Female Execs Say ‘Be Bold, Be You’ to Get to the C-Suite

Women in Business Conference spotlights the journey of modern working women.

Aliza Licht
Students lined up to have their copies of "Leave Your Mark" signed by author and Women in Business Conference speaker Aliza Licht, the senior vice president of global communication for Donna Karan. Photo Credit: Alexis Clark
March 30, 2015

By Brittney Dunkins

Young professionals at the George Washington University were urged to throw out their five-year plans by the executives who headlined the sixth annual GW Women in Business conference.

The “Be Bold, Be You” student-run event hosted by GW Women in Business (GWWIB) was a celebration of the unconventional path to the C-Suite, a journey to jobs such as CEO, chief financial officer or chief operating officer that requires hard work and following your instincts, according to Aliza Licht, the senior vice president of global communication for Donna Karan.

Ms. Licht, who distributed advance copies of her book “Leave Your Mark,” described how an off-the-cuff branding idea—@DKNYPRGirl, a Twitter identity inspired by the popular television show “Gossip Girl”—propelled her to the forefront of high fashion marketing.

“I learned to tweet by tweeting. I never had a content calendar, I still don’t,” said Ms. Licht, who majored in neurobiology and physiology at the University of Maryland. “I had a plan, I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, but I wasn’t excited about it.

“You don’t need a five-year plan—if you give 200 percent to the job you’re doing, your next step becomes apparent,” she said.

Ms. Licht’s morning address was echoed throughout the conference by other female executives, including President of the Lucky Group Gillian Gorman Round, CEO and founder of flavored water company Hint Kara Goldin, Senior Vice President and Creative Director of Women’s Under Armour Leanne Fremar and others.

Junior Kathleen McCarthy, co-chair of the event, said that the theme of the conference was designed to inspire students on their professional journeys.

Event Co-chairs Kathleen McCarthy and Hannah Levick. Photo Credit: Alexis Clark.

“Our keynotes, speaker series guests and panelists embody what it means to ‘Be Bold, Be You,’ and we hope that our attendees will use the speakers' stories as a springboard to dream big and be successful,” senior anc co-chair Hannah Levick said. 

Students interested in joining GWWIB can apply at the start of each semester.

Ms. Goldin launched Hint because she couldn’t find sweetener-free flavored water on the market. She pursued the idea independently, even after a Coca Cola executive discouraged her saying, “Sweetie, America likes sweet.”

Today, Hint is one of the fastest growing flavored water companies in the United States. She encouraged attendees to use their gender as an asset in the working world.

“Women really have an understanding of customers, and today customers are driving what succeeds and what fails,” Ms. Goldin said. “I’m a firm believer that more women need to be in the workplace.”

Johanna Murphy, chief marketing officer and digital director at Ivanka Trump’s lifestyle company, said that young professionals should also treat every working experience as an opportunity to build a network.

Conference planning committee members Aysia Woods, director of logistics, Samantha Bosin, director of networking and Katie Cartwright, director of public relations. Photo Credit Alexis Clark

Ms. Murphy is the brain behind “shoppable windows,” a partnership with eBay that helped launch Kate Spade Saturday, a clothing and accessories brand.

 She unveiled Ivanka Trump’s “#Women Who Work” campaign this year with a team that includes Ivanka Trump Vice President of Creative Marissa Kraxenberg, Director of Ecommerce and Marketing Melanie Masterson and Graphic Designer Lizzie Tonkin.

“This whole team was built on connections,” Ms. Murphy said, motioning to Ms. Tonkin and Ms. Masterson who also participated in the panel. “It’s important to understand that every moment of your career can lead you to the next step.”