It’s a long drive from Paragould, Arkansas, to New York City. But the trip to New York University’s Stern School of Business helped Erica Swallow to a career in venture capital and an opportunity to help other women succeed in business.
Swallow was one of several guest speakers Thursday (March 31) at the Arkansas State University Women’s Business Leadership Conference. At least 350 people had the opportunity to hear stories from women, several of whom are ASU graduates or have ties to Northeast Arkansas.
Event chair Dr. Patricia Robertson said the event, which was established in 2015, has grown in the past two years as a way to help women in business and women in the community to learn more.
Swallow grew up in a broken home and worked at the McDonald’s at Paragould for six months, and Mazzio’s Pizza in Paragould for three years to get business experience in high school. She had been told to lower her enthusiasm and expectations about getting into NYU and waited for the mailman to bring the acceptance letter every day.
“Finally, I got the big envelope,” Swallow said.
Her mother drove her that summer from Paragould to New York City, with all of her books and other things to go to college. First things first, Swallow said she had to find a job and found a job first working with marketing studies at NYU. That job led to an assistant’s job to a professor as a freshmen, then an internship at the New York Times in their social media department as a senior.
Her advice to the students?
“If you see something interesting, reach out and see where it goes.”
Swallow also told the students to understand their worth in the marketplace versus knowing your value to a company. She suggested that the students should negotiate the pay for their first job, ask questions and understand what you make in your first job can help pay off college loans.
She also earned a master’s degree in business administration from MIT Sloan School of Management and had an opportunity to learn about business and venture capital.
Another speaker, Dr. Kathy White Loyd, arrived on the ASU campus many years ago as a single mother with two young children. Loyd, who now serves on the board of directors for Mattel, said her time at ASU helped to build her career.
“I had two kids and we lived in campus housing,” Loyd said. “I had subsidized child care and an understanding, caring faculty.”
Loyd said the conference will help build opportunities for women.
“There is a study that shows that women receive 50% of all MBAs but only 20% of the management jobs,” Loyd said. “Today’s event will inspire women and educate men that a workplace with women is more productive, more creative and more inclusive.”