MIT Sloan Women in Management conference talks up virtues of risk and failure

Published: February 7, 2013

Dulcie Madden and Madeline Ng don’t see failure as something to avoid at all costs.

In fact, the two MIT Sloan students want to encourage women to put themselves out there in business and not be afraid to try something that may fail. That’s the idea behind this year’s sold-out MIT Sloan Women in Management Conference, which takes place Friday, Feb. 8.

Madden and Ng are co-directors of the third-annual conference, and together they conceived of this year’s theme—Dare To Fail: Taking Risk When It Matters Most—as a way to celebrate the inspiring stories of successful women who have taken big risks to drive innovation forward in their industries.

The pair wants to fight the stereotypical idea that women keep mum on the subject of risk-taking and failure, and they see the conference as an opportunity to disrupt that idea and open up a dialogue that encourages women to embrace risk-taking and reflect on how initial failure often results in progress. Rather than focusing on the negative, the MIT Sloan Women in Management Conference invites women to appreciate how accepting the potential for failure allows them to keep their aspirations moving forward.

The fireside chats will feature Maria Cirino, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and Sandie O’Conner, a finance superstar. Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, will moderate Cirino’s fireside chat while MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Shari Loessberg will moderate O’Conner’s afternoon fireside chat. The morning spotlight panel with Nancie Fernandez of Deloitte, Julia Hu of Lark Technologies, and Martha Samuelson of Analysis Group will cover the relationship between gender and leadership, while the afternoon spotlight with Alison Gerlach of Allie’s Edibles, Catharina Lavers Mallet of King.com, and Julie Sygiel of Dear Kate will discuss overcoming fears of failure.

The conference also presents case studies by MIT Sloan graduate Vanessa Green, co-founder and CEO of FINSix, and Tamar D. Dor-Ner of Bain Consulting. The event will close with a keynote by Maura O’Neill, the chief innovative officer and senior counselor to the administrator at the United States Agency for International Development.

Those who are unable to attend the conference can check out videos and post-event coverage on the MIT Sloan Women in Management blog.