Recognizing and rewarding great potential
“All of us got to where we are because there was somebody who saw something in us that we couldn’t see in ourselves,” said Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the 2018 KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.
Coming from a woman who has achieved so much throughout the course of her career, it was a powerful message for the 300 attendees at this year’s event, most of whom are next generation women leaders aiming for future positions in the C-suite.
Dr. Rice was joined on stage by three of this year’s ambassadors from the KPMG Future Leaders Program in a panel moderated by NBC’s Michele Tafoya. The initiative, started in 2016 by KPMG and working in conjunction with the office of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, awards top performing female high school seniors with scholarships, a year-long personal mentorship program and a three-day leadership retreat held at Stanford University with an introduction to golf.
“This program is important because it recognizes the need to develop female leaders,” said Dr. Rice. “Nobody gets there on their own. What we’re doing is identifying young women who have the drive and determination to succeed, whatever their circumstances, and giving them financial means to complete their degree, along with leadership training and opportunities to build confidence.”
This year’s recipients were especially impressive to Dr. Rice, who personally reviews each application. “When you read the applications, their character jumps off the page at you,” she said. “And I’ve been teaching for over 30 years – I know how to read an application. You recognize all the things they’ve done and have been experiencing, and then you meet them and the energy and drive really comes through. I’m so inspired every day to see there are women who are going to fulfill these leadership roles going forward.”
The year-long guidance offered through the KPMG Future Leaders Program was a big selling point for Natasha Stallings, who is part of the Program’s Class of 2018. “What made me want to apply was the mentorship I saw they provided,” she said. “It’s amazing to have someone who’s experienced, who has already done what you’re trying to do. I wanted to gain that wisdom and knowledge.”
Stallings is already familiar with the benefits of working with a mentor. She’s currently enrolled in Georgia Tech’s Project ENGAGES, where she works with a PhD mentor on research for an aggressive form of breast cancer – which her mother is currently battling.
For Topanga Sena, a spot in the KPMG Future Leaders Program meant the chance to continue making an impact on those who need it most throughout the course of her college career. When her family was forced to move into a motel after a financial setback, Sena saw the need for more reading materials for other children living in similar circumstances. She started “Dare to Care Reading Buddies” in order to help, collecting over 2,500 books for children in homeless shelters.
“I’m the first generation to go to college, so I’m glad to have someone to guide me through it,” Sena said about being a part of the KPMG Future Leaders Program. An avid golfer, Sena is looking forward to honing her skills during the retreat, which also includes a golf clinic led by KPMG brand ambassador Mariah Stackhouse. Given it’s important role as a business tool as well as KPMG’s involvement with the sport, golf was a natural addition to the KPMG Future Leaders Program curriculum.
Anita Pogoda, also the first in her family to pursue a college degree, credits her parents for teaching her the value of hard work – which helped earn her a spot as an ambassador this year. “I have parents who immigrated from Poland – the fact they immigrated for me and my siblings speaks volumes,” she said. “My mom is one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. We’ve gone through a lot together. She’s honest about her struggles, and always gives me the best advice, and keeps pushing me to do even better.”
The program is supported by proceeds from the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, bringing the company’s efforts to elevate and empower women through these initiatives full circle. Qualifications for the KPMG Future Leaders Program include academic standards such as a GPA of 3.5 or higher, as well as strong community involvement, a letter of recommendation from a non-profit organization, and an interest in pursuing a STEM or business academic track.
“We have to develop future leaders from young women like these, who have already demonstrated that they do not believe they are constrained by circumstances they can’t control,” said Dr. Rice. “We’re opening up a new pathway of opportunities for them to become what they are already on their way to becoming: confident young women who are going to make a difference in their communities, in the lives of others and in their country.”
To learn more about the KPMG Future Leaders Program, visit womensleadership.kpmg.us/charitable.html.
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