Successful Women Share Insight on Becoming Leaders and Change Agents

April 06, 2017

There was plenty of good advice and inspiration, when more than 400 women turned out March 30 for the School’s annual Women in Leadership panel discussion. Four women leaders in finance, tech, government and nonprofits shared their experiences in becoming leaders and change agents, suggesting as wealth manager Teresa Valdes-Fauli Weintraub put it: “You can do it all, but not at the same time.” All four emphasized the importance of empathy and a higher calling as vital to leadership and change.

"Two of the areas that women leaders excel at are being change agents and thinking differently,” said Dean Anuj Mehrotra in opening remarks. "We have noticed that in our class projects and simulations, where women groups and mixed gender groups perform better."

Carmen Perez-Carlton recalled taking a top role at a tech firm, when going through difficulties in her personal life. “It’s taking it one day at a time and finding that bigger purpose,” said Perez-Carlton, whose firm, FiberNet, went on to become one of the fastest growing and leading fiber-based communications companies in the southeast U.S. under her leadership. The company was sold this year for $1.5 billion.

Set short-term priorities and short-term goals, because life happens, and things change.

Valdes-Fauli Weintraub
Managing Director, Merrill Lynch

For Alina Hudak, the deputy mayor of Miami-Dade County, there’s no substitute for hard work and commitment in order to achieve long-term success. Hudak has been a trailblazer as the first woman to run a major operational department, the first Hispanic woman appointed assistant county manager, and the first woman to serve as county manager.

“You just keep focused,” Hudak told the crowd at the Four Seasons Miami hotel, “and do what you have to do to accomplish the goals,” added Hudak, who concurrently serves as director of the solid waste management department with close to 1,000 employees and providing service to 350,000 households, along with the many other departments she supports.

Tracy Wilson Mourning, founder of the nonprofit Honey Shine mentoring program for girls, credited her faith in God as inspiration to pull her through difficult times. She also follows the lead of her mom, a house cleaner who often worked three jobs, “never looked back” to dwell on problems and always put children first. She tells girls in her mentoring program - launched 15 years ago in Miami and now in Los Angeles and Dallas as well - to proudly walk “shoulders back, heart to God and crown on your head.”

Flexibility matters for leaders too, said Valdes-Fauli Weintraub, now a managing director at Merrill Lynch. She recalled that when her children were young, she left a tax-attorney job, which required lots of travel, for a management post at the University of Miami, which allowed her spend more time at home. Later, she built up a trust company to become one of Florida’s largest and recently, took on the role of global president of the International Women’s Forum. Her advice: “Set short-term priorities and short-term goals, because life happens, and things change.”

What’s more, said Valdes-Fauli Weintraub, be open to learn and be a good listener and good observer to help affect change. She found in the male-dominated world of finance, it’s important for women to make their voices heard, “but speak up intelligently and respectfully.”

Dean Mehrotra noted that 40 percent of UM business school students are women and “we are working very hard to see our classes equally represented among men and women.” That push, he said, has helped the School earn a ranking among top 10 business schools for women earning MBAs.

Back to top