Press Release

Valerie Jarrett, Sandra Lee, Christine Quinn, Carmen Wong Ulrich, Majora Carter, Kathryn Wylde, Business Leaders Kick Off Gillibrand Summit Aimed to Help Women Lead Economic Recovery

Oct 17, 2011

New York, NYU.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) hosted her first annual “Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit” in partnership with New York University at the Rosenthal Pavilion in New York City today to provide an important opportunity for women across New York to build professional skills, network, and engage in a direct conversation about the many opportunities and challenges women face in gaining equal footing in business. With more than half of all U.S. households today relying on dual incomes, Gillibrand is committed to creating a new generation of “Rosie the Riveters” and ensuring women are empowered to lead the economic recovery and help rebuild the middle class. Gillibrand was joined by the Partnership for New York City and the Council of Urban Professionals to announce a new statewide mentoring program beginning next month aimed at helping young women professionals advance in their careers. 

The summit kicked off with a keynote discussion between President Obama’s Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and WABC news anchor Diana Williams. The keynote was followed by a lively panel discussion with Gillibrand, Sandra Lee, Carmen Wong Ulrich and Majora Carter where they shared insights about how women can strengthen their own economic futures.

Nationwide, women earn more than half of college and post-graduate degrees and make up more than half the workforce, but they still face significant barriers to reaching full equality. To this day, women still earn only 78% of what men earn. Less than 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by a female chief executive officer while only 16 percent of those companies’ board seats are occupied by women.  On average, women start their business with eight times less funding than men. 

In front of an audience of more than 350 women, including NYU students, and professional women of all ages and backgrounds, Senator Gillibrand was joined by Partnership for NYC President & CEO Kathryn Wylde, and Council of Urban Professionals (CUP) Executive Director Chloe Drew, in announcing a new statewide mentorship program to mentor and counsel young women who are seeking career growth and advancement across various industries. This new collaboration between the Partnership for NYC and CUP will recruit 100 senior business executives from a range of industries to mentor 100 young women professionals. The program begins November 2011 and is open to mentees between two and seven years out of college. Senior executives are participating in industries from the financial services, to law, media & entertainment, real estate, consulting, public relations & marketing, retail and luxury goods sectors – including Citigroup, IBM, Macy’s and Moelis & Company. 

Mentoring studies show the value and positive benefits that mentors provide young people, including strengthening communication skills, building self-esteem, improving academic achievement and providing valuable insights to help shape decisions essential to career advancement. The mentors in this newly created program will offer strategic feedback: early career path advice, negotiating salary and promotion, graduate school, building a power base of advocates and sponsors, and more. The Partnership and CUP will match mentors to mentees by industry.

 “Right now our economy is suffering, and I believe empowering women in the workforce will be the key to long term economic growth and the rebuilding of the great American middle class,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Women still face many challenges in the work place – but we also have amazing opportunities. Currently, women make up more than half of the college graduates and are earning more than half of the advanced degrees in this country. If we are going to out-innovate, out-educate, out-compete other countries, women need the tools to help lead the way to economic recovery.”

“NYU is proud to be part of this important and timely summit with its impressive array of women leaders drawn from the ranks of government, business, and public service,” said Lynne P. Brown, Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs, New York University. “Senator Gillibrand has rightly put a focus on what will help move this nation’s economy forward: giving women the tools to succeed.” 

“Women have made great strides as leaders in government and in building their own businesses over the past forty years, but are still seriously underrepresented in the top ranks of corporate power,” said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “This new mentoring program is designed to help more young female executives reach the C-suite.” 

We know that having a ‘power base’ of mentors, sponsors and advocates significantly increases a rising professional’s chances of learning of opportunities and being successful,” said Chloe Drew, Executive Director, Council of Urban Professionals (CUP). “Historically, young women have had a harder time identifying and building their network of mentors. CUP is honored to work with Senator Gillibrand and Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for New York City to match senior leaders from across business sectors with talented young professionals to provide them with candid and farsighted feedback as they plan their careers.” 

Dozens of high-powered women leaders participated in a series of breakout sessions for attendees and women at every stage of their career. The White House Project President Tiffany Dufu and Catalyst’s Senior Vice President of Strategy & Marketing Debbie Soon,  led a workshop titled: “Know Your Value: Taking Your Skills to the Next Level,” providing attendees with tools and resources for skills-training, networking, and salary-negotiating. 

Women executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs engaged in a discussion with White House Office of Public Engagement Senior Policy Advisor Bibi Hidalgo, NYU Stern School of Business’ Senior Associate Director of the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Cynthia Franklin, Managing Director of Golden Seeds Peggy Wallace, and Manhattan Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Ploeger on reaching the next level of success. With women and minority-owned small businesses growing at a faster rate now more than ever before, the panel offered ways to access avenues of capital to start or grow their small businesses and stressed the importance of placing more women in corporate leadership positions and board rooms to obtain stronger financial results.  

The U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Director Sara Manzano-Díaz, Count Me In Founder and CEO Nell Merlino, Marie Claire Magazine Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, and Founder and CEO of LearnVest, Inc. Alexa von Tobel led a group session on developing the skills and knowledge to tap into and succeed in the new high-tech, global economy. 

Clifton Consulting Principal Marjorie Clifton, Glamour Magazine Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive, Food Spotting Co-founder and ABC News New Media Strategist Soraya Darabi, and Dress for Success CEO Joi Gordon participated in a workshop titled “Powering Your Passion: Developing Your Brand and Learning How to Sell It,” discussing ways to position one’s personal and company brand to succeed in any competitive environment.