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School Brings Together Female Business Leaders for Candid Discussion

September 29, 2013
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The School of Business in September brought together nearly 125 women to talk about pursuing leadership positions in business, overcoming sexism in the workplace, balancing work and home life and more. Before and after the discussion, which was often personal, always honest and occasionally funny, School alumni, current MBA students and women from around the community enjoyed drinks, networking and dinner at the Four Seasons Miami.

After Gene Anderson, dean of the School of Business, welcomed the participants, keynote speaker Frances Sevilla-Sacasa (AB '77), CEO of Banco Itau Europa International and former interim dean of the School, kicked off the event.

“There’s still a long way to go for gender equality in the workforce, and especially in the leadership ranks,” she told the audience. “We must prepare women from an early age to be ready for leadership positions. … [and] encourage young women to pursue educational tracks that prepare them for leadership roles.”

Sevilla-Sacasa joined panelists Tere Blanca (BBA ’81, MBA ’83), president and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate; Marilyn Blanco-Reyes, vice president of legal and regulatory affairs at FedEx Express, Latin America & Caribbean; Lucy Morillo-Agnetti, president and CEO of Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation; Kim Stone (MBA ’03), executive vice president and general manager of The Heat Group and American Airlines Arena.

Patricia Sanchez Abril, an associate professor of business law at the School, moderated a discussion between the women, and attendees had the chance to ask questions as well. “This is really mentorship at its highest level,” Sanchez Abril said.

The panelists were honest and often funny, candidly sharing their own experiences – many of which the audience recognized. For instance, Morillo-Agnetti shared a story about a board member who informed her that she was very emotional. The whole room murmured in agreement at that. Her advice:

“Never stop being passionate about everything that you do, regardless of whether that could be confused with being emotional or not.”

Both workplaces and women need to change in order to bring more women into corporate leadership ranks, the panelists noted. They agreed that workplaces need to be more flexible, and women need to be more aggressive, both about pursuing leadership positions and about asking for flexibility. They agreed that a work/life balance isn’t really attainable. Instead, said Stone, “It’s about having the right priorities at the right time, and having a workplace that supports that.”

A good professional network and a personal support are both essential for career success, the panelists advised. They emphasized the importance of both mentors and sponsors – people who will advocate for you at higher levels in your company or in the community. And, several revealed that they’ve relied on a good housekeeper or nanny for most of their career. “Have a support system that you design,” said Morillo-Agnetti. “It doesn’t have to be the typical support system.”

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