Finance Students Attend Oracle Women’s Conference

In August, six Orfalea College of Business students, faculty members SiSi Pouraghabagher and Sharon Dobson, and Assistant Dean Mary Kelting, and Dean’s Advisory Council Member Ann Ozzimo attended a conference hosted by Oracle. Finance junior Catherine Ryan talks about her experience hearing from high-powered speakers and looking forward to her own transition to the working world.


In early August I was invited, along with fellow finance students Hannah Egan, Annie Wilson, Morgan Kavanagh, Hannah Poplack, and Nicole Fetsch, to the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood Shores to attend Diversity, Education, and Analytical Innovation in Finance. The TED-talk style event, put on by Oracle’s Financial Executives International Silicon Valley Chapter, featured a networking session with Oracle employees and invited guests, followed by three powerful speeches on the aforementioned topics.

The event sought to bridge business intelligence with emotional intelligence, how external success compounded with internal cohesion makes for a better company. I found this best personified in the talk by Barbara Williams Hardy, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Oracle, on Leveraging Inclusive Leadership to Unlock Innovation, where she highlighted the dangers of unconscious bias in the workplace, and how better leadership in cultivated within a team.

Cal Poly represents at Oracle ConferenceWhen she posed the question “what is inclusion?” to the group, a man in the middle of the audience yells back, “quotas!” While many shifted uneasily at this answer, Barbara laughed and explained how this is exactly why we need events like this; to bring to light preconceived notions that prevent companies from operating at their highest efficiency. As a woman in finance, I fully understand what a hindrance biases can create in a work environment; we have all aired our grievances over the lack of women in tech and leadership roles, but luckily companies like Oracle are actively working to change that. Through their new experimental public high school Design Tech High School (or, located on their headquarters campus, Oracle is directly combating the drop off in interest in more technical fields through coding and engineering classes. By cultivating confidence in young students while promoting company-wide inclusion, Oracle creates a winning situation for employees, students, and those of us ready for a change in the status quo.

An incredible experience for any student, this event not only educated its attendees on current events in finance, but allowed for an expanded conversation; as a soon-to-be college grad, I am interested not only in the opportunities at a company, but also my place in it.  This event provided insight into the other side, how internal changes make massive waves in a company’s external influence, and how to stay competitive in an ever-changing financial climate.