On March 2, 2021, the Skandalaris Center partnered with University Advancement and Andi and Andrew Simon, founders of the Simon Initiative, to present a panel of groundbreaking WashU alumnae in celebration of Women's History Month.
The event began with Andrew Simon (AB '64) as he introduced his wife and the pillars of the Simon Initiative:
- Access facilitated through resources, materials, and events for minority and women entrepreneurs.
- Connect women and minority entrepreneurs with mentors.
- Train minority and women entrepreneurs to be confident in their ideas and explore opportunities.
In her introduction of the other panelists moderator, Andi Simon reflected on her time as a visiting professor at WashU when she taught entrepreneurship to liberal arts undergraduates. Her time co-teaching with Henry Biggs showed her the connection that students make with the stories of entrepreneurs and their desire to understand the entrepreneur experiences. This combined with the stories and interactions she observed at the HER Summit events was the basis for her book, Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business. After interviewing over fifty women whose hurdles didn't stop them and became leaders in their own field, Andi wrote the book to help others "see what they want to be."
The March 2nd panel was an opportunity to hear from the following women who, in keeping with the book's theme have challenged the misconceptions around women in business and made a mark on their chosen fields.
- Babette Ballinger (BFA '64) is the retired CEO of American Knitworks. She attended WashU at a time when there were not a lot of options for women looking for careers. After facing years of verbal abuse, unequal pay, and gender-based discrimination, Babette decided to start her own business.
- Tiffany Harper (JD '08) is the co-founder of the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP) and Uncolorblind. She is also a corporate lawyer with a background in bankruptcy and restructuring. After graduating from law school during a recession and trying to figure out what was next for her, Tiffany realized how hard it is for women of color to find mentors. She co-founded her non-profit to increase the pipeline of women of color lawyers.
- Liz Antognoli (BS '97) is a principal systems engineer at the Sierra Nevada Corporation. Liz worked for NASA for years during the assembly of the space station. There she got to meet her childhood idol, Sally Ride. Liz left NASA for the commercial space industry. Over time she has developed an interest in personal growth and has created her certified high-performance coaching business.
The panel began with the women sharing a bit about themselves and their perseverance advice for young women.
- For Liz perseverance is about her own passion for an outcome. "People may have opinions about my life but I have to live my life." "Be confident." "Seek out communities - there are people who will support you."
- Tiffany shared the importance of figuring out what you don't know and seeking out alternatives to fill the gaps in your knowledge as soon as possible. She also provided words of wisdom from her grandmother, "whatever you do someone else planted the seed, so pay it forward."
- Babette focused on always believing in yourself, accepting change, and having a willingness to reinvent yourself. She also shared how hard it was while she was building her career and her business. Reflecting on an experience where Patty Evans, her Black co-designer, faced discrimination at a hotel in which they were staying, Babette encourage young women to "take advantage of the opportunities available today and own it."
The panelists shared many other gems about how they balance their work-life responsibilities, self-care, how to be authentic and so much more.
For more Simon Initiative related events and programming visit: https://skandalaris.wustl.edu/sc-programs/the-simon-initiative/
Students, alumni, and faculty can find digital resources and virtual connection at: https://alumni.wustl.edu/Pages/event/calendar.html