While feminism may have “conquered the culture,” as a recent New Republic cover story proclaimed, the discussion about women’s equality is far from over.
One new effort to promote women’s leadership in the workplace is the Take the Lead organization, co-founded by Gloria Feldt and Amy Litzenberger, a former investment banker (connected to Wagner College via her husband, Robert Litzenberger ’64).
On the public launch date of Take the Lead, last February, a panel of five Wagner women graduates who have been highly successful in the corporate world spoke to a packed audience in the Manzulli Board Room of Foundation Hall.
All five talked about how their careers have evolved. “It’s a fascinating industry,” said Mary Caracappa ’82, managing director for firm strategy and execution at Morgan Stanley, where she has worked since 1986. “I’ve been afforded so many different types of roles.”
“The senior male leadership of the firm has to be there and deal with the barriers to women’s leadership,” she said.
Kathleen Haggerty ’80, vice president of global credit for American Express, has had a similar experience, having held leadership roles in correspondent banking, collections management, global rewards, and global data. “I have re-engineered myself out of a job several times,” she said.
Cynthia DiBartolo ’84, a political science major, left college with a desire to work on Wall Street. She left after being told that she had been hired because she was “easy on the eye.” She entered law school, and ended up becoming director of corporate compliance for Citigroup. Now she runs her own company, Tigress Financial Partners.
Lisa Bennett ’85, executive director of communications for technology and digital business at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., said that women are forced to make choices between family priorities or workplace advancement. “You can’t have it all,” she said. “The women I respect make their choices and are happy with them.”
Bennett’s comment sparked a discussion about whether workplaces are becoming more accommodating to both men’s and women’s commitments to family. “There’s been a generational shift,” argued Caracappa. “This next generation is going to radically change all these horror stories we’re talking about. Firms have to figure out how to balance lifestyles and career cycles in order to retain women and men.”
Joan Arnold ’75, a partner and chair of the tax practice group with Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia, said that the discussion of women in leadership roles needs to be conducted with the male leaders at the table as well. “The senior male leadership of the firm has to be there and deal with the barriers to women’s leadership,” she said.
With the help of these alumnae, Wagner has started a Women’s Professional Network for students.
In October, DiBartolo hosted the students in her office. “For me, the biggest takeaways were her personal story and career tips,” said Arijeta Lajka ’15, one of the student participants. “She almost died of cancer, and she still managed to rise again and build up a company. She also taught us how important diversity is in the workforce: Diversity of different races and also diversity of talent are needed to build a successful company.”