Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Men and Women in the Workplace Presentation Now Available!

How to Successfully Manage Work and Life
Presentation Delivered by Anne Weisberg, Director of Diversity, BlackRock and Kate Sweetman, Founder and President of Sweetman Consulting

Download Now>>

The workplace is not like school: doing well is more than just making sure you are prepared and know your material. Lots of unwritten rules about the norms at work, and assumptions about the roles at home, can get in the way of successfully integrating work and life for both men and women. In fact, understanding how the genders work together can make a big difference in your career success. What are some common misperceptions? What are unintentional derailers? How do you identify common ground? This course is designed to educate you about those dynamics and how to shape them so that you can construct the life that you want.

A message from The Fold: Cheryl & Polly

Dear Professional Fashionistas,

We loved meeting you at the Forte Conference! We're excited that many of you are about to embark on your two years business school journey. Really take this opportunity to explore what it is that you want to do and then make that a reality!

Please don't forget to "like" our Facebook page:, comment on the Forte Conference and become eligible to win a dress from The Fold! We look forward to keeping you updated on our upcoming events in your cities!

Best of luck with the upcoming school year!

Cheryl & Polly

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Business-Building, Your Way: Entrepreneurship

We're wrapping up our 2011 MBA Women's Conference with a topic that has proven a perennial favorite amongst our MBA women: entrepreneurship. Our panel this afternoon, moderated by Natalie Cofield, CEO and Founder, NMC Consulting, included:

  • Jacquelyn Cuccaro, Founder, Mongoose Ventures, MBA Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon
  • Jai Jai Greenfield, Harvard Vintage and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern
  • Nicole Lindsay, Executive Director, New York Needs You, MBA Darden Graduate School of Business at Virginia
  • Coye Nokes, President and Creative Director, Coye Nokes II LLC, MBA London Business School
Coye recently launched her own line of luxury shoes. She's at work on her sixth collection, distributed in the US, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Nicole helped launch New York Needs You two years ago providing career and leadership development for first-generation college attendees in New York City. Today they are working with their second class, of 100 fellows and have a staff of 8 with an operating budget of over $1million.

Jacquelyn helped turn around a cosmetics company, Vincent Longo, achieving profitability and stability, and today she has clients in social media and software. She's also found time to earn a fine arts degree, which she hopes to combine with her business experience to create a unique blend of business and creative skills.

Jai Jai opened the first boutique vintner in New York's historic Harlem, teaming up with a friend to debut what has fast-become a very successful small business.

The panel agreed that to be an entrepreneur, first and foremost, one has to be a leader. Nicole recalled that while she was working in admissions at Yale School of Management, something "clicked": she got in touch with a sense of passion and ownership that inspired her to believe that she could own her own future, and led to a career in social entrepreneurship.

Jai Jai offered up what she sees as three key traits of successful women in business: confidence, decisiveness and directness. "The latter is very important in corporate America," she says. "Women tend to shy away from the ask. The ability to ask for what you want is one of the traits of leadership that I would apply both to the corporate realm and the entrepreneurial realm."

The panel also talked about sacrifices - from leveraging one's home, to passing up a new handbag in order to save those pennies - that they made along the way in order to build their own business. Coye, who started a luxury business in fall of 2009 in the midst of an economic downturn, spoke frankly about how economic conditions complicated even the best-laid business plan. She used her own money to place an order that would support establishing an e-commerce business, something she hadn't foreseen. "I ended up with all of these shoes, which, to my relief, I eventually sold. But the economy was a major obstacle I hadn't planned on, and I overcame it by being flexible. I had my business plan down to the T and within six months, it was irrelevant. You need to be able to rethink things and redirect yourself."

The discussion also touched on the challenge of providing infrastructure for yourself as an entrepreneur. "All of those decisions--finding an office space, a computer, clients--all of that is something you make happen for yourself," says Natalie. She also talked about the need to "invest completely" in a fledgling business. Nicole spoke to that kind of total commitment: "I found a passion in my work and, frankly, lost all work/life balance at that point!" she says. The group shared tips on raising funds, building a brand, playing to your strengths and differentiating yourself from the competition.

