by Sylvia Duzaryan
UCLA Anderson’s annual Women in Business Leadership Conference, held Feb. 22 and organized by MBA Student Affairs, featured a keynote address by Julia Stewart, chairman and CEO of DineEquity, which operates the IHOP and Applebee’s franchises. Stewart, a member of Anderson’s Board of Visitors, talked to the audience of prospective and current MBA students, business professionals and a contingent of students from nearby Marymount High School, about her personal story of success and the qualities she characterizes as true leadership.
Stewart spoke about how she constantly develops her employees through a hands-on and open communication approach. “I do teach, I just do it in a different way, outside the classroom,” said Stewart, referencing her academic father’s wish that she become a teacher instead of going into the franchise business. Stewart said that her role as a teacher is the one with most importance to her. “The thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve made a real difference for both men and women,” she said.
Stewart also shared two life lessons: “Finding something you’re passionate about and thinking about how you communicate.” Regarding career choices, she emphasized to the audience that they “should always go to a place that fits you culturally and a place where you are constantly developing, listening and learning."
Following Stewart’s remarks, UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian joined her on stage for a one-on-one discussion. Topics included Stewart’s strengths, challenges and how she balances being a mother with being a businesswoman. The two shared similar thoughts and feelings about women in business, agreeing that during the early years of their careers the gender gap was not as much apart of their focus as it is today. The two also agreed on the importance of mentorship and giving back, especially to women.