Wharton Grad Introduces Young Women To The Corporate World

By Lauren Feiner The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Katlyn Grasso's company "GenHeration" focuses on empowering young women by connecting them with female role models. Part of her services include bringing girls to the executive offices of top female execs to show them what being a woman in the workplace looks like. The Philadelphia Inquirer

While some teens are soaking up their last weeks of summer at camp or on vacation, 14-year-old Samantha DeMartino spent Monday visiting corporate America.

DeMartino, of Robbinsville, N.J., was among 50 high school and college-age young women participating in "Discovery Days," the latest project for University of Pennsylvania alumna Katlyn Grasso to connect girls with successful female role models. The idea, Grasso said, is to "bring the online world offline."

"Girls needed role models and they also needed experiential learning opportunities." she said.

DeMartino agreed. " A day like today is definitely important because it's also career exploration day," she said.

A 2015 Wharton School graduate, Grasso organized the tour of companies with female executives through her start-up, GenHERation, a self-described "interactive media company for aspirational young women" that she began in 2014 during her junior year at Penn.

To date, Grasso said GenHERation has reached more than 60,000 young women, both online and at conferences.

Before hitting Philadelphia this week, Grasso ran Discovery Days trips in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, and New York City.

On Monday, girls travelled via Bolt Bus to GSK, Urban Outfitters Inc., Hartford Funds, Morgan Lewis, Comcast, and First Round Capital.

When she started the company, Grasso said, she worked with companies and challenged girls to submit ideas for campaigns. She began bringing female executives face-to-face with aspiring entrepreneurs through leadership conferences at Penn.

"After doing that for two years, I realized we could reverse-engineer the program," Grasso said. That's when she began bringing the girls to the executives' offices, to show them what being a woman in the workplace looks like.

At pharmaceutical company GSK, the first stop on Monday's tour, girls heard from several executives about what skills made them successful. Flexibility, working with others, and asking questions were all common themes among the executives. After the presentations, the girls broke into teams and spoke with the women more informally, before creating 30-second pitches on what makes a successful employee at GSK.

Many of the women stressed that they did not always know they would end up in the roles they're in now. Research and development portfolio management director Linda Cortese said she has no scientific background, but came to GSK after completing a bachelor's degree in English.

Amanda Lee, 18, was surprised by the diversity of backgrounds at the company. It was "the revelation that you can do something so completely different than your major," said Lee, of North Wales, an incoming freshman at Carnegie Mellon University.

In the afternoon, at financial services company Hartford Funds in Radnor, participants listened to a panel of four female executives talk about what it takes to make it in business.

"Say yes more than you say no," said Jamie Davis, the head of human resources. "Don't wait for the opportunity to say yes. Raise your hand and volunteer."

Other panelists also stressed the importance of being willing to expand their horizons.

"One thing you should never say is, 'That's not in my job description,' " said Keraya Jefferson, chief compliance officer for brokers/sales.

Brittany Levy, 18, of Abington, is an incoming Penn freshman who has been involved with GenHERation since 2014.

This "shows you you're not in this alone, you're not being overly ambitious to think that you can be put in a role of power," she said.

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