Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, along with women business leaders, spoke at the first Committee of 200’s Reachout for Women’s Business conference in Michigan on April 7 in the Student Center.
The Committee of 200 is an international organization comprised of over 400 of the world’s most successful women business leaders whose mission is to foster, celebrate and advance women’s leadership in business, where 44 percent of the members are corporate executives and 50 percent of the members run businesses with revenues of over $100 million, according to its website.
The theme of the conference, which was hosted by the Mike Ilitch School of Business, was “The Motor City: Women at the Wheel.”
Snyder said he believes Detroit is truly the comeback city and it’s the place to be in terms of entrepreneurship, especially for youth.
“I told young people, ‘If you want to be another yuppie, go to Chicago. If you want to make a difference, stay in Detroit,’” he said. “We want the people that want to be those change engines, who want to be at the ground floor of doing something different.”
Snyder said although the narrative of Detroit has reversed, there needs to be more focus on the improvement of the Detroit neighborhoods.
“The dialogue has flipped, but we have much more work to be done here, particularly in the neighborhoods, but midtown and downtown are booming,” he said.
Helping women achieve their potential is important from a young age, Snyder said, and therefore it is imperative for women to inspire and encourage girls to pursue entrepreneurial paths.
“One of the best ways to succeed is to pass it on, [and] mentor someone else,” he said. “We all learn from one another.”
Snyder said innovative spirits made Michigan a great state in the past but that spirit was forgotten.
“We’ve got that spirit back now; we’ve got that spirit here in Detroit.”
Duggan gave a speech on the influx of millennials in the city and the lure of the city to big businesses, including Amazon and Microsoft.
“The next generation of young people want to be in Detroit,” Duggan said. “We are headed in a trajectory where the future is wide open to you… I hope you’ll think about being a part of the rebuilding of the city because it really is happening.”
Dingell gave a brief speech about balancing work and life and how she credits her mentors for her success.
“I am where I am because of the women before me,” Dingell said.
During the first panel discussion of the event, which was titled “Start Your (own) Engine: Is Entrepreneurship Right For You?,” Jill Hebert, the president and CEO of Matrex Exhibits Inc., discussed the importance of venturing outside of your comfort zone.
Hebert said students should always challenge themselves by going to events, which may be uncomfortable.
“Throw your shoulders back, stand tall and go, ‘I own this,’ even though you are shaking holding that cup of coffee,” she said. “Then start introducing yourself to as many people as possible.”
Senior Executive Vice President of Huntington National Bank Sandra Pierce moderated the panel discussion titled, “The Road Less Traveled,” which featured Terri Chapman, CEO of MNP Corporation, Luanne Ewald, CEO of Michigan’s Children’s Hospital, Lisa Pollina, the former vice chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada and Jane Warner, a board of directors member for Tenneco, Regal Beloit and Brunswick Corporations.
Pierce mentioned the transition of how women in business see each other: from competition to allies.
“We’re in an environment now where women actually want to help each other,” she said.
Regardless of how it impacts a woman’s career, it is her responsibility to help her fellow female entrepreneurs, Pierce said.
“Do not wait for a man to do it; depend on each other.”
Pollina said her main piece of advice is to “get comfortable with uncomfortable” and to maintain good relationships with everyone.
“Friends ebb and flow, but enemies accumulate,” she said. “If you have the opportunity to set something right with somebody at work or something has gone awry, do that.”
“Don’t leave people being enemies, don’t leave scattered bones around,” Pierce said.
To learn more about the Committee of 200, please visit c200.org