President’s Leadership Forum to Host “Most Powerful Woman in Banking” on International Women’s Day
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President’s Leadership Forum to Host “Most Powerful Woman in Banking” on International Women’s Day

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The Upstate community is invited for a free professional development and networking event at Converse College on Friday, March 8. Converse’s annual President’s Leadership Forum will host Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer for Bank of America, for a fireside chat moderated by Converse President Krista Newkirk at 3 p.m. in the Barnet Room of Montgomery Student Center. The event will be followed by a networking cocktail social at 4 p.m. in Phifer Science Hall. Both events are free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Tickets may be reserved at www.converse.edu/PLF.

Named the “Most Powerful Woman in Banking” by American Banker magazine for the last two years, Bessant has led Global Technology and Operations for Bank of America since 2010, delivering end-to-end technology and operating services across the company through nearly 95,000 employees and contractors in more than 35 countries.

Topics for the fireside chat include:

  • How Bessant leads one of the largest technology operations in the world;
  • Rapid innovation of technologies and new advancements in banking;
  • Responsible use of artificial technology and her cross-industry leadership in this area;
  • The underrepresentation of women in technology fields and Bessant’s personal career path and challenges; and
  • Insights and advice for women seeking to grow professionally and personally.

“From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro alongside college business students to advocating for ethical development of artificial intelligence, Cathy Bessant pushes boundaries for positive change in all aspects of her personal and professional life,” said Converse President Krista Newkirk. “Converse is honored to welcome Cathy and looks forward to our students and Spartanburg community members learning from her experiences and expertise.”

“From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro alongside college business students to advocating for ethical development of artificial intelligence, Cathy Bessant pushes boundaries for positive change in all aspects of her personal and professional life.”

“Converse has a great leader in President Newkirk, who I’ve known for years, and I applaud her for convening this event,” said Cathy. “Leaders are defined by their success, and also by how they embrace challenges. Resiliency and ability to respond effectively will determine career potential and opportunities for growth.”

Bessant has held a number of senior leadership roles for Bank of America and represents employees on a number of important topics. In 2018, she was named No. 1 among OUTstanding LGBT+ Ally Executives, presented by the Financial Times. Active in the community and region, she received the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was awarded the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine, was recognized with the Charlotte Business Journal’s Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award, and was selected for North Carolina Business Journal’s Power 100 list.

She recently led the formation of the Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by convening the brightest minds from tech, business, academia and government. Managed by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the council will explore how companies can prevent bias – particularly against women and minorities — in the algorithms and models they develop.

Bessant serves on the board of directors of Zurich Insurance Group, is an independent member of the USA Field Hockey board of directors, and is on the advisory board for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Along with Ross School faculty, alumni and students, she summited Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, in August 2018.

“Leaders are defined by their success, and also by how they embrace challenges. Resiliency and ability to respond effectively will determine career potential and opportunities for growth.”

Bessant’s presentation is the second event in Converse College’s new President’s Leadership Forum, which brings to campus inspiring and engaging national and global leaders to interact with students and the Upstate community and to present on leadership topics. The President’s Leadership Forum is one of several initiatives Converse is undertaking to build stronger partnerships with the Upstate business community, and to serve as a resource both in terms of professional development and workforce development.

Since joining Converse in 2016, President Krista Newkirk has sought opportunities to learn about workforce development needs from the Upstate area business community. As a member of the OneSpartanburg Talent Action Team, she helped to lead the formation of a formal framework for the engagement of the leading employers and colleges to discuss unmet workforce needs, technical skills, behavioral competency gaps, and professional development needs that colleges may provide for area employers and ways to provide better work development opportunities for students.