Annual Dinner 2017

Wharton Women’s 2017 Annual Dinner was a huge success! This event takes place every year in the fall, and the 2017 event theme was Explore. On September 13, Wharton Women members gathered at the Inn at Penn for a Career Fair and a three-course meal.

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The highlight of the event was Michelle Peluso’s keynote speech during the dinner portion of the event. Michelle Peluso attended Wharton as an undergrad and was very proud to be a Wharton Woman. She has had an amazing career—she started out at BCG, launched her own company, and now serves as the CMO of IBM. In addition to being an amazing woman in top business leadership positions, she also prioritizes family and loves being the mom of her two kids.


Michelle was an absolute inspiration and gave us four ways we can “Explore” as we launch our careers and go through different situations in life. Here are some key takeaways from her talk:

Explore Learning: It’s great to step outside our comfort zones and learn from uncomfortable situations. We will only grow and learn when we try new things. Michelle said she learned valuable lessons and skills through creating her own company as an entrepreneur. Looking back, she also highly values a trip she took to the Soviet Union where she was the only teenager in a group of media professionals. While that experience was a intimidating, it allowed her to become a better, smarter person.

Explore Grit: Michelle knows from experience that life is full of tough times. She said, “If you dream big and have ambitious goals, you will experience dark months and dark quarters.” She recalls how difficult it was to lead her company through 9/11, especially since her firm’s office was just blocks away from the towers. It was a sad, scary, and uncertain time, but she used her grit and perseverance to pull through. Michelle encouraged us to never stop dreaming and to pull from our own strength and courage. She explained that “it’s the hard times that matter and shape us, but we have to kick against the bottom and rise.” She challenged us to use our grit and tenacity to realize our potential.

Explore Others: Michelle knows from personal experience that the people you mentor can actually end up mentoring you. She told us to look for the greatness in others and lift others up. We owe it to the great female leaders of the past like Eleanor Roosevelt and Indira Gandhi to empower and support the next generation of women. Michelle also stressed the importance of having a strong support network of women, friends, and family to help us through tough times.

Explore Grace: While we will all experience tough times or periods of uncertainty, Michelle told us to always bring grace along for the ride of life. She reminded us to “be graceful in the transitions you’ll go through, be humble, and build others up.”


Michelle Peluso gave the current members of Wharton Women some powerful advice to keep in mind as we explore different clubs, internships, and career opportunities. As the next generation of women in business, we were definitely inspired and empowered by Michelle’s message.

We’d like to give a huge thank you to Michelle for speaking at this year’s Annual Dinner. In addition, thank you to all the Wharton Women corporate sponsors who supported this event and held booths at the career fair as well!


Written by Julia Bache (W’ 19).