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By Holly Dayton, Spring Brunch Chair

When organizing an event like the Cap and Gown Spring Brunch, there are always details that are out of your control, and sometimes, you just hope for good luck. For instance, April 29 was a perfectly sunny day and the picturesque green lawns of the Stanford Golf Course were simply glowing — I couldn’t have planned better weather. Similarly, I was fortunate enough that the Golden State Warriors’ schedule allowed for our keynote speaker, Jennifer Cabalquinto, to attend the event. Her talk, “Making the Choices of a Lifetime,” inspired open discussions amongst Cap and Gown Alumni and current Stanford students of all ages to think about how the choices they make in the present will shape them into the leaders they will be in the future.

Mrs. Cabalquinto, the CFO of the Golden State Warriors, shared with us her personal trajectory: transitioning from a job at a large accounting company in New York City to a small firm in Florida, working through the ranks at Telemundo, then moving to Universal Studios before finally accepting her current position at the Golden State Warriors. She talked about how she balanced making choices at each step, weighing the effect her decision would have on her career, her family, and her future. The San Francisco Business Times named Mrs. Cabalquinto one of the Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business two years in a row. She was credited as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World by the Filipina Women’s Network in 2015.

Mrs. Cabalquinto’s observations on the importance of mentors in shaping her career were particularly insightful. Those men and women who pushed her and gave her difficult feedback were the ones who helped her grow as a leader. In particular, she quoted one of her past mentors who often told her to “Surround yourself with eagles if you want to fly, not turkeys.” She revealed her most difficult decisions came when she chose to leave a position where she was not being encouraged or developed as a leader. Moving to a new position, even taking a lateral career shift, to be surrounded by “eagles” was consistently valuable in her career. It was so valuable to hear her very personal stories, such as being concerned about telling her parents about having been asked to leave one of her jobs. The women at my table later shared how they had felt self-conscious making similar revelations to their friends and family who expected them to pave their careers in certain ways.

When Mrs. Cabalquinto concluded her keynote speech, conversation continued within tables as attendees exchanged stories about their experiences making critical choices. Attendees seemed so engaged in their small groups that the event Co-Chairs had difficulty gaining their attention as the time for table talks came to a close. At my table, a professor’s seventh-grade daughter was animatedly sharing her story of deciding to quit soccer and begin painting instead. The older women at the table encouraged her, then shared stories of resiliency after just having children and going back to the workplace.

 

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As the lively discussion and mutual encouragement at individual tables concluded, the Actives Board gathered everyone’s attention to honor one Stanford professor who has been exceptional in her encouragement of young women. They bestowed an honorary Leader Award, the current equivalent to the older honor of membership, on Professor Margot Gerritsen, re-enacting the traditional tapping by members clad in caps and gowns. Professor Gerritsen joins a great group of women who have been honored for their commitment to supporting undergraduate women on their journeys to personal development and leadership. It has long been important to Cap and Gown to include honoraries in their membership, and the tradition will continue under the new membership guidelines. The event technically concluded with a group photo, but attendees were so engaged in conversation that the event seemed to continue for another twenty minutes!

Such an event is only possible with the collaboration of an entire team, including my co-coordinator, Marissa Luna ‘20, who spearheaded the brunch planning and table talk logistics, and a team of Cap and Gown Alumnae Board members: Lauren Black, Sara Silberstein, Ellen Petrill, Michelle Galloway, and Kathryn Kilner.

I would also like to thank Anna Zappone ‘17 and Negin Behzadian ‘17, the current Actives Co-Presidents; the many women who assisted in decorating for the event, including Carol Benz and Lee Gregory; and current Active Janet Coleman-Benin ‘19 and her mother for assisting in the early planning of the event. This event was only successful thanks to their teamwork. We look forward to continuing this event (hopefully with similar luck with the weather) for many years to come.

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