Empowerment Day ignites courage, embraces vulnerability

Flagship Lindner Women in Business program creates space for all aspiring business professionals

It’s not too often that an academic building is bustling with spirited conversation, laughter and new connections early on a Saturday morning. But on March 5, nearly 200 UC students and high school seniors gave the snooze button a rest, donned their professional attire of choice and gathered at Carl H. Lindner Hall for the sixth annual Empowerment Day. 

Hosted by Lindner Women in Business, Empowerment Day is an annual leadership conference that brings more than 20 speakers to campus to advise, mentor and interact with hundreds of attendees made up of UC students — whether they are majoring in business or a different discipline — and high school seniors who have either committed to UC or are considering attending UC.

A large, scattered group of people in business professional attire sit at rounded tables or on the Lindner atrium steps

Nearly 200 UC students and high school seniors gathered in Lindner Hall for the sixth annual Empowerment Day on March 5. Photo by Sophia Ghazala, BBA '25.

“Days like today are powerful,” said Lindner Dean Marianne Lewis, PhD, during the day’s opening session. “What we can learn and do together is remarkable, and it’s a constant reminder to lift as we climb."

Following Dean Lewis, Evette Maddox of Johnson Investment Counsel addressed the elephant in the room — and the elephant that is in most women’s professional careers — fear and doubt. While countless resources, books and media convey how women can build confidence in their business careers, few address how to acknowledge fear and, in turn, vulnerability.

“Right now, you may be swirling in emotions of uncertainty and fear,” she said, acknowledging the challenges professional women have faced over the past two years and the reluctancy to keep moving forward. “But do it afraid.”

Lisa Sauer gave the opening keynote presentation, sharing lessons from her 32-year career at Procter & Gamble (P&G).

A woman with chin length dark hair wearing a white and black sweater and black pants stands in front of a classroom speaking

Empowerment Day keynote speaker Lisa Sauer shared lessons from her 32-year career at Procter & Gamble. Photo by S.Buzek.

“I was never bored,” said Sauer, who led 4,000 employees across engineering, manufacturing, purchases, supply network operations and innovation management and quality. She oversaw more than $6 billion in global business as senior vice president of product supply, global home care, P&G professional and external manufacturing, retiring at the end of 2020.

Sauer’s lessons ranged from managing interpersonal relationships across family and colleagues, to inviting input from others on new ideas, to reflecting on and addressing differences in leadership style.

“The way that I was taught to be a leader, I thought you couldn’t ever show emotion; you’re a duck that glides across the water, maybe paddling frantically underneath the surface,” she said. “But I was advised to share my feelings and more of ‘me’ at work. I have to say that was the best feedback I received in my entire career, and I actually became known as a very authentic leader.”

Many breakout session speakers were either Lindner alumni or were heavily involved with the college or university through Lindner Women in Business, the Lindner Office of Inclusive Excellence or from recruiting and hiring UC students.

“For me, confidence is acknowledging that I do have self-doubt, but overcoming that,” said PNC Bank’s Taylor Latona.

A woman with dark hair and low ponytail and black leather jacket stands behind a blue table motioning and speaking to a group of approximately seven women students

PNC Real Estate Banking's Pam Weber, left, speaks to Empowerment attendees at the PNC sponsor table. Photo by Sophia Ghazala, BBA '25.

Latona shared how she finished college and transitioned to her full-time career in a virtual environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as a younger employee at her company, embracing technology was a hurdle for Latona, but her willingness to try and use her video camera had ripple effects within her team, department and organization.

“I read people’s expressions, so I just started turning on my videos. And slowly, all of these other associates started to do the same, saying, ‘Because you started it, now I do it.’”

Johnson Investment Counsel’s Emilia Connor-Brady, BBA ’18, MS ’19, praised students during the Counsel’s breakout session for stepping out of their comfort zone for the day.

“Coming to events like this, getting to know industry professionals and really taking an interest and learning about all the different career paths that are available to you will set you up for more success in your career than you can really imagine,” she said.

A woman with shoulder length strawberry blonde hair, glasses and a grey suit sits a table holding a microphone and speaking next to a woman with blonde hair, glasses and a black patterned dress

Johnson Investment Counsel's Sandy Himmelsbach, left, and Nicole Utz, right, speak during the company's breakout session. Photo by S. Buzek.

Additional speakers and panelists included:

  • “Personal Branding” 
    • Nichole Sims, Owner, Bold Career Consulting, LLC 
  • “Dealing with Stress and Burnout” 
    • Kristin Baker, Senior Manager, Talent Management, DHL 
    • Ruta Poderyte, Sales, DHL 
  • “The Power of Positive Rituals” 
    • Vidhu Pinnamaraju, Ernst & Young (EY) 
    • Ali Strohm, EY 
  • “Womens Economic Self-Sufficiency" 
    • Meghan Cummings, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund, Greater Cincinnati Foundation
  • “March 5th Madness Shark Tank” 
    • Aryonna Bailey, InnoVationGirl 
    • Elizabeth Klocek, InnoVationGirl 
    • Tamara Munoz, Inno
    • VationGirl 
  • “Navigating the Financial World as a Woman” 
    • Emilia Connor-Brady, Credit Analyst, Johnson Investment Counsel 
    • Kristen Curtiss, Taxable Fixed Income Trader, Johnson Investment Counsel 
    • Sandy Himmelsbach, Portfolio Manager CFP, Johnson Investment Counsel 
    • Priya Sivagnanam, Portfolio Manager Assistant, Johnson Investment Counsel 
    • Nicole Utz, Portfolio Manager Assistant, Johnson Investment Counsel 
  • “Mastering the Interview” 
    • Melissa Newman, PhD, Associate Professor, Educator of Management, Lindner College of Business 
  • “Confidence” 
    • Heather Eberenz, Sales Development Consultant, PNC Private Bank 
    • Taylor Latona, Development Program Analyst, PNC Corporate & Institutional Banking 
    • Julie Leppo, Relationship Strategist, PNC Private Bank 
    • Pam Weber, Senior Vice President, PNC Real Estate Banking 
  • “Growth Mindset: How to Build a Continuous Cycle of Self-Improvement" 
    • Grace Hertlein, Design Manager, P&G 
    • Mackenzie Mayernik, Senior Brand Manager, P&G 

Sponsors of the event included title sponsor Johnson Investment Counsel, table sponsors DHL, PNC and P&G, and red and black sponsor EY.

To close out the day, the Lindner Women in Business 2021-22 leadership team announced the new leadership team for the 2022-23 academic year and shared gratitude and recognition for supporters and members alike.

Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions Ashley McFarland won the 2022 Karen Manning Award, which is given to someone who has positively impacted Lindner Women in Business. McFarland was recognized for being a critical sounding board in her service as co-adviser for Lindner Women in Business.

“We truly appreciate all of our members who consistently show up and build community,” said 2021-22 Lindner Women in Business Vice President Annika Braaten, BBA ‘23, MS ’24.

Featured image: Opening keynote speaker and retired Procter & Gamble executive Lisa Sauer addresses the attendees at the sixth annual Empowerment Day, hosted by Lindner Women in Business. Photo by S. Buzek.

About Lindner Women in Business

Lindner Women in Business prepares emerging leaders for future endeavors by providing allies, perspective and resources. Founded in 2013 with 30 members, Lindner Women in Business became an inclusion partner within the Lindner Office of Inclusive Excellence in 2021. Learn more about Lindner’s Office of Inclusive Excellence and ways to get involved.