Women Leaders Talk Workplace Empowerment

Left to right: Donna Uchida (panelist, chief of communications at Kaiser Permanente), Tiffin Groff (panelist, MBA '03, vice president of channel marketing for Peet’s Coffee & Tea), Amy Vernetti (panelist from Google), Kris Snow (president of Cisco Systems Capital Corp. and SEBA Advisory Board member), Amy Vernetti '90 (panelist, director of leadership recruiting at Google), SEBA Dean Zhan Li, and Moire Rasmussen (moderator, diversity and inclusion leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers).SEBA’s Executive Speaker Series kicked off last Thursday, Nov. 3 with its Women in Leadership panel. An impressive list of prominent women leaders—executives from Google, Kaiser Permanente, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and PricewaterhouseCoopers—moderated by PricewaterhouseCoopers Diversity and Inclusion Leader Moire Rasmussen, focused on empowering women as leaders, speaking to a crowd of MBA and undergraduate students.. Panelists discussed working to raise the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs from 5 percent to as high as 50 percent. “We need to create a sisterhood to support other women,” said Donna Uchida, chief of communications at Kaiser Permanente.

Tiffin Groff MBA '03, vice president of channel marketing for Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Amy Vernetti '90, director of leadership recruiting at Google, also joined the discussion of how women leaders have changed—and been changed by—the workplace over the past decade.

Vernatti, director of leadership recruiting at Google, recruits CEOs at Google. Uchida, chief of communications at Kaiser Permanente, shapes communication for Kaiser, promotes and protects the organization’s reputation, and advises the chairman and CEO. Groff is the leader of business and marketing planning for Peet’s Coffee & Tea grocery store sales.

Even as women continue to make great strides, challenges and obstacles remain. From compensation equality to underlying cultural biases, gender still shapes perceptions and influences reality. What challenges does the next generation of women leaders face, and how will they forever shape the future of business?

The three panelists agreed that women can help to overcome biases and disparities in the workplace. They spoke about how women have made great advancements in society, but emphasized there is still more work to do. Vernatti advised women to “go and attack opportunities that are in front of them” and not be afraid to fight for what they want.

At the end, the panelists were asked what they wish they had known before entering the workforce. Uchida said, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” Groff said, “Stay true to yourself.” Rasmussen would have liked to know “how to read an audience better, and to accept constructive criticism.” Vernetti told women, “Don’t be so conscientious. Goofing off sometimes is good.”