Biggins discussed her path to success and offered advice to the audience of 250. Among her recommendations:
Get a passport. “In the sixth grade I got my first passport, and I’ve never had a day since then I did not have a valid passport. … Get out of the United States. Go to Canada. Go to Mexico. Go to Europe. Go to Eastern Europe. Go to China, and realize all the different lives that are being led. It’s important that we understand this broader world we live in, because what happens in the broader world affects us every day. … As part of being successful in the business world, you have to understand there’s a bigger world.”
Read, read and read. “Read every day. … When you get involved in a debate with somebody and you want to put forth your opinion, you’ve got to know all the other opinions in order to effectively put forth your debate. … Even if you don’t agree with them, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to understand all points of view. … It’s really important you read and form your own opinions. You have to know what you’re talking about. ‘Fake it till you make it does not work.’”
Have plans, and have a strategy for getting there. “Each one of you should be thinking about what you want to be. … You have to decide, five years from now what is it I want to be? Where do I want to be? That means you have to goals, you have to have a plan, you have to have a strategy on how you’re going to get there. If a photographer were to take a photo of you, what would you want that photo to say about you? … Think about that, because it will help you shape a goal.”
WomenLead began as a pilot program with 26 students in spring 2015 to equip female students to excel in school, enter the workforce with developed skills and find their place in leadership positions. Today, more than 600 students across the university have taken the semester-long course, offered as WomenLead in Business, WomenLead in Policy and Politics, and WomenLead in Science. Faculty in the Robinson College of Business, College of Arts & Sciences and Andrew Young School of Policy studies teach the sections.
Through panel discussions and company site visits, WomenLead participants learn what executive leadership entails and how female executives have succeeded. Students also talk with women one-on-one and discuss the arcs of their careers, lessons learned along the way, and information about specific fields, industries and jobs. The class culminates with each student completing a personal leadership strategy final project, which they present in poster format.
Veronica Biggins is managing partner of Diversified Search. She was one of the nation’s highest ranking women executives in banking when she left industry to join the administration of President Bill Clinton. During her tenure, she was vice chair of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Her engagement in civic and societal issues has included serving on the boards of the Georgia Research Alliance, Woodruff Arts Center and the International AIDS Fund. She received a Points of Light Award from President George W. Bush for her leadership as chair of the Czech Slovak American Enterprise Fund.