Sara Haines ’00, Co-Host of The View/Correspondent for ABC News
Sara started her career in broadcast journalism at NBC in their Page Program and later as a correspondent on the Today Show. She then joined the ABC News family, first as a correspondent at Good Morning America and now as co-host of Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show The View.
by: Kathryn Stuart ’08
Company: Disney/ABC News
Current Title: Co-Host of The View/Correspondent for ABC News
Q: What do/did you see as the value of your Smith education?
A: I’ve always been a hard worker, but Smith really nurtured and pushed my idea of work ethic. Being surrounded by amazing, driven, game-changing women inspired me and fed a fire within me that made me reach higher. This was paramount, especially because I was humbled at first by the academic rigors of Smith. I learned that I could do anything as long as I put in the work. I also gained a new perspective that the value is in the journey; it’s less about the letter grade you receive at the end and more about what you learn along the way that really matters.
Q: How did Smith help you prepare for your career in business?
A: I don’t know if it was generational or situational or something else, but I didn’t grow up in a time that I felt I was limited as a girl first or then as a young woman. But if there was a subconscious feeling of being limited it definitely was shattered when I walked into a new place with some of the most powerful, intelligent people I’d ever met, and they were all women; all Smithies! So, I think knowing that I would never set foot in that type of environment again and the mentality of “I survived the Navy Seals of Education” taught me that… I got this! I left Smith feeling empowered to take on whatever the business world brought my way.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in business today?
A: I think that a man is more likely to apply for a job or ask for a raise when he’s only 50% prepared, and I find that women sometimes choose to wait until they are surer of where they stand before taking action or asking for what they want. This is just from what I’ve observed with myself and my female friends. Communicating and putting in motion what you want in the business world and knowing your self-worth can be a challenge. I’ve never been a fan of arrogance or ego but I feel like I almost need to channel that attitude from time to time because I find that’s the voice men walk around with more day-to-day. It’s almost that type a mindset and the hesitation of “am I sure I’m prepared?” Men are quicker to just go for it. Therefore, they are swinging the bat more and hitting the ball more. It’s a cumulative effect.
Q: How has the landscape changed for women in business since you started your career? How do you see it changing in the future?
A: I’m lucky because the business I’ve been in my entire career is generally female dominant, so I may have sort of a skewed view. Apart from when I started in the Page Program at NBC, which had more of a corporate feel, my experiences at ABC News, Good Morning America and The View, all very female dominant places, have been really uplifting and empowering for me. I find that with every decade, the differences people talk about for men and women at work are fading. Strides are being made every day.
Q: What unique skills do you see women bringing to the table?
A: One of the biggest things I’ve observed around female leaders in workplace situations is that they tend to be more collaborative. Something I’ve always loved about working in a female dominant environment is that it feels like more of a team effort and everyone benefits from that.
Q: What should Smith College be doing to best prepare students for successful careers in business?
A: I think it’s important that young people be given the resources and opportunities to discover what they’re truly passionate about instead of what they feel they’re supposed to do to become what our society defines as “successful.” It’s also important when you start out not to feel entitled. Realize that you are lucky to be where you are and have the mindset that no task is below you. Don’t put judgment on tasks being asked of you. Put your head down and do the best you can do with the task ahead of you and success will follow. And you will always succeed if it’s something you love doing.
Q: What are your thoughts on Smith starting a network specifically for business professionals? Is it something you would have used (had it been available) when you were starting your career?
A: I think all the alumnae services are beneficial. The four years spent at Smith are only the beginning. Those life connections take you forward, whether it’s advice, wisdom, experience, or guidance. What the school does for you the moment you leave is a real value investment.
Q: What are you reading right now?
A: SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane
Q: What was your favorite class at Smith?
A: I have three that are tied: The American Presidency, Political Theory, Changes & Challenges in American Education. I still think about them and quote experiences from the discussions/readings.
Q: Do you (or did you) have a strong female mentor in business?
A: Two of my best friends, Amy Robach, News Anchor at Good Morning America, and Erin Grau, VP of Operations for The New York Times.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson ’61
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.
Shelly Braff Lazarus ’68
When Shelly Braff Lazarus ’68 graduated from Smith, she had only a vague sense of what she wanted to do next. Eventually, she pursued a master’s in business administration 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?”
Anita Volz Wien ’62
As a teenager living in postwar Germany, Anita Volz Wien ’62 navigated various languages, cultures and political 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.
Dureen Shahnaz ’89
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
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.”