The Women in Business Conference took place virtually on November 7, 2020.
Like most events this year, Holy Cross’ 15th Annual Women in Business Conference on November 7 was adapted into a virtual format due to the ongoing pandemic. What might have been a disappointing change at first ultimately enabled hundreds of women from locations across the country and the world to come together to discuss entrepreneurship and finding success as women in business. This year’s event, hosted by the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society, broke record registration by doubling the in-person registration numbers from past years, with 423 participants, including 300 alumnae.
“We were thrilled with the number of registrants from around the world,” said Cassie Gevry, associate director of the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, & Society. “The strong interest from alumnae is a testament to the strength of the Holy Cross network and something we will continue to foster through the Women in Business network, even when we return to in-person events. It seemed that now, more than ever, women were looking for a way to come together to discuss their careers in business, and we were so glad the remote format gave so many attendees the ability to hear our speakers.”
Participants from the New England states as well as Washington, California, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Texas—and even some from Europe—came together for a day of speakers that kicked off with a morning keynote address by Stephanie Linnartz ’90, group president of consumer operations, technology and emerging businesses at Marriott International. Linnartz touched upon topics such as how her liberal arts education has been essential in persevering through these challenging times.
“The critical thinking skills that I developed while at Holy Cross fueled my curiosity, allowed me to evaluate different choices from multiple perspectives and helped me stay true to my morals and beliefs,” Linnartz said.
Various panels were held throughout the day via zoom on Whova, a virtual networking platform that enabled attendees to view the agenda, message other registrants and ask questions ahead of sessions. The community board was buzzing with introductions, and attendees were able to attend virtual meetup rooms to connect with fellow Crusaders on topics ranging from real estate to women of color.
New this year was Black Women Redefining Entrepreneurship, a student panel led by Sienna Ablorh ’21 and Dorean Asuako ’21. These entrepreneurs shared their project, the Black-Owned Worcester Directory, and how in creating it they found the true power of networking.
The conference concluded with the C-Suite Executive Panel moderated by Susan Crawford Sullivan, professor of sociology, where current students and alumnae got to hear from AnnMaura Connolly ’86, Chief Strategy Officer & Executive VP, City Year; Judi Gonsalves ’94, Chief Internal Auditor, Liberty Mutual Insurance; and Patricia Forts ’81, Deputy Chief of Innovation and Strategy, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care about their experiences and lessons learned throughout their careers.
The lessons of the alumnae who have succeeded and paved the way for others were inspiring to the Holy Cross students in attendance, such as Christina Casey ’22, a political science major. “The ability to network with alumnae on the Whova platform was extremely beneficial as I begin to prepare for life after Holy Cross,” said Casey. “The many speakers inspired me to look for meaning in my future career and helped prepare me to deal with the challenges that I may encounter in the workplace.”
Mary Anne Wiley ’22, an economics major, said, “The Women in Business Conference is the highlight of my fall semester. Working with both my fellow classmates and alumnae has created an intimate relationship that continues to foster innovation and creativity in the Holy Cross community.”
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