Inclusive Impact Day Highlights Women Thriving in Male-Dominated Industries
From tech and finance to engineering and construction, women are not only gaining a foothold in fields previously dominated by men but are thriving in them. On May 3, Drexel LeBow held the second annual Inclusive Impact Day, bringing together successful women from various industries to share their stories and experiences of overcoming challenges and creating new opportunities for themselves and others. The day’s program highlighted the ongoing progress of women in industries where they have been historically underrepresented.
The event was a testament to the power of resilience, determination and community in achieving success. As women continue to break barriers and achieve success in traditionally male-dominated industries, it is becoming increasingly important for them to support and advocate for one another.
The morning began with a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Hofer Jeffrey, architect and owner, Space is Obsolete and Drexel adjunct professor of architecture; Schuyler Simms ‘06, assistant chief auditor, PCAOB; Sharon Walker, PhD, dean of Drexel’s College of Engineering; Ricki Lang, vice president of software development and engineering, Comcast; and hosted by Donald Braun ’84, Bernstein Private Wealth Management. The women discussed the challenges they faced in their careers — including unconscious bias, imposter syndrome and lack of a voice in the boardroom — but also the ways in which to overcome them.
“Early on in my career it was harder to stand out because my ideas weren’t being heard. I learned I had to advocate for myself. You can’t change how people think about you, but you can change your response,” said Simms.
While moderating, Braun pointed out that there is a large population of people — not just other women — who want to help.
“You need trusted friends and mentors in order to gain feedback and absorb the information honestly and authentically. Build your network. Develop your community,” Walker said.
Negotiating skills for women was the first workshop of the day led by Jonathan Ziegert, PhD, department head and professor of management. After explaining the science and the art of negotiation, i.e. the tools and how to use them, he shared how gender plays a role in negotiating. The research shows that women don’t engage in the negotiation process as much as men, and when they do, they don’t ask for as much. Because training and experience narrows the gap in asking, Ziegert led participants through a couple of exercises to practice their negotiation skills.
In her workshop, Bernetta Millonde, executive director for Drexel’s Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship, focused on imposter syndrome — common feelings people have of self-doubt, inadequacy and incompetence, despite contradictory evidence. To defeat the symptoms of imposter syndrome, she stressed the need to look at what gets people to those thoughts in the first place. She suggested identifying the feelings, acknowledging them and then working through them. She encouraged those in the room to stop minimizing their abilities and silence the noise in their own heads.
Attendees enjoyed lunch while listening to the day’s keynote speakers, Diane DeCesare ‘85, tax partner, Armanino LLP; and Jane Scaccetti, bio ambassador to Armanino LLP. The director’s dialogue style session was moderated by James Thompson, senior vice president and head of diverse and multicultural wealth segments, Bernstein Private Wealth Management.
The conversation included reflections on their experiences in the accounting field and how it has evolved to be more inclusive — but that additional work was still needed. They discussed the roadblocks they’ve had in their careers and offered up advice on ways to overcome bias and lack of equity in the workplace for women.
Scaccetti reflected that growing up as one of three girls, she never thought girls couldn’t do things. It was not until she began working that she felt the imbalance. She was once even asked to leave a job site because women were considered bad luck. Even being new to her career at the time, she knew this was wrong and found the courage to stick up for herself.
“That experience started this process for me. When we started our firm, I knew we needed different voices around the table to hear different perspectives,” said Scaccetti.
As a champion of working mothers, DeCesare has spent her career advocating for herself and others to find not only balance, but equity in the workplace. She shared that she would tell her younger self to “define your own goals, ask for what you want and look for a company that supports you.”
Thompson offered a final note to the keynote session that encapsulated the days uplifting spirit, “Don’t wait until you think you’ve figured it out before you help the person behind you.”
Thank you to the generosity of Donald Braun ’84 of Bernstein Private Wealth Management for making the second annual Inclusive Impact Day possible.