What I Learned Moderating a Panel of Very Successful Women in the Workplace

What I Learned Moderating a Panel of (Very) Successful Women

… from the CEO of Paper Source, a VP at Macy’s and the former White House Director of Events. Oh, also: What I wore. Duh.

It’s been a busy week on this end. Anyone else wake up thinking it was Friday?


I flew home from celebrating a friend’s wedding in Mexico this week and felt like I hit the ground running the second the plane did.

I have some fun photos and outfits to share with you next week from that (along with continuing my Australia/general travel content), but I had a change of heart for today’s post.

Get the look:blazer | shoes | socks | clutch | sunglasses | lip color

Last night, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel geared toward badass women and making (very successful) waves in the workplace.

I’ve spoken on a handful of panels and such before (three of my favorites linked below), but this was my first time as a moderator — or the HBIC, as I referred to it.

*Related reads: Click below to read about the panels where I…

Learned 10 Career Lessons at a Blogger Conference | Threw My Speech on Confidence in the Garbage — on Stage (Yep)

| Talked Candidly about a “Day in the Life” (and I almost didn’t share this one — look at how different I looked four years ago!)

I’m totally kidding on the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge) front, by the way.

But basically, I led a conversation between the female panelists (listed below) and an audience of 20-somethings seeking career-oriented advice and inspiration.

It was such a wonderful, empowering evening.

Below, I’ll share a quick recap from the event and my three favorite “things to note” from the night.

For now, though, I’ll quickly give you the deets on what I wore.

As you can imagine, I’ve pared down the business casual portion of my closet since significantly (since I no longer work in an office everyday). However, I do have a few pieces that remain in heavy rotation for “work events” like this — one of them being today’s slouchy boyfriend blazer.

I bought it on a whim a few months ago and I love how the elongated silhouette looks polished with just about anything I pair it with.

Typically, I like lend it an edgier feel — a la the dotted socks and feathered sandals in today’s look.

Last night, though, I belted it over a fitted dress and my go-to pair of “office-appropriate” pumps.

As far as essential spring jackets go, one’s as versatile as they come. And if you’re in the market, here’s what I’ve got for you:

Nordstrom has a handful of options, but my favorite is by Mural, the brand I’m wearing.

My exact gold button style is sold out (sorry!), but the rest of their oversized blazers fit exactly the same — and come in lots of colors. Even an office-worthy plaid.

If it’s that gorgeous gold hardware you’re after, though, here’s a very similar style from LOFT. (I might need… That navy is so f’ing chic.)

If you have a bit more of a budget to stretch, I’d suggest checking out Shopbop’s selection — there’s a lot of cute options (or investments, we’ll call them). In particular, this pretty blush blazer would be perfect for spring and summer.

Back to the panel:

Our discussion was geared around insights from women who have successfully navigated the workforce — among them, Paper Source CEO Winnie Park, Leo Burnett SVP Alisa Wolfson, Macy’s VP of Media Relations Andrew Schwartz, and former White House Director of Events Laura Schwartz.

(Drumbar hosted the event and all proceeds went to Girls on the Run — an awesome non-profit organization that focuses on transformational learning for girls. They’re nation-wide, so check ’em out!) 


In our hour-long session, we covered everything from “the B word” (bitchy) to breaking the habit of saying “sorry” in emails.

These were the three wisdom bits that stuck out most to me, though — which I knew I had to share with you guys.


When the tide rises, we all float.

As women in the workplace, it’s so important for us to support one another — around the office and in general.

We spent awhile on this topic.

It’s natural to feel competitive and subconsciously worry there isn’t enough success to go around, but that simply isn’t the case.

You know I love a good metaphor, so picture the ocean — unsteady and rocky at times, yes; but when the tide rises, all the boats float.

All boats. Not just some of them.


Success and productivity are not the same.

The conversation transitioned into how we tend to equate our level of success with how productive we are. Anyone else fall into that habit?


Both hands raised, here.

Personally, I feel the most successful when my life is abundant in the areas that are most important to me — and all-around abundance can’t exist without work/life balance.

So, I asked the group:

How do you fill yourself back up? Or what is it that helps you find balance or feel full?

As you might imagine, the notion of balance made these CEO-level babes laugh a bit. It tends to be as elusive as “Inbox Zero,” right?

… I know you know.

A big thing here was the importance of unplugging and detoxing from digital — doing things you love in real life. 

And without guilt. Things like shopping, grabbing a drink with friends and so on — whatever it is.

Winnie said it best: It’s important to find “whatever it is that makes your heart beat really fast.”


Of course, it’s an added bonus if you love what you do… But what if you don’t?

Well, that can be scary — but it’s normal.

In fact, it’s an awesome opportunity to explore things that make your heart beat really fast. And hey, at least you know what you don’t want.

For me — back when I was chasing the corporate dream — I started “filling myself back up” through exercise, which became a hobby I really looked forward to. Indoor cycling, to be exact — duh. And exercise was once activity that I’d never consider fun or voluntary at one point in my life.

It wasn’t until I became blindly caught up chasing my corporate career — or living this life I thought I was supposed to — that I threw myself into my hobby to escape.

Imagine that?

And as it turns out, that’s what I was meant to do all along.

… Which I figured out after seven years in the workforce post-grad. You can read that story here.


Lastly, we wrapped things up with one of my favorite topics of the night — slash always: Advice you’d give to your 20-something self.

It’s never, ever too late.

Cheesy, I know — but it really isn’t, you guys; and that’s whether we’re talking about jobs, relationships or anything else on the spectrum.

One panelist laughed, joking that she’d tell her younger self “do not marry that man — even though he looks good on paper.”

Relatable in the age of swipe right.

Another said she wished she’d have cared less about the “little things” — like always having her nails done or putting together a “perfect outfit.”

For me, it’s the notion of dissolving this self-imposed fear that life is a race.

I was 28-years-old when I quite my corporate job (that career path of 7+ years that I mentioned above) to blog full-time and attempt to break into fitness — an industry I had literally zero experience in.

And I should also note:

… I didn’t get that job in the fitness industry until I was almost 30-years-old.

…. I’ve heard a lot of “no’s” along the way. 

… Even now, at 32, that job isn’t where I originally thought it would be, but that’s life — and what matters is that I’m happy.

Again, you can read those stories here: Why I quit my job and ultimately why I wanted to start working in fitness.


In sum, I’ll leave you with my favorite little mental note:

Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.


Get the look

Slouchy double-breasted blazer: Mural (in more colors here; similar LOFT style here)
Feather sandals: Charlotte Stone ‘Fara’ sandals (also here)
Dotted socks: Wolford (also love these)
Blue envelope clutch: Givenchy ‘Antigona’ pouch (in more colors here)
Matte aviators: Le Specs ‘The Prince’
Lip color: NARS satin lip pencil in ‘Palais Royale’


Iron & Honey Photography

Get the Look

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