The Innovative Women’s Conference began in 2014 at North Carolina State University to bring together a community of women–students to entrepreneurs to corporate executives–to discuss business, innovation, science, technology and entrepreneurship. The event is organized by the MBA Student Association who are a part of the Jenkins MBA program.

“We wanted to capitalize on the power created when women from a variety of backgrounds join together to discuss topics in the areas of business innovation, sustainability, science, technology and entrepreneurship,” said Christine Ferrell, an event organizer and director of marketing at the Jenkins Graduate School of Management,

A total of 161 women attended the conference, an increase from 120 attendees the prior year in 2014. On Thursday, November 12, organizers hosted a Networking Social at HQ Raleigh and Jami Stewart, Senior Director of Technical Services at Cisco, gave an inspirational keynote speech on her career journey, including her struggles and successes.

On Friday, November 13, conference attendees heard a keynote address from Valerie Fields, entrepreneur and lecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, speaking about the power of potential.

“If we can change one thing,” said Fields, “We can change everything.”

Organizers planned the event so that it would lead into Global Entrepreneurship Week, for which events are being held at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management and at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“We were hoping to spur conversations and ideas while having each woman leave with more interest in what her peers are doing in the Triangle,” said Jen Wiles, an event organizer and MBA student at Jenkins. “We want them to be more motivated to fulfill their own goals.”

Dr. Rosanna Garcia, associate professor in the Poole College of Management and founder of startup Vijilent, and also participated on the Women in Sustainability panel, recently founded Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs, an initiative focused on creating a sustainable organization that empowers female students with the tools, resources and support to start companies in the Triangle.

One additional panel discussion was focused on the evolution of women in technology. The panel aimed to learn from females leading tech teams, including their point of view on the challenges and skills required to be a leader in the tech industry. Panelists Michele Eggers, customer intelligence product line senior director, SAS, Denise Helfrich, technical support manager, Cicso, Sarah Penley, program manager, Cisco, and Ashley Slattery, senior manager of readiness, sales and care operations, Citrix focused on the skill sets required to increase and sustain diversity initiatives in the technology industry. The panel discussed the importance of mentorship of all types: informal, formal, external, and internal, and how soft skills play a role in leading technology teams.

This year, the MBA Student Association planned and hosted the event. MBA Student Association members (and MBA students) Catalina Aguirre, Nina Keidel, Padmaja Soundararajan and Jen Wiles organized the conference.

Organizers partnered with E51, a Triangle network of female entrepreneurs, and Women for Success, a local giving network of young Triangle professionals supporting Dress for Success Triangle to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women. All proceeds from the conference were donated to Women for Success.

A full list of speakers and panelists that participated in the event:

  • Mandy Althoff, Supplier Sourcing Consultant for Metlife
  • Sarah Blacklin, NC Choices Program Director
  • Jill Bullard, Co-Founder and CEO of the Interfaith Food Shuttle
  • Christy Chapman, Founder and Owner of Bean Traders
  • Harpreet Cheema, Co-Founder of Waste to Green
  • Michele Eggers, Customer Intelligence Product Line Senior Director at SAS
  • Valerie Fields, Entrepreneur and UNC Lecturer on Public Relations
  • Rosanna Garcia, NC State Associate Professor, Graduate Faculty
  • Debra Giles, Supplier Diversity Administrator at Cree
  • Janet Hadar, VP of Operations at UNC Hospitals
  • Denise Helfrich, Technical Support Manager at Cisco
  • Dorothy Hurt, Procurement – Indirect Materials & Services
  • Erin Jobe, Carrboro Farmer’s Market Manager
  • Jillian Mickens, Owner and Farmer at Open Door Farm
  • Betty Minton, Practicum Advisor Supply Chain Resource Cooperative at NC State
  • Carol Hoss Perriccio, President of Influence Forward
  • Amy Podurgal, Owner of Square Peg Consulting, Inc.
  • Mimi Shankin, Director of Sustainability at Avant
  • Ashley Slattery, Senior Manager of Readiness, Sales and Care Operations at Citrix
  • Jami Stewart, Senior Director of Technical Services at Cisco
  • Liz Tracy, Director of Community Engagement at HQ Raleigh
  • Claud Viveros, Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Quintiles
  • Penella Washington, CEO of Advance Community Health (previously Wake Health Services)
  • Dr. Stacy Wood, Executive Director of NC State’s Consumer Innovation Consortium, Langdon Distinguished professor