Because paying it forward is not a hand out. Paying it forward is a hand up.
And when you lift women, I believe, you lift the world.”
– Esther Silver-Parker
Esther Silver-Parker, President and CEO of The SilverParker Group and former Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. told the keynote address audience, “Your generation of working women will see the closing of the gender gap because you will play a role in paying it forward.”
Silver-Parker shared a personal story of how the “front porch ladies” in her hometown of Goldsboro, N.C. pooled together their limited resources to buy her a suitcase so she didn’t have to carry her belongings in paper bags when she went off to college at North Carolina Central University. She said throughout her college years, she would get little notes of encouragement from the front porch ladies, often with a couple of dollars tucked inside.
“I like to think that any way that I have been able to reach out to younger woman is at least a very small down payment of what I owe those front porch ladies,” said Silver-Parker.
Lisbeth Evans (’74, MBA ’78), who opened the Women’s Weekend festivities, encouraged participants to follow their passions and have the courage to become entrepreneurs. “If you do something you love and do a really good job at it, you can make your own career.” Evans, who serves on the Wake Forest University Schools of Business Board of Visitors, explained how her career history has encompassed a variety of disciplines including teaching, investment banking, real estate, politics and entrepreneurship. She also created Once UponAnApp, a company which specializes in developing technical applications for classic children’s stories.
Evans was among those sharing advice on the Women’s Weekend alumni panel which addressed such topics as mentorship, risk-taking, and maintaining femininity in male-dominated career positions.
The panel discussion was led by Melenie Lankau, Senior Associate Dean of Diversity and Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at Wake Forest University Schools of Business. Lankau said to the room filled exclusively with women, “soak in this moment, this beautiful, refreshing sight,” noting that most executive board rooms and graduate business classrooms are still dominated by men. She encouraged the women to embrace the opportunity to learn from one another and to find ways to support each others’ personal and professional development while in graduate school and beyond.
Panelist Kathy Hackshaw (’71), General Manager of the Tanger Factory Outlet Center in Mebane, N.C. advised Women’s Weekend attendees that they should not “lose femininity to compete against a man.”
“Know who you are and push yourself,” said Hackshaw. “Let yourself be a woman, let yourself be gentle, let yourself help and mentor.”
Panelist Katharina Haynes Bethea (MBA ’10), Associate Marketing Manager for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. added, “Sometimes you can get more credit by helping other people than furthering your own agenda.”
“Every time I can help someone and bring them further along, I get personal satisfaction,” said Bethea. “At the end of the day, that means more than the paycheck that I take home.”
Panelist Kelly Lockwood Primus, Vice President of Marketing at Primo Water Corporation, shared the importance of having passion for your work. “When you find what it is that makes you passionate, and you bring that passion with you each day, there is no reason why you cannot succeed,” she said. “People will look to you as a partner and as a leader.”
Kathy Korman Frey turned her passion for teaching and mentoring women into a career. She is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator and founder of the Hot Mommas® Project, the world’s largest collection of women’s case studies.
Frey conducted a “New Sisterhood of Success” seminar in which she guided Women’s Weekend participants through an exercise to build a “mental board of advisors” to help achieve goals and overcome challenges.
“You need to surround yourself with people who will help you,” said Frey. “Those who have mentors show increased pay and status, and increased self-confidence.”
The “paying it forward” theme carried through to a Women’s Weekend necklace beading workshop with representatives from the Amani Children’s Foundation. Amani beads are made by Kenyan women with clay from Mount Kenya. Proceeds of the necklace beading workshop will help the Foundation in their efforts to care for orphaned infants at six New Life Homes across Kenya.
“Overall, our aim for Women’s Weekend was to give each woman something to walk away with and share with the world. I can humbly say I think we accomplished that mission,” said Ahkesha Murray (MBA ’11), president of Wake Graduate Women in Business.
The Second Annual Women’s Weekend was hosted by Wake Graduate Women in Business and the Wake Forest University Schools of Business Admissions team. Sponsors included Walmart and BB&T.