University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel on leadership, persistence, and empathy

Thursday, December 3, 2020 - 12:00pm

University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel was pleased to speak in conversation with Land O'Lakes president and CEO Beth Ford during the annual Women's Leadership Network (WLN) summit, hosted virtually via Zoom. During her address, Gabel spoke about leadership, cultivating community, and her own professional journey: from her early days in law school to leading the University of Minnesota through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I really had to soul search in order to make the tradeoff to move into higher education," Gabel reflected on her decision to move on from an illustrious law career. From that experience, however, she has gained new perspective on the importance of reflection, persistence, and a sense of self.

"What I would say to women of all ages is that you should make sure that your happiness and your success meet your own definitions," she shared. "Your tradeoffs are yours. Your successes are yours. And you should feel proud of that, and keep moving forward, regardless of whether or not it is a traditional path."

Gabel also attributes her successes to the mentorship, affirmation, and guidance of a "personal board of directors," and credits groups like the Women's Leadership Network with creating opportunities for women in the workforce to cultivate similar relationships and support systems. 

"Programs like this are so wonderful because they attend to the unique challenges that women are facing, and show that we're looking out for each other," Gabel noted. "We are helping each other. We are tapping each other on the shoulder, investing in ourselves and our communities, and elevating new generations of women leaders."

About the WLN Summit

  • 2020 WLN co-chairs
    • Leah Lamon, communications director 
    • Erica Westenbroek, supply chain analytics manager
  • 239 virtual attendees
  • Past U of M speakers include: Sri Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management, at the 2016 WLN Summit

Land O'Lakes is a crucial sponsor and supporter of women's leadership, mentorship, and community-building initiatives across the University of Minnesota.