On March 2, 2021, the Skandalaris Center partnered with University Advancement and Andi and Andrew Simon, founders of the Simon Initiative, to present a panel of groundbreaking WashU alumnae in celebration of Women’s History Month.
The event began with Andrew Simon (AB ’64) as he introduced his wife, Andi, and outlined the pillars of the Simon Initiative:
> Access facilitated through resources, materials, and events for minority and women entrepreneurs.
> Connect women and minority entrepreneurs with mentors.
> Train minority and women entrepreneurs to be confident in their ideas and explore opportunities.
In her introduction of the other panelists, moderator Andi Simon reflected on her time as a visiting professor at WashU teaching entrepreneurship to liberal arts undergraduates. Her time co-teaching with then Olin professor Henry Biggs showed her the connection that students make with the stories of entrepreneurs and their desire to understand the entrepreneurial experience. This, combined with the stories and interactions she observed at HER Summit events, was the basis for her book, Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business. After interviewing over fifty women who didn’t allow hurdles to stop them and went on to become leaders in their fields, Andi wrote the book to help others “see what they want to be.”
The March 2nd panel was an opportunity to hear from the following women who, in keeping with the book’s theme, have challenged the misconceptions around women in business and made a mark on their chosen fields.
Babette Ballinger (BFA ’64) is the retired CEO of American Knitworks. She attended WashU at a time when there were not a lot of options for women looking for careers. After facing years of verbal abuse, unequal pay, and gender-based discrimination, Babette decided to start her own business.
Tiffany Harper (JD ’08) is the co-founder of the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP) and Uncolorblind. She also is a corporate lawyer with a background in bankruptcy and restructuring. After graduating from law school during a recession and trying to figure out what was next for her, Tiffany realized how hard it is for women of color to find mentors. She co-founded her non-profit to increase the pipeline of women of color lawyers.
Liz Antognoli (BS ’97) is a principal systems engineer at the Sierra Nevada Corporation. Liz worked for NASA for years during the assembly of the space station. There she got to meet her childhood idol, Sally Ride. Liz left NASA for the commercial space industry. Over time she has developed an interest in personal growth and has created her certified high-performance coaching business.