‘Women Who Lead’ Offers Wisdom for Alumnae Advancement

On Tuesday, November 12 at Alumni House, the Cal Alumni Association (CAA) and the Berkeley Haas Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) co-hosted Women Who Lead: A Storytelling Salon, part of the Alumnae Career Advancement series, which provides space for career-driven alumnae, students, and members of the Cal community at large to pursue professional development, discuss career advancement, and build relationships.

Women Who Lead placed three successful alumnae in the spotlight for a discussion and sharing session: Carolyn Cool ’82, vice president and community ambassador for Bank of the West; Owatha “Tootie” Tatum MBA ’15, founder and CEO of Blackhawk Genomics; and Laura Teclemariam MBA ’18, lead product manager at Electronic Arts.

Moderator Kellie A. McElhaney, founding director of EGAL, led the conversation. “We talk a lot about ‘I’m an ally, you’re an ally,’” McElhaney explained, as the topic turned to women supporting each other in the workplace. “I’ll say, ‘Tell me about an action you took to be an ally.’”

“What are you working for? Every move you make has to help you inch toward that drive, that ‘north star’.”

Bank of the West, the official banking partner of UC Berkeley, was the event’s presenting sponsor. Recently Cool, who has worked for Bank of the West for more than seven years, also began working with Working Solutions, a nonprofit that provides affordable microloans and business consulting to underserved entrepreneurial groups including women, people of color, and low-income individuals.

Panelists shared anecdotes, advice, and reflection, drawing on their collective personal and professional experience. A Q&A session invited audience members to add their own thoughts to the conversation. When asked what drives her to be a leader, Tatum responded, “That desire to have an impact, to leave a legacy, was my drive.” She believes in using a life passion as a personal motivational tool. “What are you working for? Every move you make has to help you inch toward that drive, that ‘north star.’”

“If you just let things happen to you, you’ll probably be okay, but you’ll never be fantastic until you take the time to figure out what really fulfills you,” Tatum advised.

Throughout the evening, conversation continued to return to themes of mutual support and acknowledgement as keys to women’s advancement. Teclemariam described a conversation she’d had with a colleague: “I was there to be a soundboard, to let her know that her thoughts, and the way she felt about the work situation—that it mattered.”

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