They lead some of the most influential companies in the world; start businesses that shake up the status quo; advise governments around the globe; and change industries by advocating for fairness and equality. The Smith College Business Network provides tangible support among a group of the world's most accomplished female leaders.
Gain exclusive access to networking and educational events—in person and online—that build your skills, capacities and professional connections.
Participate in signature events in New York City, San Francisco and on campus.
Learn directly from high-level global business leaders and participate in conversations that can transform your life and career.
Coach and connect with the next generation of business leaders—Smith students—to ensure a legacy of powerful women's leadership in business.
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Smith women in business are making an impressive impact. Yet, the landscape still looks decisively male. Less than 4.6 percent of CEOs of S&P Fortune 500 companies are women. Women comprise less than 12 percent of corporate boards in the U.S. Women of color fare worse, making up just 11.9 percent of managerial and professional positions.
With The Smith College Business Network, we aim to shift the tide, ensuring more women—Smith women—have a voice at the decision-making table and make their way to the top of industries and corporations.
Smith College is serious about educating the next wave of leaders in business and fostering women's entrepreneurial spirit. We're nurturing the next generation of game changers just as we're supporting our alumnae who are working in the trenches, leading companies and tipping the demographics.
Smith is an incubator of big ideas and a launching pad for bold and ambitious women. At Smith, we teach women to make their world.
Programs like Wall Street Prep, the Smith-Tuck Business Bridge Program, Training the Streets and Mock Interview Day inspire students to dream big and not be held back by outdated stereotypes or society's limits.
The result: generations of alumnae are excelling in the business world. As our programs evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing business landscape, new generations of Smith women will continue to innovate, push boundaries and lead change.
First, Marilyn Carlson Nelson '61 helped grow the Carlson Company into one of the most successful hospitality and travel businesses in the world. Then she took on one of the world's biggest problems: child trafficking.
Nelson says that when she graduated from Smith, there were no female Fortune 500 CEOs. "When I came to Carlson, we had two women executives," she said. "I created a meritocracy that offered training and career development for both men and women. Sure enough, with equal opportunity, women succeeded in equal measure."
The Carlson umbrella includes Country Inns and Suites and Radisson, as well as restaurant chain T.G.I Friday's. As CEO, Nelson doubled the size of Carlson and became recognized for her commitment to corporate responsibility. In 2008, she published her best-selling book How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership.
Carlson led her company to publicly commit to fighting human trafficking. She implemented training for all Carlson staff to recognize potential trafficking behavior happening in hotels.
"I have always believed that business-in the right hands, operating in the right culture-can be one of the world's most powerful forces for good," Nelson said. "In the end, making the right choices where business and human rights intersect often comes down to courage and leadership."
In 2014, Carlson was selected as one of the Oslo Business for Peace Award Honorees for her work abolishing human trafficking of children. The White House also awarded her the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. In 2015, Smith College awarded her an honorary degree.
When Shelly Braff Lazarus '68 graduated from Smith, she had only a vague sense of what she wanted to do next. Eventually, she pursued an MBA from Columbia University because she hoped a business degree might exempt her from a career as a typist. She was one of only four women in a class of 300 at Columbia.
For a woman who wasn't sure where she was going, she was already knocking on glass ceilings.
Several decades and many job titles later—none of them "typist"—Lazarus is now the former CEO and chair emerita of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather. During her tenure, she was a leader in the advertising industry, building the brand images of such household names as American Express, IBM and Dove. She regularly appeared in Fortune magazine's annual ranking of the 50 most powerful women in American business. She is also a recipient of the Advertising Educational Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.
In an address at Smith in 2005, she said she fell in love with the advertising industry.
"I found advertising and I found a company that valued ideas over gender, that balanced hard work with humanity, a place that allowed me to be as successful as I wanted to be," she said. "I didn't go looking for the corner office. It found me."
Lazarus, who has three children, has been outspoken about a work-life balance. Rather than asking, "Can I have it all?" she has urged women to ask, "What do I really want?"
As a teenager living in postwar Germany, Anita Volz Wien '62 navigated various languages, cultures and politic ideologies. One could say she's doing the same thing today.
Wien is chair of the Observatory Group, a macro-economic and political advisory firm that monitors political and economic events on behalf of their investor clients. Wien guides investors to stay ahead of the curve on policy developments that may affect their investments-again, working across languages, cultures and politics.
Wien, who is fluent in German and French, said that "understanding different cultures and speaking a foreign language are valuable tools both personally and professionally."
These tools have served her well. Wien was a partner and vice chairman of the G7 group and served as senior vice president of Oxford Analytica. She led a 20-year career in brokerage, investment management and commercial banking, holding positions with European American Bank, Chase, and Lehman Brothers and was a partner of the merged firm Weiss, Peck and Greer.
At Smith, Wien majored in European history, and she said the college prepared her to succeed in business. "The richness of the environment and the number of individuals by whom I was surrounded for four years inspired me to find a field where I could grow and progress."
Wien has sat on numerous boards, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of New York and the Women's Forum. She is a trustee emerita of Smith College.
When she was a young girl growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dureen Shahnaz '89 was taught to always give to others when she could. This sense of social responsibility has stuck with her—and ultimately culminated into a career.
In 2011, after years as an investment banker and a publishing executive for Harper's, Marie Claire and Oprah, Shahnaz founded Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), Asia's first socially responsible stock exchange. Among the companies listed on IIX are those that give micro-loans to female entrepreneurs in rural areas and provide low-income housing or sustainable food security solutions.
The IIX has gained strong international support for its social mission, including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Shahnaz says her decision to focus on a social stock exchange rather than a nonprofit or charity organization was strategic.
"There is room for charities in the world, but I am interested in sustainable development, thus the interest in social enterprises—for-profit or not-for-profit companies focused on a social mission with a market orientation," she said. "They need to be able to attract investments for which they can give a return, and really show they can be financially viable as well."
Mia Abruzzese '87 is always one step ahead. First, she popularized the walking shoe for New Balance in the early 1990s, just before the walking-as-exercise craze took hold. Then, while working at Stride Rite, she saw a gap in the children's shoe industry for cute yet highly durable shoes. As a response, in 2003, she started Morgan & Milo, a children's footwear company, and she hit her stride.
"The children's market was ripe for someone to address the needs of the successful, independent-thinking, fashion-conscious, thirty-something parent with young children," Abruzzese said.
Turns out her instincts were right. The company's shoes, which come in playful colors and designs and include clogs, boots and suede tennis shoes, are available throughout the country and even internationally.
In 2011, the company expanded into children's apparel. In an interview with CircleUp, a crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs, Abruzzese says the line has been growing ever since.
"We have really nice traction, great catalog accounts, and lots of independent retailers," she said. "The apparel line has been very well received. And the apparel market is probably four times the size of the footwear market."
She has strong advice for fellow entrepreneurs looking to dip a toe in the apparel market: "If you don't love it, it's never going to take off," she told CircleUp. "You have to love what you're doing and you have to love what you're making and designing. That's really what makes a difference, because it's not easy."