UVA Darden, Students Heed Call to ‘Be Bolder’ in Pursuit of Success for Women in Business

29 September 2015

By Dave Hendrick

Julieta Ross has never been one to settle, or to settle down.

Keynoting the 2015 Women’s Leadership Conference sponsored by the student-run Graduate Women in Business (GWIB) club at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, the chief technology officer at M&T Bank Corp. told roughly 150 women of the Darden community that the journey to a successful and rewarding life involved a path of one’s own creation.

“Life is not about finding yourself,” Ross said. “It’s about creating yourself.”

Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Italy and Florida, Ross bucked the family tradition of medical school and began creating her professional self via entry into the engineering program at Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate.

There, as one of three women in a class of 278 engineers, Ross said inserting herself into the broader cultural conversation proved to be a challenge and an opportunity.

“That was a huge learning experience for me, to realize very quickly how to be able to network with people who you have nothing in common with besides the fact that you know math,” Ross said. “How do you become part of a group that really sometimes wants nothing to do with you? You have to learn how to do that.”

After honing her technical and personal skills at Vanderbilt, Ross moved to Miami, earned her Ph.D. and began teaching.

Ross said she loved teaching and Miami. She was content and comfortable. However, after a mentor encouraged her to seek ways to continue to grow before becoming complacent, she soon left her job to work at Motorola Inc.

In what became a recurring theme in her life, Ross left certainty behind for a bigger and better challenge.

At Motorola, her team developed one of the first applications for a mobile phone, and, almost through happenstance, the technology that would become Bluetooth.

Ross said she was recognized for her team’s achievements and offered a 10-year trajectory to a leadership position at Motorola. However, Ross said she wasn’t ready for the next 10 years of her life to be mapped out on a clearly defined route and left shortly thereafter.

“That was a bold move,” Ross said, echoing the GWIB conference theme of Be Bolder.

After developing and selling a Web startup company, Ross made her foray into corporate banking at Citigroup Inc. Her steady rise continued apace in a new corporate environment, hastened by a willingness to “volunteer for all the jobs no one else wanted,” she said.

Serving as CTO of Latin America for Citi and living a stone’s throw from the beach in Miami, Ross said she was exactly where she wanted to be personally and professionally.

And then the persistent recruiters from M&T Bank came calling and convinced her to move to Buffalo, N.Y. In her new position for a little over a year, Ross is leading the bank’s fast-growing tech sector and enjoying a new life in western New York, the culmination of a series of bold choices.

Taking chances, she said, made the difference in her career success, urging the women in the audience not to shy away from similar bold choices in their career after leaving Darden.

Dean Beardsley Shows Support for Women in Business

Darden Dean Scott Beardsley has also demonstrated his commitment to accelerating the growth of women as top business leaders.

Just days into his new role as Darden’s ninth dean, Dean Beardsley participated in aWhite House summit focused on expanding opportunities for women in business.

In conjunction with the summit, Darden was among dozens of top business schools signing on to a set of best practices intended to foster successful development of women in business careers.

The best practices focus on ensuring access to business schools, preparing students for the workforce of the future, ensuring career services that meet the needs of a diverse constituency and setting an example for how organizations should be run.

“Darden has a proud 50-year track record of producing strong female business leaders,” said Beardsley. “Expanding these ranks to ever-higher numbers is a clear component of our mission to improve the world by developing responsible, global leaders.”

50 Years of Women inthe MBA Program

The GWIB conference attracted roughly 130 Darden students and featured a series of speakers and workshops built around the Be Bolder theme, including Being Bolder at Darden, Being Bolder in the Boardroom and Being Bolder Beyond the Office.

Specific breakout sessions focused on negotiations, achieving financial success and planning for family and motherhood, among other topics.

GWIB President Kayla Cartwright (Class of 2016) called the conference a “great success,” noting an “overwhelming” amount of positive feedback about both the experience and the content.

The conference, which also attracted 50 corporate supporters, comes as Darden continues to celebrate 50 years of women MBA students at the School, a milestone that coincides with a record number of women in the Class of 2017.

While the number of women at Darden continue to trend in a positive direction, faculty, alumni, staff and students at Darden are working to ensure that the School serves as the best place to develop future female leaders, according to Darden Director of Admissions Haley Whitlock Gyory.

The Darden administrator noted the 2014 launch of the Women@Darden initiative, which seeks to continually improve the quali­ty of the Darden experience for prospective and current female stu­dents and alumnae.

“Darden is committed to creating an empowering ecosystem for women,” said Whitlock Gyory. “Increasing the number and quality of female students is critical to Darden’s viability as a world-class business school.”

Darden is also a sponsor of the Forté Foundation, a consortium of business schools and companies promoting women in business leadership roles.

Nationally, about 34% of MBA graduates are women, significantly less than the figures for advanced degrees in law or medicine, according to the foundation.

The figures are particularly stark given the rates at which women continue to exceed men in overall college enrollment.

Darden’s participation with Forté, specialized programs for prospective students and the support from groups such as GWIB are some of the many efforts being taken to boost those figures.

Whitlock Gyory said Darden had gained “much momentum around women’s issues” through enterprise-wide collaboration and would continue to engage and lead on the topic.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia