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Which comes first? Your car or your career? WomenToKnow Summer Workshop Series concludes in Chicago:

Most women invest more time and effort buying a car (doing research, test driving, etc.) than they invest in their own careers. Thirty-five women gathered at the Metropolitan Club in Chicago this morning to reinvest in their own professional development, as we completed our summer WomenToKnow workshop series.

Our discussion leaders included Deb Ratterman from Sears Holding Corporation, Maureen Durack and Ann Hopkins Avery from Vedder Price, Danica Goodell from CME Group, Megan Ferraro and Cheryl Banke from Hyatt Hotels, and Ebony Green from Abbott Labs.

Participants paired up with partners to set achievable 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year professional goals and what incremental action steps we could each take to advance ourselves towards those goals. As we shared our action steps with the larger group, other women spoke up throughout the room, offering advice and assistance.

As was demonstrated by this exercise, anyone can do simple math alone - addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. But when you get to higher level mathematics, calculus and abstract algebra, you need to work in teams to figure it out. The current career landscape for women is a lot like advanced math - no one person can figure it out on her own. It requires multiple people, with multiple points of view and areas of subject matter expertise.

As Deb Ratterman from Sears Holding said, “let’s solve for X.” At our Chicago breakfast, the “X” that came up for the majority of us was, 1. how to move my career forward in a way to get a seat on an executive (paying) board, and 2. how to pivot my career from my current role (eDiscovery) to my future role (data privacy or security) strategically rather than opportunistically. In other words, how to get from now to next?

Like advanced mathematicians, there was consensus that women should build teams designed to help ourselves get to next. Everyone should have a personal board of advisors of at least 7, and each of us should serve as an advisor to 2 people ourselves. WomenToKKnow is helping us build these tribes, as we closed our session with members volunteering to lead and participate in spin-off working groups on 1. how to join an executive board, and 2. how to become a privacy subject matter expert.

If you would like to participate in one of these working groups, or would like to attend our next workshop on building your professional advisory board, please contact Jennifer Schwartz at or Kaitlin Barber at

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