The women sat throughout the event and answered questions from the audience. 

The Madison Vision Series provides JMU students the opportunity to learn and hear experiences from a wide array of professionals in various fields. Students packed the seats of Wilson Hall at the series’ most recent panel, which invited leaders of some of the nation’s largest corporations on stage. 

Students had the privilege of hearing from three JMU alumnae, all of whom are Fortune 500 executives. Jennifer Morgan, co-chief executive officer of Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing, Carrie Owen Plietz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Hospital Division of WellStar Health System, and Kathy Warden, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Northrop Grumman, all spoke about their individual experiences in their respective fields of business.

Bobbie Kilberg, leader of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, moderated the panel and asked each participant questions about their position as leaders of large companies.

One of the first topics of discussion was diversity in the workplace. All three panelists spoke about how important it is for workplaces, especially large companies like the ones they work for, to include and listen to people of various backgrounds in order to get a better understanding of how different groups of people feel about the decisions they make.

“It’s not just about having diversity,” Warden said. “It’s also about looking at the inclusion of the talent that you have and what the opportunities are for people to have a voice so that we have the value of that diversity influencing new ideas and better decision-making.”

With experience in the healthcare industry, Plietz discussed the importance of diversity within her specific field of work. She spoke about how the healthcare industry differs from other businesses in that every person requires healthcare throughout their lives. She went on to discuss how this aspect of healthcare makes diversity necessary for her job.

“Healthcare is just inherently diverse,” Plietz said. “We treat so many diverse communities that in order to provide great, amazing care, you have to know and understand who you’re serving.” 

Panelists then spoke about how today’s leaders have to be more empathic and aware of issues than ever before. Morgan explained that leaders of modern-day companies have evolved from those of the past.

“Today, if you look at leaders in government, and you look at leaders of corporations, of incredible startups, you have people leading who are young, who don’t necessarily have the traditional experience, but they have an intellect and an idea, and they surround themselves with really interesting people to be able to do something really different,” Morgan said.

About halfway through the panel, audience members were invited to raise their hands and ask questions to the panelists. JMU students and other audience members asked the panelists questions ranging from their experience with being a woman and rising to power, methods they use to implement new forms of management, and even how to find the right major.

One student, sophomore Abby Maltese, explained to the panelists that as an engineering major and member of the JMU women’s soccer team, it can be difficult to manage her time. Her question invited the women on stage to think about how they are all able to prioritize work as leaders of their respective companies.

The panelists responded with the advice of striking a comfortable balance between work and life at home. Warden also specifically discussed how she goes through prioritizing work when working with her colleagues, highlighting the importance of communication and an understanding of the work you’re doing.

“Prioritization is thinking through what is it that only I can do, what is it that is important for me to do and what is it that, if I do it well, is really going to make a difference,” Warden said.

At the end of the panel, Julia Sampson, a senior integrated science and technology major, said she came to the panel to see these women speak about how they got where they are today. She also went on to talk about why she thinks events like these are important for students. 

“It’s so inspiring,” Sampson said. “Obviously, it’s a good way to network and get in the door, but it also makes me feel more normal and [makes it] less scary to enter the workforce, more exciting.”

Contact Justin Hennessey at [] For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.