Keynote Speaker Michelle Peluso, W’93, Shares #WhyWiDS Is a Must-Attend Event

On her very first week, Michelle Peluso, W’93, knew her job as executive vice president, chief customer officer, and co-president of retail at CVS Health was going to be different.

She was in a CVS store, serving as a greeter to customers eager to take some of the first COVID-19 vaccines available to the public. One elderly gentleman arrived with a cake he had baked in the shape of a heart to resemble the CVS logo. He handed the confection to Peluso, asking her to give it to his pharmacist as a thank-you gift.

“When you realize the impact and the power that so many people who are working in CVS stores every day have on their community, it’s pretty profound.”

“He had not seen his grandchildren in over a year, and his wife had died a couple of years prior, so his grandchildren were really his life,” Peluso recalled. “It’s easy sometimes to think about the statistics, but when you realize the impact and the power that so many CVS employees have on their community every day, it’s pretty profound.”

Peluso will share more stories and insights from her career during the third annual Women in Data Science (WiDS) Philadelphia @ Penn Conference on Feb. 9 and 10. She’s the keynote speaker and a Wharton graduate, earning her bachelor’s in economics in 1993.

Peluso will be sharing the virtual stage with other industry and academic titans, such as Ren Zhang, director, head of data science, worldwide brand program and selling partner development at Amazon, Gayatri Narayan, senior vice president of digital products and services at PepsiCo, and Tal Rabin, a distinguished professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania.

In her talk, Peluso will draw on 25 years of experience in leadership positions with major firms, including Citigroup, Travelocity, Gilt, IBM, and now CVS Health. The businesses Peluso has led are certainly diverse, but they all have one thing in common: using data to put more power in the hands of consumers.

“You are the makers of the future. You are the people who will change the future. You will write the code of the future.”

First with travel and now with healthcare, Peluso has been at the forefront of major industries as they underwent digital transformations. Harnessing the power of information and technology is at the heart of what data scientists do, so it’s a job that Peluso takes seriously.

“When I think about the people who are devoting their careers to data science and technology – you are the makers of the future. You are the people who will change the future. You will write the code of the future,” she said, emphasizing the importance of fairness, accuracy, and equality in the work.

“I think the future is yours to write,” she added. “This country needs you to write one that is more equitable, more accessible to all.”

Hear more from Peluso and all the speakers at WiDS as they share critical insights and celebrate the diversity of data science. In keeping with the conference’s theme, This is What a Data Scientist Looks Like, people of all genders are encouraged to attend!


— Angie Basiouny

About WiDS @ Penn Conference

Women in Data Science (WiDS) @ Penn is an independent virtual event presented by the University of Pennsylvania to coincide with the annual Global WiDS Conference held at Stanford University and an estimated 150+ organizations worldwide. All genders are invited to attend WiDS regional events, which features outstanding women doing outstanding work. This year’s theme for WiDS Philadelphia @ Penn was: This is What a Data Scientist Looks Like.