By Allyson Noenickx
Last Saturday, Women in Business (WIB) held their 11th annual conference in Hogan Ballroom. The conference, hosted by the Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies (COES), attracts nearly 200 alumnae and female students each year to celebrate, honor, and inspire women in business. This year’s conference––Women on Wall Street: Changing the Ratio––featured keynote speaker Diane Vazza ’79.
This year’s WIB student planning committee consisted of six members––Lauren Biolsi ’17, Marisa Carlson ’17, Caroline Keane ’17, Rosangel Cruz Cabrera ’18, Casey Carty ’18, and Clare O’Leary ’19––who worked in conjunction with Professor David Chu, director of the COES, and Cassie Garvey, associate director of the COES, to find a topic and a speaker that they thought was relevant to Holy Cross women entering business.
“The student planning committee is a small group of female students who meet weekly during the academic year to plan, organize, and prepare for the annual conference,” said Garvey. “Each student is assigned a panel to identify alumnae speakers, coordinate topics, and facilitate conversation before and during the panel.” Garvey also explained why the committee chose finance and Wall Street as this year’s theme. “In addition to student interest, our alumnae at the banks are really excited to identify future female leaders in banking,” said Garvey.
This year, the committee selected Vazza as the keynote speaker for her successful career in finance and ability to demonstrate that the ratio can be changed in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Vazza majored in both classics and French at Holy Cross. She is currently the head of Global Fixed Income Research at S&P. Her analyses, forecasts, and research on global credit markets have earned her an international audience. She has over thirty years of experience working in the capital markets, including rating agency, regulatory, trading, credit, and banking experience at Drexel Burnham Lambert, Citibank, and Chase Manhattan Bank. Credit Magazine named Vazza one of the top fifty women across the globe in credit and fixed income.
“We wanted someone from Wall Street because there’s such a disparity between the number of men and women working there; and there has been a big push recently to get more women working in banking,” explained O’Leary ’19. “At a liberal arts school it’s comforting for students to see someone who went a very liberal arts route, but is still able to use what she learned at Holy Cross to pursue business.”
In her speech, Vazza offered students and alumnae ten guideposts to live by for success in business––speaking to both personal and professional matters. “Diane also left a lot of time at the end for questions and answers about her own career path––which was great because it’s hard sometimes to picture yourself working on Wall Street when you’re twenty years old and you’re just trying to leave Dinand before two a.m.,” added O’Leary.
Following Vazza’s address students and alumnae attended a networking lunch and two of seven concurrent panels––Opportunity Knocks: Opening the Door to Mentorship, From Cool Beans to Corporate, Launching Your Career, How to be a Social Butterfly, Women in Banking, Joining a Corporate or Non-Profit Board, and Work Experience vs. Grad School. O’Leary helped organize the From Cool Beans to Corporate panel in addition to Women in Banking. “From Coolbeans to Corporate, which GE does every year, focused on personal finance, interviews, moving to a new city, and how to transition from living on the Hill to living in the real world,” said O’Leary.
Natalie Phillips ’19 who attended the conference for the first time this year cited From Cool Beans to Corporate as her favorite panel. “All three panelists provided us with helpful tips about how to conduct yourself when going for an interview and shared important lessons they learned early on in the workforce,” said Phillips. “It was interesting to hear about the program that GE has for recent graduates and the range of opportunities within that company. The conference gave me greater insight into the range of jobs within the world of business.”
According to WIB, women are entering banking with full force, making their voices heard, and creating an impact in the industry. Additionally, 87 percent of Holy Cross alumni work in business roles, so WIB encourages students from all majors to attend the conference.
“The conference as a whole helped me better understand the different paths graduates took towards their business careers,” said Kerri Mannion ’19, a second-time conference attendee. “It was nice to hear their perspectives about graduate school and what types of classes at Holy Cross have helped them in the workplace,” added Mannion.
O’Leary offered her own reasons why students should attend the conference. “It’s a really eye-opening experience,” said O’Leary. “It’s easy to think that because I didn’t go to business school, I can’t go into business––I can’t work on Wall Street; but obviously there are so many people who have studied liberal arts like French and classics who are on Wall Street and who are so successful. It’s good to hear what other people have done with their Holy Cross education and where it’s taken them.”
The WIB student planning committee is looking for students who attended this year’s event to serve on the committee for next year. The 12th annual Women in Business conference will be held Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.