A standing room-only crowd of enthusiastic visitors—along with another 140 by live stream—attended WashU Olin’s second annual “She Suite” event commemorating International Women’s Day. The wide-ranging panel discussion featuring five Olin alumnae (and one professor) touched on issues including confidence in the workplace, pay equity, the worst workplace advice, work-life balance and “something you believed early in your career that you now think is wrong.”
“A common notion when I started in the ’80s was in order to advance you had to leave others behind. The second was you had to wait your turn,” said Leann Chilton, EMBA ’99, vice president for government relations at BJC HealthCare. “Both of those notions were completely ridiculous. Being the youngest of five, I was not going to wait my turn.”
The panel, moderated by Linda Haberstroh, EMBA ’10, president of Phoenix Textile Corporation, also included:
- Ratna Craig, EMBA ’11, account executive at Slalom Consulting.
- Hillary Anger Elfenbein, WashU Olin’s John K. Wallace, Jr. and Ellen A. Wallace Distinguished Professor and professor of organizational behavior.
- Vicki Felker, EMBA ’12, vice president and general manager, Golden Products Division, Nestlé Purina.
- Valerie Toothman, BSBME/BSAS ’01, MBA ’08, executive vice president for brand and beverage marketing at Drinkworks.
“Especially before coming to WashU, I believed if you did an excellent job you’d get promoted,” Toothman said. “But you have to do a lot more than that. That’s table stakes. It’s about understanding the politics—not necessarily participating, but understanding it—and understanding the gaps between where you are and where you want to go. You have to be thinking one step, two steps, three steps ahead.”
In her response to the same question, Craig noted that her expectation for her career included “a recipe for work-life balance, which is complete BS. It’s about work-life integration.”
Later, members of the panel further explored the question of balance—the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day.
“The research is very clear that we have spillover from one domain to another, from work to your home life and from your home life to work,” Elfenbein told the audience. “If you’re carrying stress from your home-life you’re going to be a lesser employee. The research is very firm about that.”
“The word balance means you’d better figure out what matters to you personally,” Felker said, “and then figure out how what matters to you affects the people who matter to you.”