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Being There: Chicago Women in Business Conference

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Strategy Session: Wendy de Monchaux, '86, (right) shared her tips for success with current and prospective students at the annual Chicago Women in Business spring conference

Being There: Chicago Women in Business Conference
Success on the Street

The first time Wendy de Monchaux, '86, walked onto Wall Street's trading floor, men held up numbers to rate her appearance. A few days later, when she turned the tables and began rating her male colleagues, they real-ized de Monchaux was no pushover.

"You had to be that way, or you were not going to survive," she told more than 100 students, admitted students, faculty, staff, and corporate sponsors at the annual Chicago Women in Business (CWiB) spring conference in April.

Held at Chicago's Fairmont Hotel, the keynote speech, dinner, and wine tasting were sponsored by the GSB and several firms, including Deloitte Consulting, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns. De Monchaux, a senior managing director at Bear Stearns - an investment banking and securities trading and brokerage firm - had plenty of survival strategies to share.

Start networking now, she advised. Asking GSB classmates about swaps, a type of derivative, led to her start in derivatives at First National Bank of Chicago in 1984. "Networking really means ask anybody, everybody, whoever," she said.

Another lesson de Monchaux shared: Stick it out when times get tough. She learned that one at Drexel Burnham Lambert when the company went bankrupt. At the end, her group worked without pay for seven weeks to ease the transition for their clients. "Those clients still deal with us today," she said.

In her eight years at Bear Stearns, where she founded the company's derivatives department, de Monchaux has found that the hard work of building something from the ground up may be made easier by having a strong vision and clear goals. "One day you will turn around and find yourself the leader of a whole group of people," she said. "It doesn't come cheap, but it's rewarding."

Having a rewarding career has meant juggling work and family, a topic of concern for many women in business. "You have to give up the thought that you are going to be perfect in both areas," advised de Monchaux. "For all of us Type A go-getters, that's a true source of conflict. The women who can't get over this conflict drop out [of the workforce]."

She left her audience with a final piece of advice on achieving a work-life balance: Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If you do your job well, she said, your employer is likely to say yes. For de Monchaux, a mother of three, advancing in her career has involved bringing her new baby to work during a crunch period and campaigning to get maternity leave instead of having to use disability leave. "Until the companies get better," she said, "you have to take care of your own life."

First-year GSB student Rebecca Pinkley Drendel, one of five CWiB co-chairs, said the group was thrilled with de Monchaux's keynote speech: "She addressed many of the challenges and opportunities that women face as they progress throughout their careers. And she was quite inspiring."--K.S.

Read more about Wendy de Monchaux's road to the top

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