The audience chimed in with their own enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, and it was evident how many MBA women in the room have a goal of career self-determination. Wen Jacquelyn asked how many women in the room consider themselves entrepreneurs and want to pursue that path, more than half raised their hands.

It was great to end the conference with that kind of enthusiasm and energy in evidence. Thank you to all of the corporate sponsors, partners, business leaders, Forte Fellows, volunteers and MBA women (more than 400 of you!) who helped make this year's conference such a success. We look forward to following your many successes as you cultivate your careers!

Winning Your Way: Julie Coffman on Business Leadership

Julie Coffman, Partner and Chair of the Global Women's Leadership Council at Bain & Company, and a Stanford MBA, wowed the crowd this afternoon. Julie has fantastic energy and a rich and informed perspective on business leadership. She's part of a senior leadership at Bain focusing on how to bring more women into the leadership ranks. Julie, who is articulate about the business case for gender diversity, says her work inside the firm also helps her connect with clients, many of whom are pursuing the same goal.

Julie chose as the theme of her talk today "Thoughts on becoming the most effective and accomplished leader you can be." Here are some of her top tips:

1. Define winning your way. "At a certain point, I realized that I was self-imposing how other partners, who may or may not have been similar to me, defined success. I had to get comfortable with what makes me happy."

2. Grow where you're planted. "If you spend too much time worrying about the future, you're not going to maximize the opportunity right in front of you."

3. Follow your passion. "You have to be in a profession that gives you energy." Julie observed that knowing if you're analytical, introverted, outgoing, etc. helps you play to your strengths and "have that job where you just can't wait for the next day." "If you're in a job that reflects someone else's definition of winning, that's going to be exhausting longer term."

Julie touched on Bain's strategy for achieving outstanding results for clients by attracting and retaining the best talent. That strategy includes: strategic recruiting and talent management; recognition of "multiple paths to partner"; sponsorship and coaching, and "creating training and dialogue to align culture with our aspirations."

Julie's been on a six-month sabbatical until recently, one of the benefits of having served at Bain for more than twenty years. She spent part of her sabbatical traveling with her husband and three kids. Julie calls her role as a mom "The most important thing I ever did." The portrait she presents of a successful woman business leader staying true to herself, achieving career success, and cultivating the future of business leadership invigorated our crowd of MBA women. Watch this space for a forthcoming video interview with Julie.

Day Two: Focusing on Entrepreneurship, Risk-taking, and Practical Tips for MBA Superwomen

Day two of our MBA Women's Conference kicked off with cooler weather and a full roster of exciting sessions to energize any career. Over breakfast, Cheryl Mainland and Polly McMaster of fashion business The Fold talked about launching a business WHILE finishing their MBA (London Business School, Class of 2011). They talked about building an e-commerce website on a shoestring (tip: adapting Wordpress as an affordable backend solution worked for them), building a brand, and raising capital, and offered some expert fashion advice for our MBA audience ("Always err on the side of formal.") They even planted a few models in the audience wearing The Fold finds (the leather panel dress, edgy AND appropriate, was a particular hit!).

We're heading into individual sessions, on everything from how to avoid being pigeonholed as the secretary in your study group to landing the right internship, getting outside your comfort zone, networking and negotiation. At 11:45 we'll break for a conversation with Julie Coffman, Partner and Chair of Bain's Global Women's Leadership Council and a Stanford MBA, focusing on courageous strategies for extraordinary leadership. After lunch, we'll break out into individual sessions again, before our keynote panel on entrepreneurial leadership at 3 pm. We'll hear from successful women entrepreneurs in consulting, business development, fashion and the nonprofit world for a well-rounded picture of women doing it for themselves.

