Inaugural UVA Darden Women in Leadership Summit Gathers Community to Advance Women in Business

By Molly Mitchell

Carolyn Miles speaking at Darden's Women's Leadership Summit

Carolyn Miles (MBA ’88) welcomed everyone to the Summit

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business recently held the inaugural Women in Leadership Summit at UVA Darden DC Metro in Rosslyn, Virginia. The sold-out event featured leading-edge discussions, networking and skill-building focused on developing and celebrating women leaders in times of change under the overarching theme of “The Great Reinvention.”

“The last two-plus years have been really tough for all of us, but I think particularly for women in the workforce,” said Darden Professor Carolyn Miles (MBA ’88) in her opening remarks. “We wanted this day to be an opportunity to think about reinventing ourselves.”

"If you are a woman in business, you are going to have to live in a perpetual state of reinvention."
Connie Hallquist (MBA ’91), Garnet Hill President

The conference curated speakers and panelists to cover topics including sustainability, venture capital, tech, innovation, equity and belonging, entrepreneurship and more, including a keynote address by Garnet Hill President Connie Hallquist (MBA ’91).

Hallquist focused on key inflection points in her wildly diverse career when reinvention of her job, role, business and even herself became necessary for growth and success.

“If you are a woman in business, you are going to have to live in a perpetual state of reinvention,” Hallquist said. “If you are able to think of reinvention as a positive, you will be able to reach goals you never believed possible.”

Hallquist offered five key takeaways from her experiences for women looking to be business leaders:

  • Prepare yourself now for perpetual reinvention
  • Push past your comfort zone
  • Hitch your wagon to those whom you admire, and who believe in you
  • Know your value, and if not reciprocated, take it elsewhere
  • You control the journey from an ordinary life to an extraordinary life

Watch Garnet Hill President Connie Hallquist Keynote

Attendees spent the morning in skill-building workshops hosted by Darden faculty and industry experts on creating connection and championing equity and belonging, engaging in critical conversations and navigating ethical dilemmas.

Everyone came back together for a live recording of Good Disruption, a podcast featuring lively discussion between Darden Professors Michael Lenox and Yael Grushka-Cockayne on cutting edge technologies that challenge the status quo. Lenox and Grushka-Cockayne welcomed Chrissa Pagitsas (MBA ’09), Laure Katz (GEMBA ’16) and Chanceé Lundy Russell to discuss disruption and sustainability.

In The New World of Work plenary session, Darden Professor Allison Elias led a wide-ranging discussion with Meghan Welch of Plaid, Jenny Abramson of Rethink Impact and Meghan Fennell of Deloitte on recurring topics in board rooms and lunch dates everywhere – Covid, mental health, flexibility, caregiving and more. “I think this is largely about fixing the workplace, and larger structural and systemic issues, not about fixing the women,” said Abramson.

"There’s so much room for women in this space, and there’s so much need for it."
Aurelia Flores, Venture Partner at New Markets Venture Partners

The afternoon featured workshops on industry insights from women at the top of their fields, including venture capital and private equity, entrepreneurship, tech and innovation and media.

Panelists in the venture capital and private equity workshop were flooded with questions from attendees on how to get into these spaces in which women are notoriously underrepresented. Each panelist described her unique path, and Aurelia Flores, venture partner at New Markets Venture Partners said, “There’s so much room for women in this space, and there’s so much need for it.”

The summit concluded with the presentation of several new women’s leadership awards that recognize individuals in the community for their outstanding leadership and contributions to the advancement of women in business.

About the Awards and Awardees

  • Women’s Leadership Champion Award – Lorraine Hariton

Awarded to a prominent and successful leader in the corporate, public service or nonprofit space who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to championing women in her field and an extensive focus on developing, challenging, motivating and supporting women in their careers and lives.

Hariton is president and CEO of Catalyst, the global nonprofit working to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion. She has been a champion for women across many facets of her career in public service, business and the nonprofit space.

The award was presented by Edie Fraser, CEO at Women Business Collaborative.

  • Recent Alumni Leader Award – Angelica Alam (MBA ’14)

Awarded to a recent Darden graduate (2012–21) in the corporate, public service or non-profit space who has demonstrated a commitment to developing, challenging, motivating and supporting women in their careers and lives.

Alam is the founder and president of The PowHER Circle, a community of women focused on their own and collective journeys to remove doubt, elevate confidence, and create opportunities in the pursuit of personal and professional goals. She also serves as finance systems manager at Meta.

The award was presented by Professor of Practice, former CEO of Save the Children and Summit organizer Carolyn Miles (MBA ’88).

  • Women’s Leadership Summit Trailblazer Award – Natalia Alvarez Diaz (MBA ’22)

For her leadership and numerous contributions to advancing women and gender equity at Darden, inside and outside of the classroom, through her work with faculty, Admissions, Women@Darden, the MBA Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives, and her presidency of the Graduate Women In Business club. Diaz is a visionary leader, paying careful attention to the individuals and the community around her, working to make Darden the best school it could be for women.

The award was presented by Senior Associate Dean for Professional Degree Programs Yael Grushka-Cockayne.

The Women in Leadership Summit grew out of Women @ Darden, a multifaceted initiative intended to develop initiatives that will drive the school toward gender equity and ultimately make Darden the business school of choice for women interested in graduate business education. The Summit represents one of many initiatives with a focus on building connections and lasting relationships between the Darden School and its students, faculty and alumnae, as well as educating women on the value of business education.

View the Women in Leadership Summit Photo Gallery

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia