Women and Leadership Alliance and we look forward to planning similar events for the Claremont community for many years to come.