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Forté’s Largest-Ever MBA Conference Powers Up the Windy City

“Your voice is at the heart of your power. You…must ask for what you want and, if there is something you would like to do, do not wait for someone to ask you.”

With these words, Carla Harris – vice chair of Morgan Stanley and an inspirational, renowned voice for women in business – encapsulated the “Let’s Power Up!” sentiment pervasive throughout Forté’s 2019 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference held in Chicago in June. Walmart was the Diamond Sponsor of this year’s event, the sixteenth time Forté has hosted its annual conference. Held each year in a different city, MBA students who are entering top business schools gather for two days to learn from powerful and seasoned women business leaders, meet top recruiters, and connect with fellow MBAs.

This year’s conference had the largest-ever attendance numbers:

  • 627 attendees
  • 105 schools and companies
  • 163 speakers

Other highlights from this year’s conference include:

Pearls of wisdom

The popular annual “Dialogue with Leadership” session featured two powerhouse women in business: Carla Harris, vice chair of Morgan Stanley, and Dana McNabb, president of General Mills’ US Cereal and Snacks division.  Find out how Carla gained the power to say “no” and how Dana turned a mistake into a career game-changer.

Shark Tank, Forté style 

The fourth year of the annual Power Pitch competition saw four MBA student finalists present their business ideas to a panel of esteemed judges:

  • Stephanie Breedlove, co-founder of Homepay, author, and angel investor
  • Barbara Clarke, founding principal of The Impact Seat
  • Janis Collins, co-founder of The Refinery

LittleMoochi – a digital pet powered by artificial intelligence that teaches children healthy eating habits – won both the audience’s and judges’ choice prizes for a total of $10,000. 

Edie Hunt Inspiration Award winner: US Army veteran and MBA grad

The Edie Hunt Inspiration Award is given annually to an MBA student at a Forté sponsor school who has made contributions that advance women in business. The 2019 recipient, Charlotte “Charlie” Burnett, a 2019 graduate of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and US Army veteran, was selected for her remarkable achievements in leading the Carolina Women in Business club, including expanding participation of male allies.

Celebrating gender-balanced MBA enrollment

During the conference, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business was recognized for being the first of Forté’s sponsor MBA schools to achieve gender balance.

Two Jessicas, One mission

The conference closed on an empowering note when Jessica Raasch, the 2018 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award winner, led a Q&A session with Jessica Bennett, the New York Times’ first-ever gender editor and author of Feminist Fight Club. Jessica Bennett delivered a powerful message about tools women can employ to combat persistent workplace gender challenges.

These standout moments were only a part of the overall conference experience, which also included the annual career expo and multiple breakout sessions on topics such as industry choices; internships; negotiating; entrepreneurship; and intersectionality, to name a few.

Attendees left the conference with fresh insights, new information, and a growing network. Most importantly, they realized the many possibilities a career in business can offer and how they can contribute to changing the balance of power in the workplace. As Dana McNabb said, “The MBA is about connections with really smart people who will go on to do great things.”

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