Keep your thoughts and questions coming on Twitter: @fortefoundation #mbaconf

Friday, June 10, 2011

Live from Today's Dialogue with Leadership

Our Dialogue with Leadership is a big part of the MBA Women's Conference, and a great opportunity to hear candid insights directly from senior women executives. This afternoon, Pattie Sellers, editor-at-large at FORTUNE magazine, joined us once more to host the conversation with our two guests, Kristin Peck, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Business Development and Innovation, at Pfizer, and Uta Werner, Chief Strategy Officer at Xerox.

Uta, who came to the US from her native Germany, knew as a young person that she wanted to be financially independent. "From there, I concluded that I needed a job that would sustain that independence." Her ambition led her to various academic pursuits in the search for a good career fit. She holds three master's degrees. She started out studying math in Germany, where the distinction between undergraduate and graduate degrees is more fluid, and earned a master's in math and physics. She went on to earn an MBA in Germany and then applied for a scholarship to Harvard, where she earned an MPA.

Kirstin, who earned her MBA from Columbia, spoke eloquently about the capacity for business to change the world, and the fact that she was drawn to business as a way to make a difference. Today, she is often the only woman in the room, a fact that she says she would like to see change. In the meantime, she advised the crowd not to hesitate to own their place at the table: "Own your space. Don't sit off to the side, or wait to be asked," she said. Kristin certainly speaks her mind freely in her role overseeing business development: "I know what I think we ought to do and I know how to convince people of that," she says.

Kristin earned her MBA at Columbia; over the course of a very successful career since, she says she has learned that having a plan but maintaining flexibility is key. "Life is not a straight line," she said. "Have a sense of where you want to go, but be open-minded as to how you might find those experiences. I spent my career following people; if you can find someone who inspires you in an industry that you're passionate about, you learn so much. I've worked in industries I never thought I'd like, but I worked for inspiring people and that made all the difference."

Pattie echoed Kristin's point regarding flexibility. "The world is so unpredictable today," she observed. "You have no idea what the hot job is going to be tomorrow, or next year." Pattie chairs FORTUNE's Most Powerful Women Summit and has profiled top business leaders across industries. Her experience suggests that to succeed in today's business culture, it's important to stay nimble. "Keep your peripheral vision and swing to the next opportunity," she advised.

The Dialogue was full of interesting insights. Uta talked about the need to develop "a deeper empathy" in order to understand various perspectives on a business issue. Kristin talked about "watershed moments" in one's career, and the importance of trusting your gut if you have the sense that your pace of learning has slowed and its time to move on - to another division, another company, or even another industry. "If you're too comfortable, change is good," Uta added. "Don't be afraid of change."

We'll bring you video interviews with Uta and Kristin soon - watch this space for more.

Words of Wisdom from our Welcome Breakfast

Congratulations to our Edie Hunt Award winners, Kima McCoy and Katie Herrmann! They were honored at our welcome breakfast this morning, sponsored by Goldman Sachs. (Watch this space for forthcoming video interviews with Kima and Katie as they embark on the next exciting chapter of their careers!) The always-inspiring Edie Hunt herself was present (Edie was the first first board chair of Forté Foundation, and oversees talent management at Goldman Sachs) and Alison Mass, Co-Head of Financial Sponsors Group at Goldman Sachs delivered the keynote.

Alison spoke about how, having been in the industry for 30 years, she has "always been in the minority", so seeing so many women gathered together (this year's conference is the largest in Forté's history!) is fantastic. She talked about the ups and downs in financial services over her long career, and how those highs and lows have made the industry stronger. She was eloquent about her love of the job ("Being part of an industry inextricably linked to the health of the US economy is always stimulating," she said), and the art of achieving work/life balance.

Judging from our Twitter feed (@fortefoundation #mbaconf), many women in the audience were struck by Alison's concept of the "weighted average work week": a philosophy driven by the realization that its not possible to be outstanding in every aspect of one's life every day, but it is possible to master the art of living by seeking an overall balance. Alison is a great example of such balance: married and the mother of twins, she still manages to have dinner with her parents every Sunday night, spends "at least 20 days a year" on the ski slopes, and makes time to serve on the boards of several charitable organizations.

