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Women LEAD (Leading through Empowerment Affiliations and Development) 

SM2incWomenLeadImageOur first Women LEAD Program was held on October 26th, a Tuesday from 3:30-5pm.  Y. Ping Sun was our speaker for this first program and we were honored that she was able to make the time for our program.  There was a limited number of seats for this program, and those places filled in less than 24 hours. 

For those unable to attend the program who are interested in learning about what Ping spoke about and her perspective on leadership through a woman's lens, please see notes below.

Women Lead Program

October 2011

Speaker: Deanna Fuehne

Themes and suggestions from Deanna’s speech:

  • Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things  
  • Help make your boss, no matter how you feel about them, successful 
  • If you’re in a male dominated industry you can acclimate to the bro culture if you want, but you don't have to
  • Learn how to tailor presentation of information to your audience
  • Don't apologize; women often lead inquiries with either an apology or apologetic tone
  • Speak confidently and own what you know
  • Learn technical knowledge 
  • Get the right names on your resume
  • Save now so that you have the funds to live on later 
  • At some point everyone gets fired or laid off from a job, you know it will happen so be fearless
  • Networking is more about depth and authenticity than pure numbers
  • Fail awesomely and have an outstanding success 
  • Learn to accept change and let things go
  • There is no such thing as a work life balance


Notes from speech:

The first Women LEAD program of the 2011-2012 academic year featured Deanna Fuehne, the executive director of the Jones Business School Career Management Center (CMC). During her tenure, the Jones CMC has become ranked #5 in the world by students for career services, and is among the top MBA career centers in the world, ranked highly for innovation, and post graduate student and alumni career and employment success (The Economist, 2009). Prior to her time at Rice, Mrs. Fuehne’s career involved banking and consulting work with Citi, Goldman Sachs and Deloitte Consulting.


Fuehne opened her speech with a general question to the audience: “So, who watched the game last night?” From this, Fuehne led into the discussion of women working in male-dominated sectors. A large percentage of Rice female students will be entering male-dominated fields after graduation, and men communicate to each other differently from women.  To do well in these fields, she continued, “you have to understand the culture.” You must prepare for your work from a cultural perspective, similar to how travelers learn more about the cultural etiquette of a country before they visit. This doesn’t mean a woman in a male-dominated industry has to change who they are, but she can’t expect to have the same dialogue with men that she can with women.

Fuehne described the differences between men and women.  “Women apologize too much. They come into my office and say ‘I don’t know but I think I can’. Men say ‘I will and I can’”. Men can be intimidating, Deanna acknowledged, and women can display their insecurities in their voice through tone and inflection. Own what you know was the general message, and your twenties is the best time to ask questions and gain as much technical knowledge as possible.

During this time, it is also important to get the “right names on your resume”, Fuehne explains. “These names show that you underwent a rigorous interviewing process and that you have a certain level of training and ability.” Many students attend career fairs and meet with recruiters to get employed at high profile companies, or at least get their resume passed along to the right person. Most people call this networking, but Fuehne prefers a more real, less restrictive approach. “Talk to them! Recruiters always complain that students aren’t talking to them. Ask them questions, get to know them. This isn’t about numbers; it’s about depth and authenticity.”

But in collecting the blue chip names young employees should never think themselves too ‘important’ to do work of any kind. Fuehne recounted a tale in which she and her supervisor took an elevator ride to the basement of the building. The doors opened and they entered a dusty room containing an old safe and files. Her supervisor then informed her that her assignment for the day would be to empty and clean out the room and safe. “And you know what I did? I cleaned out the safe!” Unbeknownst to her, this was a test, one that she passed due to her humility. As an employee, the reason she was there was to make her boss successful. “My job is to serve [them] and to make [them] successful,” Fuehne said. It didn’t matter how she felt about her boss, whether she disliked their temperament or believed herself to be intellectually superior. That is how an employee gains distinction, and this mentality carried Deanna well into her later years.

Your thirties and forties are the time to lead and manage a team, to have an outstanding success but also fail awesomely, Deanna stated. No matter how much success a person has had in their career and the amount of planning that got them there, “something is going to happen that you aren’t prepared for.” She warned the students that they will be fired or laid off from a job at least once in their career, “so when it happens, it’s just something you can check off a list”. This truth should inspire people to be fearless since it’s possible to survive this time and continue to have a career. “Accept it, and let it go”.

Deanna’s drive and professionalism led her to a strong, distinctive career in consulting and finance and have also helped her withstand several personal and professional dramatic events. Despite her many male advisors and the men she has worked with, it is her female network that has pulled Deanna through trying times. “My male network is industry related, but my woman network is my soul.”