By Alex Yu
Last Saturday, Stanford Women in Business sponsored the conference “I Don’t Know to CEO: Transforming Passion into Action,” bringing about 100 students to Annenberg Auditorium.
Speakers and panelists included representatives and leaders from many companies, including Louis Vuitton, Tesla and KAI Pharmaceuticals. They deliberated on a variety of topics, ranging from technology in business to marketing strategies.
Larry Chiang, the CEO of Duck9 and author of “What They Don’t Teach You at Stanford Business School,” kicked off the conference with his own vision for the event by emphasizing, “I want this [conference] to be on your path to becoming a CEO.”
Anna Khan ’10, a co-president of SWIB, followed Chiang’s remarks. “The real meaning of CEO is the brainchild of this conference,” Khan said. “Learn how all these speakers zeroed in on a specific spark and how they made it a bigger fire.”
Ruth DeGolia, the keynote speaker and CEO of Mercado Global, described the dichotomy between men and women in the business world, exhorting women to take on self-promoting stances in their own lives.
“Men are more comfortable promoting themselves than [women] are,” DeGolia said. “I encourage all of you to recognize that you are worth supporting.”
Conference participant Jennifer Simons ’10 talked about the perceived advantage businessmen have over businesswomen, suggesting that women carry the burden of simultaneously caring for their families while fostering their careers.
“It’s assumed men will be more successful,” Simons said. “There’s the idea that women have to choose between family and career.”
From his experiences at the conference, Josh Chan ’11 praised the female speakers who have overcome the obstacles that DeGolia believes businesswomen face.
“There are a lot of exceptions,” Chan noted. “When you go to a conference like this, you see the females who have broken that mold.”
Luisa Russell ’12 found the conference’s emphasis on technology helpful because of its relation to her own studies in materials science and engineering.
“I have always found entrepreneurship very interesting,” Russell said. “This particular event had a little more of a technology interest. That’s one of the reasons why I came.”
In addition to utilizing the conference as a forum for networking, Russell also enjoyed hearing from a diverse group of speakers with varying backgrounds and experiences.
She appreciated “being able to see the different perspectives,” she said. “It’s really important to see how [the speakers] built themselves up from the ground.”
Khan hoped the conference’s various speakers’ perspectives would encourage young women to overcome societal barriers preventing success in the business world.