Female Business Leaders Share Wisdom at Sacred Heart
From left are panelists Cindi Bigelow, Suzanne Greco, Elizabeth Hiza
and Jennifer Tombaugh with moderator Victoria Rosa-Garcia.
The Jack Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart University recently hosted a Women in Business panel discussion featuring four female business leaders who shared their thoughts on what it takes to be successful and overcome challenges.
Cindi Bigelow, president and CEO of Bigelow Tea; Suzanne Greco, former CEO of Subway Restaurants; Elizabeth Hiza, chief of staff at Barnum Financial Group; and Jennifer Tombaugh, president of Tauck, lined the stage of the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center theater. Victoria Rosa-Garcia, director of the Welch College Experience, moderated the event.
After panelists provided brief descriptions of their business backgrounds, Rosa-Garcia started the discussion with a question about obstacles the women overcame to break the glass ceiling.
Greco said there is a bias against women as leaders; though sometimes it’s unconscious, men often think women are not groomed for such roles. “Women have to prove themselves over and over again,” she said. That never really occurred to her while she was CEO, she noted, but as she reflected on her career, she realized there were many times she had to prove herself. “It’s the persistence that helped me through,” said Greco.
Hiza said finding confidence is important. She told the audience filled with students that once they find they are able to move ahead, they will start breaking more glass ceilings.
Later, Rosa-Garcia asked the group about the importance of mentors.
“A mentor has been where you want to go, and they guide you along the way,” Hiza said. “They’ll introduce you to people. Everyone can find value in a mentor.”
Hiza said a lot of her mentors aren’t people she actually knows; they are people she follows on social media who post motivational and helpful lessons. “I’ve read their books…they’ve impacted me,” she said.
Bigelow said learning from mentors is important, but so is learning from teachers. She told students there are going to be colleagues who will leave them puzzled as to how they obtained their jobs. “It’s your job to analyze that. What are they doing that you don’t respect?” Bigelow said. “I learned so much from what I didn’t want to be.”
On the same note, Tombaugh advised asking questions and observing others. “Keeping your eyes and ears open is important,” she said. “Everyone has a story to tell, so ask people questions and observe; see how people are reacting.”
Greco echoed her peers’ statements. She said learning by watching is very important, as well as taking a step back, reflecting and realizing what can be done differently moving forward.
Rosa-Garcia read a question from a student who asked the leaders how they handle working on a team.
Tombaugh said she needed time to get the confidence to just sit back and listen to the group and not necessarily be the one doing all the talking. “I realized that it’s okay to be the facilitator,” Tombaugh said. She added that once people get rid of their fear, they are able to put their guard down and concentrate on producing outcomes.
Bigelow advised the students that college is the right breeding ground for the people they will become later in life. She said students have the choice to skip class if they don’t like an assignment or teacher, but once they get into the real world, they’re going to have bosses and assignments they don’t like. “You don’t have that luxury at work to skip,” Bigelow said, “so you better get used to it now.”
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