A crowd of nearly 900 filled the Hyatt Regency Dallas’ Reunion Ballroom on Sept. 28 for the 22nd Annual Women’s Business Conference to take stock of personal and professional lives, and to gather strength for the paths ahead.
The event, produced by the Dallas Regional Chamber and presented by Jackson Walker LLP, highlighted the accomplishments and challenges facing women across a broad spectrum of industries and professions, from entertainment, to investment, to digital marketing.
During her keynote speech at the conference, Fidelity Investments’ Kathleen Murphy described the path that lead her to oversee $2.4 trillion in assets as President of the firm’s personal investment arm.
“My boss’ boss’ boss told me that we had to do rotations in different parts of the firm, as lawyers, and so he told me I had to do a rotation in the investment division,” Murphy recalled of her early days in legal practice before she landed at Fidelity. “I was in the government affairs [section]. I was doing health care, and I said, ‘If you make me do this rotation… I will do a clerkship with this federal judge because I will never, ever work in investments. So, the point of that little mistake was you should embrace every opportunity, and don’t think you know it all.”
Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Immediate Past President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who discussed how she worked her way up to that post.
Boone Isaacs – who served as a Board Member for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 24 years – said her son has helped keep her grounded, even after she was elected President of the Academy.
“It’s called children and animals,” Boone Isaacs said. “I believe that I was elected because… I’m very much dedicated to the organization,” she recalled. “I had worked for it for many years. However, [the news] broke immediately; I had no idea that they were going to tweet it out right away.”
Boone Isaacs said she received two thousand emails and countless phone calls, congratulating her.
“I didn’t even get a chance to call my husband. So by the time I got… to my son’s room, I said, ‘Did you hear the news?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And just kept playing [on his handheld device]. And I thought, ‘Yes. I like it. That’s right back to normal. Because normal is the place to be.’”
In 2015, Boone Isaacs launched an Academy initiative called A2020, which works toward improving representation of diversity in hiring in the film industry, including age, gender, race, national origin, and point-of-view.
The DRC also honored two women with the Athena® Award, which celebrates women who achieve excellence in their professions, serve the community, and who help other women reach their full potential. Receiving the Young Professionals Leadership (YPL) Athena® Award was Amber Venz Box, who founded rewardStyle at age 23. Aside from launching a business that generated more than $1 billion retail sales in 2017, she’s fostered a spirit of entrepreneurism among her more than 200 employees and encourages them to become active in social causes, including Toys for Tots, Habitat for Humanity, and SPCA Texas.
Receiving the Athena® Award was Roslyn Dawson Thompson — president of Dallas Women’s Foundation, the largest regional women’s foundation in the world. Since Dawson Thompson took the helm at the foundation in 2011, the organization has increased its grants benefiting women and girls from $2.5 million to more than $4.4 million in 2016, and has increased its net assets from $26 million to $33 million in 2016. She’s also launched strategic initiatives to impact women’s economic security and women’s leadership through research, grants, advocacy, and gendered investment of assets.
Dawson Thompson said she experienced the unexpected death of her sister at roughly the same time the former CEO of the foundation announced her retirement.
“I looked at myself and said, ‘What’s your legacy?’” said Dawson Thompson, who had built a successful career in marketing and public relations before becoming President of the foundation. “I decided to make one,” she said.
The event’s presenting sponsor was Jackson Walker LLP; the Athena® Award sponsor was Wells Fargo; the YPL Athena® Award Sponsor was Thomson Reuters; gold sponsors included Fidelity Investments, Littler and Target; the silver sponsor was Slalom Consulting; bronze sponsors included Copart, CyrusOne, Intuit, Inc. Options Clearing Corporation, Texas Instruments Incorporated and Topgolf; Vistra Energy was a community partner.