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Skidmore College

Student club: Women in Business

April 26, 2017

Story by Blair Warren '17; video edited by Claire Johnson ’18 and shot by Wilson Espinal ’17

This year's conference of Skidmore's student Women in Business Club truly fulfilled the club's mission statement. The event functioned as a source of inspiration, empowering women across disciplines through engagement and discussion with an impressive group of Skidmore alumni.

Conference attendees

WIB aims to bring together students of all majors to promote women in leadership. The club hosts speakers from various industries, to encourage students to pursue advantageous careers after college, and also organizes wellness events such as yoga and hiking. The members hope to galvanize women in their desired career fields and foster a support system on campus, especially for incoming freshmen. In the future, they hope to make the club a stronger aspect of Skidmore's signature First-Year Experience, to make students from all classes "feel confident and capable of doing anything," says Gabrielle Pagnozzi-Schwam '18, WIB's co-president.

And Pagnozzi-Schwam emphasizes that WIB tries to bring men into its events as well, because "if we are ever going to have equality, it's going to be on both sides." Hadley Haselmann '17, a WIB member and attendee at this year's conference, explains that "it's hard being a woman in business. Skidmore is 60-40 female-male, but the majority of students in my business classes are men, so I've been in many different class groups as the only girl. Women in Business gives people that extra encouragement and support to talk about how this is hard, but also about who inspires us and what we are doing individually." She adds, "The biggest thing that Women in Business has given me is an outlet for what I'm interested in, connecting me with other like-minded women."

Pagnozzi-Schwam helped plan this year's WIB conference and was pleased by its success. Around 20 alumni took part, from a variety of career fields including environmental science, theater, film, consulting and more. The alumni gave speeches, held fireside chats, or spoke on one of the two panels, "Transitioning from College to Career" and "Envisioning the Future."

The first panel centered on young alumni as they addressed the initial challenges of leaving college and starting careers. Pagnozzi-Schwam says, "it's important to hear the younger alumni speak, because people who are successful in their careers often glaze over how difficult it was starting out, from finding a job and place to live, to having the realization that they can't afford their life right away, and how scary that all can be. The recent graduates were really great for that perspective." The second panel concentrated on longer-established professionals. The alumni spoke about their career paths and the challenges they overcame throughout their professional journeys, emphasizing the value of being persistent.

Keynote speakers Ceci Zak '87 (Omnicom CEO and soon-to-be Columbia professor) and Nancy Hamilton '77 (a top Houston lawyer) echoed this theme of persistence, sharing their stories about the work it took to move their careers forward as women. Haselmann enjoyed Zak's speech, calling her "a really great, strong, and empowering woman. There's a relatability about her; listening to her talk, I felt connected to her story." Many of the older alumni, Pagnozzi-Schwam notes, "had careers that had nothing to do with their majors, but they figured it out and became incredibly successful."

Personally, Pagnozzi-Schwam got a lot out of the conference: "It came at a time when I was in need of some great advice and inspiration, and I definitely got that from listening to everyone speak and hearing their stories."

The conference ended with a networking event, which gave students the opportunity to build connections with alumni and learn more about what industries they might be interested in. For Pagnozzi-Schwam, this was her favorite part: "I love networking! It is, hands down, the most important thing. It allows people to open as many doors as they possibly can, and it can lead to fantastic opportunities."

"The alumni support here really makes Skidmore a great community." 

Haselmann agrees. "Being able to network with alumni is crucial. It's not what you do, it's who you know." She adds, "The alumni support here really makes Skidmore a great community. There's this strong sense of support across generations. And it's a self-sustaining cycle-it makes me want to do the same, creating a continuation of alumni-student support and connection." For Haselmann, it's as simple and powerful as: "If she can do it, I can do it too!" —Blair Warren '17

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