The Broad College’s biannual Advancing Women in Business event is one of the most engaging and beneficial events that the college offers, focused on connecting alumni, recent graduates and current students for professional growth. Although the event was held virtually this year, participants were able to connect and discuss various topics related to the pandemic and how they are making strides as women leaders in a male-dominated industry.

Advancing Women in Business attendees at an event in 2018

“When I first started at MSU, I recognized that we didn’t have as many women in [the MBA program] as I thought that we should have,” Cheri DeClercq, assistant dean for MBA programs and a champion of the event, said. “As women, we often have many demands on our time and many guilts that we are trying to juggle. It seems that we are trying to put everybody else’s priorities in front of our own.”

The virtual event provided an opportunity for networking in addition to a panel of Broad alumnae: Whitney Anderson-Harrell (B.A. Marketing ’02), chief community development officer at Michigan State University Federal Credit Union; Lynn Andrews (Executive MBA ’11), vice president of strategic marketing at Coorstek Inc.; and Becky Beamish (MBA Human Resources ’01), vice president of human resources and global operations at Stanley Black and Decker.

DeClercq began the discussion by asking the panelists about their biggest takeaways from this new and challenging time amid the pandemic.

“The main thing that I want to stress is about resilience. When I found that there were times that I was so exhausted, I thought about the rest of the team, especially the people in the plants,” said Beamish, who moved into a new role right before the pandemic hit in 2020. “No matter how bad it is, you pull on the strength of the team, and I found that that’s what helped me.”

Other panelists shared their experiences with imposter syndrome — a feeling of self-doubt that is common among women in the workplace — which often leads women to hold themselves back from opportunities because they fear that they are not good enough.

“Personally, in my career there were times when I should’ve just gone for it, but I was nervous,” Anderson-Harrell shared. “The way that we turn that tide is talking about it. It’s OK to take these chances. This is how you learn and grow.”

The alumnae also talked about what it’s like to be the only woman in the decision-making room, offering advice to future women in business to turn the unequal situation into a positive chance to be yourself.

“I find it an opportunity for you to shine even more,” Beamish said. DeClercq and the other panelists echoed this sentiment, saying that if you are in a room, you are meant to be there, and that you should use that moment to prove to yourself that you can conquer anything.

A resounding theme of the discussion was how progress is made through dialogue. All of the panelists came into the discussion with important advice to inspire the next generation of women leaders to follow in their footsteps and make business happen.

“I hope everyone continues to grow and excel in their careers. By attending an event like this, we can support one another and learn from one another,” Beamish said.