Alison concluded with a reminder of the importance of relationships. "Every career opportunity I've ever had has been the direct result of a relationship I've cultivated over time," she observed. Her reminder to "love your work and make time to connect with the people around you" painted a portrait of leadership that inspired many of the women in the audience.

Stay tuned for more coverage from our Dialogue with Leadership, coming up this afternoon.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Top 10" things to know before you go!

To help get you ready for the MBA Women's Conference on June 10 and 11, we've included the "top 10" things to know before you go. This important information will help make your experience at the conference a success!

1. The Conference Program
2. The Presenters
3. A list of all organizations and companies participating - see below.
4. Companies that will exhibit at the MBA Company Expo
5. Profiles of Sponsors Companies who will be attending the conference
6. Networking List - see who's registered and feel free to contact registrants before the conference
7. Location, Hotel & Transportation Information
8. What to Wear / What to Bring
9. Company Expo Webinar Recording - Prepare to Network with Participating Companies
10. Mobile site: Save the conference mobile page to your phone to stay connected and up-to-date

A&E, AT&T, Accenture, Achievement First Endeavor Charter School, Bain & Company, Barclays Capital, BlackRock, Capital Z Partners, L.P., Center for Work/Life Policy, Chevron, Citi, Collaborative Coaching LLC, Coye Nokes II LLC, Credit Suisse, Cummins, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Eli Lilly and Company, Elizabeth Arden, Ernst & Young, Estee Lauder, Ethicon, ExxonMobil, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fidelity Investments, The Fold, Fortress Investment Group, FORTUNE, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Great on the Job, Harlem Vintage, IBM, Institute for Personal Leadership, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, The Leading Niche, Liberty Mutual, Macy's, McKinsey & Co., Mongoose Ventures, Natural Gas Canada, NBA, NYC Dept. of Education, New York Needs You, NMC Consulting Group, Parsons Corporation, Performance Improvement (PI) Solutions, Pfizer, PIMCO, Rent the Runway, SixFigureStart, Sweetman Consulting, Teacher Effectiveness, The Capital Group Companies, The Leading Niche, TIAA-CREF, Uncommon Schools, U.S. Department of State, UBS, Vision2Action/Ivy Girl Advisors, Women's RoadmapTM, Work+LIfe Fit, Inc., Xerox Corporation, AND MORE!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Last day to register!

Today's the last day to register for the MBA Women's Conference! Don't miss out -- visit the conference website to reserve your seat.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Fold's Journey Across the Pond

Cheryl & Polly are excited to be a part of the Forte Conference this year. We are current MBA students who graduate in July and have left our private equity and general management jobs to pursue entrepreneurship. We’re now expanding our fashion retail business, The Fold, from London to NYC! Here is a little bit about our journey!

Polly & Cheryl met on the first day of their MBA’s at London Business School, August 2009. We were lucky enough to have each other in our school-assigned study group and began brainstorming start-up ideas right away….

During her first semester of the MBA, Cheryl found a great side-job with Emilio de la Morena, a London Fashion Week designer. Thanks to Emilio, Polly and Cheryl were fortunate enough to attend London Fashion Week events twice a year!

Both passionate about fashion but seeing a gap in the market with fashionable clothes to wear to work…Polly and Cheryl began thinking about The Fold as a business opportunity.

Summer 2010, The Fold founders were deeply immersed in speaking to anyone and everyone who knew something about fashion, and particularly the business of fashion. As keen subscribers to The Business of Fashion, we seized the chance to witness Net-A-Porter founder Natalie Massenet speaking in-person at her amazing Westfield offices.

The Fold is up and running in London online and through pop-up events. We will be launching in NYC in September! Hope to see you there!!!! Sign up for our newsletter or “like” us on Facebook for NYC launch details!