First annual Executive Women Conference provides encouragement for female students interested in finance

The first annual Executive Women Conference, hosted by the student-run Goizueta Women in Finance, took place on April 12.  Goizueta Women in Finance is dedicated to engaging female students interested in pursuing a career in finance, and the conference serves as a forum where students can learn about the experiences of women in senior leadership positions. GWIF co-Presidents Rachel Klein 19BBA and Allison Zieser 19BBA organized the conference.

Speakers included Kim Scardino, SVP of Finance at The Home Depot, Robin Moore 87BBA, VP of Integrated Services at the Coca-Cola Company, and Allison Dukes 06EMBA, CFO of SunTrust.

Kim Scardino at the Executive Women Conference. Photo by Trevor Chun.

Scardino shared her career trajectory with attendees, from working in investment banking at Credit Suisse, to accepting an offer at American Express while six months pregnant, to her eventual transition to the retail sector. Over time, Scardino developed what she calls the “Four Cs of Success”: courage, composure, candor and care. “Being a woman in the workplace is a wonderful opportunity,” she told the students. “You can have a family, you can be successful. No one should worry whether that’s attainable for them. If your career is not going that way, maybe it’s time for a change.”

Moore also imparted wisdom she gained throughout her career, which started with a degree in accounting from Goizueta’s BBA program. After taking her first business class, Moore was hooked. “I loved everything about it. The world made sense.” As a financial auditor, Moore changed industries often — and used each new role to learn more about herself and the world. “You have to disrupt yourself, whether you’re an individual or a company,” Moore said. “What matters is that you continue to grow.”

Robin Moore speaks at the Executive Women Conference

The future of women in finance is bright, according to Dukes. “Women in investment banking are poised for unbelievable success,” she told the students. “I got married as an investment banker. I had two babies as an investment banker. There is no reason that you can’t do all of those things and have a really rewarding career, so let me just dispel that myth right now.”

As she began to move up the ladder in her career, Dukes realized she had all the finance skills she needed. “The soft skills, I worried, weren’t there. And that’s what led me to come to Goizueta and go through the executive MBA program, which I finished in 2006.” Dukes said the decision to return to school was personal, and it wasn’t easy. “You don’t go back to business school because somebody tells you to. You choose to come back and get a graduate degree because it’s something that you want to do for yourself — and you’re investing in yourself.”

Allison Dukes at the Executive Women Conference. Photo by Trevor Chun.

This investment would come in handy while working in the banking industry in the mid-2000s. And as Dukes navigated the various challenges that occurred during and after the 2008 financial crisis, she began to feel comfortable in difficult situations. “I had gotten really used to the world crumbling around me, and I found that presented nothing but opportunity,” she said. “Never let a good crisis go to waste. Raise your hand, jump in there, and figure out what you can do.”

Dukes’ embrace of challenging opportunities led her to her current role as CFO of SunTrust, one she calls a “career-defining opportunity.” It’s also the type of opportunity that will be available to the students in attendance, she emphasized. “Everybody suffers a little bit of imposter syndrome and wonders, ‘Why me? How’d I get here? I’m not sure I have everything it takes to do this.’ You have more than you think — and you probably have more than the people around you. So have courage, ask questions, build relationships and don’t be afraid.”

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