Unique Perspectives from Women in Business


By: Ali Burleson

Last week, students and seasoned professionals gathered for the 2024 edition of the Women in Business conference, hosted by the Culverhouse College of Business’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This all-day annual event featured informative sessions on diverse topics such as branding and networking, challenges women face when navigating nontraditional work environments and negotiating salary.

A luncheon recognizing two exceptional alumni leaders took place before the start of the conference, honoring Cindy Martin, President/CEO of Rushing Waters Media, which publishes Bham Now, Hville Blast, and The Bama Buzz, and Yolanda Sullivan, the now-retired CEO of the  YWCA of Central Alabama. They were later interviewed about their respective professional journeys by Charli Matthews, founder and CEO, Empowering Brands.

“Again our participants expertly engaged within the dual reality that women have valuable insight on all common professional dynamics, and that they additionally bring unique perspectives, including strategies to mitigate and lessen gender-related challenges, which benefits us all,” said Culverhouse Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. James E. King, Jr.

Below are some highlights from the day’s sessions, which offered rich insights on the tools and techniques essential for success in today’s competitive business landscape.

The Art of Networking and Branding

  • Jacqui Jones – CEO of One Degree Marketing
  • Jennifer Dempsey – STEM Instructor at Culverhouse
  • Easty Lambert-Brown – Owner of Ernest & Hadley Bookseller

When speaking to students on the significance of establishing and cultivating a professional brand, Jacqui Jones, the CEO of One Degree Marketing, defined it as “finding the balance between who you are as a person and what your skill set is, then putting a spotlight on it.” Jones passionately stated that individuals who can convey both aspects can achieve a great professional brand.

Culverhouse’s  Jennifer Dempsey and local independent bookstore owner Easty Lambert-Brown weighed in on the topic, revealing two key components that have helped them in their networks and branding: authenticity and credibility.

Still Pioneering: Women in Nontraditional Spaces

  • Meagan Wilson – Sr. Coordinator of Partnerships Marketing in NASCAR
  • Michelle Coley – Agency Owner at Allstate
  • Leigh Davis – SVP of Marketing and Economic Development at Alabama Power Company

It comes as no surprise that panelists embraced the concept of women thriving in traditionally male-dominated work environments, while sharing personal insights about the barriers they’ve triumphed over to reach their current positions.

Michelle Coley, agency owner of Allstate, revealed that she leverages her desire to excel as her superpower. “While it’s a lot of pressure,” Coley stated, “it’s been instrumental in propelling me to where I am today.”

Salary Negotiation

  • Amy Bramlett – Career Coach Merit America
  • Tracy Croom – Director of Financial Management at Federal reserve Bank
  • Greta Wages – Clinical Instructor

Amy Bramlett, career coach of Merit America, candidly recalled that negotiating was never her strong suit and confessed that it initially felt “really awkward” for her. Negotiating salary is often characterized as an uncomfortable conversation, yet attendees were able to acquire valuable insights on understanding their worth and strategies to advocate for it.

However, negotiating extends beyond salary alone. Panelists emphasized that there are numerous other aspects open to negotiation in a work environment, including paid time off (PTO), insurance coverage and additional company benefits. Ultimately, the panelists urged attendees to identify specific priorities and thoroughly prepare by doing the appropriate research beforehand.

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