Support, Mentorship at Center of 2023 Women's Leadership Conference
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Supportive and mentoring relationships were championed as key to success by several speakers during the 18th Women’s Leadership Conference, hosted by the Carlson School of Management on Friday, March 3.
The diverse group of nearly 400 attendees at the McNamara Alumni Center included Carlson School and University of Minnesota alumni, faculty, and current students, as well as executives and emerging leaders from the local business community and across the country. Altogether it was a meaningful day of learning and networking.
Nicole Graves, ’97 MHRIR, kicked off the conference with a morning keynote address, sharing her path to the C-suite. Graves, the global people leader in the Office of the CFO at Apple and a member of the Carlson School Board of Advisors, said her path wasn’t always easy as a woman of color, but both female and male mentors, as well as a circle of trusted people, helped support her to success on her journey.
“Share your story, show your uniqueness,” Graves told the packed room. “Be there for others and lift up others,” to mentor and inspire those around you and in your own circle.
The day’s programming continued into three breakout sessions, with 12 total presentations on topics as varied as the current state of the economy, negotiation strategies, and a panel of executives discussing courageous leadership. More than half of the day’s speakers were Carlson School alumnae, all of whom are business leaders representing companies based both in the region and across the country.
Another highlight was the Inside the Boardroom closing session attended by all conference-goers. The event featured Beth Kieffer Leonard, ’82 MBA, in a conversation with Carlson School Dean Sri Zaheer. Leonard, a partner in charge of EisnerAmper’s Minnesota office, also served as honorary chair of the event and is a member of the Carlson School Board of Advisors. She discussed her progression from entry-level accountant to managing partner of the accounting firm Lurie LLP, one of the first female managing partners in the U.S.
Kieffer Leonard shared how mentoring relationships not only helped her to develop professionally but also helped her to see her potential to be that leader. She stressed that finding the right fit for herself professionally, in a firm that shared her values and where she could be her uncompromised self, was critical. Moving to a firm that was a better fit culturally early in her career “changed how I viewed everything.” Kieffer Leonard continued, “I didn’t have to spend time pretending to be something or someone I was not.”
The day closed with the Community Impact Reception in partnership with Carlson Women Global Connect, at which local community organizations that support women and girls in the Twin Cities were featured, and participants were able to network over food and beverages.
Women business leaders, rising professionals, and anyone interested in advancing inclusion and equity in the business community are encouraged to save the date for next year’s conference: March 1, 2024.