Stanford Women In Business hosts the Executive Leadership Series, a quarterly event which showcases one high profile member of the business community's journey to success. ELS exposes Stanford students to various business facets and industries through the insights of others.

Past Speakers 

Julie Rice & Elizabeth Cutler (Fall 2015)

Soulcycle Co-Founders

SoulCycle Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Elizabeth Cutler and her partner Julie Rice, SoulCycle Co-Founder and Chief Talent and Creative Officer, are leading a fitness revolution. Their vision of a motivational 45-minute indoor-cycling workout combined with a chic branded environment, and “above and beyond” customer service came to life in 2006 in the rear lobby of an Upper West Side dance studio that Cutler found on Craigslist.

Cutler and Rice were honored as one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Builders + Innovators in 2013 and 2014, SoulCycle was voted one of the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Fitness of 2013 by Fast Company and was rated the sixth most influential brand on Twitter at CES in January of 2015. In 2015, Cutler was named to Elle Magazine's The Agenda, a board of 43 female powerhouses who are joining forces to improve the lives of women. Cutler and Rice are contributing editors to The Wall Street Journal’s Accelerators column and in 2015; Cutler was voted one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business. 

Diane von Furstenberg (Fall 2014)

CEO of DvF and Fashion Designer

Diane first entered the industry in 1972, with a suitcase full of jersey dresses, and built her company into a global luxury lifestyle brand. Her legendary wrap dress has served as a symbol of female empowerment for 40 years. Over a million wrap dresses were sold in just 2 years, and the dress has been worn by the likes of Michelle Obama, Oprah, Kate Middleton, and Madonna. Today, DVF sells a full collection of ready-to-wear and accessories in over 55 countries worldwide.  

In 2005, Diane received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America for her impact on fashion. She’s currently serving her 8th year as CFDA president, where she has championed movements including copyright protection for designers, healthy body image for models, and the revival of the New York City fashion district.

Diane’s impact, however, goes far beyond fashion; her incredible commitment to empowering women is displayed in her philanthropy and mentorship endeavors. She sits on the board of Vital Voices, an organization that supports female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. In 2010, Diane established the DVF Awards to honor women who have displayed leadership, strength, and courage in their commitment to their causes.

Diane’s new memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be, provides an intimate look into a fascinating life, detailing her experiences and inspirations in business, fashion, philanthropy, and family.


Ruth Porat (Winter 2014)


As the public face of Morgan Stanley, Ms. Porat is considered to be the most powerful woman on Wall Street. She has been the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since January 2010. Ms. Porat began her career with Morgan Stanley in 1987 in the Mergers and Acquisition Department. Having held such positions with the bank as vice chair of Investment Banking and global head of the Financial Institutions Group, Ms. Porat helped advise the U.S. Treasury with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the New York Fed with respect to AIG.

Throughout the financial crisis, Ms. Porat was responsible for the firm's coverage of financial institutions and governments globally. She has brought to IPO such firms as, Priceline, Ask Jeeves, and VeriSign, Inc. In 2013 she emerged as one of President Obama's top-tier choices as the next Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Her career has been analyzed by McKinsey & Company as a model for "How Remarkable Women Lead". Ms. Porat received an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, an M.Sc.Econ. from the London School of Economics, and a B.A. from Stanford University.

Anne Sweeney (Fall 2013)

Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks and President, Disney/ABC Television Group

Anne Sweeney joined The Walt Disney Company in February 1996 as President of Disney Channel and Executive Vice President of Disney/ABC Cable Networks. From October 2000 to April 2004, Ms. Sweeney served as President of ABC Cable Networks Group and Disney Channels Worldwide, during which time Disney Channel more than quintupled its subscriber base. In 2005, Ms. Sweeney led the industry into the digital era when the Disney/ABC Television Group became the first company to put television content on new platforms.

In the past, she ran the Disney Media NetworksDisney/ABC Television Group.  She also oversaw Disney Channels Worldwide and managed the company’s equity interest in A+E Networks and Hulu. Ms. Sweeney has repeatedly been named the “Most Powerful Woman in Entertainment” (The Hollywood Reporter), one of the most “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” (Fortune), and one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” (Forbes).

Ms. Sweeney earned a B.A. degree from The College of New Rochelle and Ed.M. degree from Harvard University. 

Drew Houston (Spring 2013)

CEO and Co-Founder, Dropbox

Drew Houston is CEO and Co-Founder of Dropbox, and has led Dropbox’s growth from a simple idea to a service relied upon by millions around the world. Before founding Dropbox, Drew attended MIT where he studied computer science. He took a quick leave from school to form Accolade, an online SAT prep startup, and also worked as a software engineer for Bit9.

After graduating from MIT, Drew recognized that people needed a way to bring their files with them without sending email attachments or carrying USB drives. He began writing a solution to this problem in early 2007 before showing an early version to Arash Ferdowsi in Boston. The two of them then began working on the project that would eventually become Dropbox.

Drew has been named one of the top "Twentysomething Entrepreneurs" by Businessweek. He was also included in Fortune’s “40 Under 40” list and Inc. Magazine's “30 Under 30”.

Evan Spiegel (Spring 2013)

CEO and Co-Founder of Snapchat

Evan Spiegel is the CEO and Co-Founder of Snapchat, a real-time picture messaging application available on iPhone and Android. He studied product design at Stanford University and almost graduated in 2012. 


Karen Katz (Spring 2013)

 CEO and President, Neiman Marcus Inc.

Karen W. Katz has been the CEO and President of Neiman Marcus Inc. since October 5, 2010. Ms. Katz, a graduate of the University of Texas, started with Neiman Marcus in 1985 as a merchandise manager. Over the years, she has overseen nearly every sector of the company, including Neiman Marcus Direct, Neiman Marcus Stores, and, before this, worked as executive vice president of the Neiman Marcus Group.