Women in Leadership Organizes First Summit

PoliSHEd kicks off Women's History Month at UM

Ashley McGee (right), the university’s director of MBA programs, moderates a ‘Leadership 101’ discussion with panelists (from left) Kritika Gupta, TEDx speaker and senior program analyst at Ripple Effect; Julianna Kirkland, manager of talent acquisition at MorganFranklin Consulting; Maura Langhart, senior director of annual giving at the UM Foundation; Cameron Olivi, senior manager of talent acquisition at CrossCountry Consulting; and Debra Sage, senior product manager at MTrade. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss.– The University of Mississippi chapter of Women in Leadership to sparked a discussion about career advancement for women during the first-ever PoliSHEd Summit.

Featuring 15 panelists, the discussion topics ranged from “Leadership 101” to “Superwoman” and “Into New Territory.” Among the guest speakers were notables such as Meg Annison, director of communications at the Mississippi Lottery Corp.; Maura Langhart, senior director of annual giving at the UM Foundation, and Claire Hick, corporate vice president of operations at Oceans Healthcare.

“As a program, we see many female students and we see many females who are successful professionals,” said Ashley McGee, UM Women in Leadership adviser and director of the Ole Miss MBA program, which launched the chapter two years ago.

“As interest has grown, we decided now was the time to launch a larger scale event, PoliSHEd, our women’s leadership summit. In order to create good women leaders, put strong women leaders in front of them. It is a simple, yet powerful concept.”

The main theme was about having confidence in yourself and your abilities. Debra Sage, senior product manager at mTrade, recommended trying to have the same confidence that a man would have. She also emphasized the importance of boundaries and knowing when to say “no.”

Ole Miss students listen as panelists discuss women in leadership at the first-ever PoliSHEd Summit sponsored by the Women in Leadership organization. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“Never doubt yourself,” Sage said. “We are women, but we do have limits.”

Another recurring theme centered on career growth. Working at the roller rink and Jamba Juice, or as a babysitter or pharmacy cashier were among the first jobs mentioned during one panel discussion. Others focused on the role of women in leadership and provided advice to students for their future careers.

The panelists met with audience members to network, chat and ask follow-up questions.

“I loved being able to connect with my students and give them the advice I wish I had at their age,” said Hick, also an adjunct instructor of integrated marketing communications in the School of Journalism and New Media. “It is important to have a support system of people who lift you up.”

Working in a male-dominated industry can make it hard to break through, but Tywanna Smith, an athlete business coach, sports consultant, wealth specialist, best-selling author and speaker, has carved her own successful path.

“In my industry, women don’t really know how to break into the sports world,” Smith said. “Oftentimes, your network determines that. You can be very talented but still never have the opportunity to break into that space.”

The event’s organizers were pleased with the March 1 summit and plan to make it an annual event.

“PoliSHEd, for me, was all about how important it is to know yourself and how you light someone else’s candle does not dim your light,” said Aditi Holkunde, a graduate student in pharmaceutical sciences from Pune, India, and president of the Women in Leadership organization.

“This event also made us realize how important it is to be present in your life in the moment and enjoy life while building it.”