Empowering Female Entrepreneurs: Mónica Peraza’s Passion

Self-made Mexican businesswoman Mónica Peraza O’Quigley believes women are stronger together. Her great passion? Empowering female entrepreneurs and helping them thrive. Her creativity, commitment and discipline helped her achieve success at home and abroad. Success she now uses to propel other women and their businesses forward.

A firm believer of transformation and its ripple effect, she is dedicated to help eradicate extreme poverty among women by providing access to markets. With this mission in mind, Mónica co-founded The Etho with Sydney Sherman. The online marketplace built by and for women with the goal of empowering female entrepreneurs around the world to manage their businesses and scale them successfully.

The Etho holds the women on this virtual marketplace to a high standard, making sure all products are sustainable and respect mother nature. Mónica – who learned confidence from a grandfather that served as her very first mentor and encouraged her to work hard – holds herself to that same high standard both personally and professionally.

The Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplash

The Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplashThe Etho is empowering women entrepreneurs. Photo Credit. Gemma Chua Tran-unsplash

The Etho and its Mission of Empowering Female Entrepreneurs

Red Shoe Movement – Can you tell us about The Etho and its mission to change the lives of women around the world? How was it founded and how did you come to the conclusion that together we are stronger?

Mónica Peraza O’Quigley – Sydney (Sherman) and I met in January 2019 through an advisor and in a matter of 15 minutes we began to consider the possibility of joining forces and creating a company together. She brought the ethical verification process to the table and I brought the curation system for female-owned businesses. That’s how The Etho was born. We are Co-CEOs and we love it since each one focuses on what we like the most and when we have to make any decision it is much easier to make it together. We have absolute respect for each other and from the very beginning we made the pact that our relationship would always be the most important thing.

We are both committed to empowering female entrepreneurs around the world and eliminating extreme poverty, and the best vehicle to accomplish this is by offering access to markets that will pay fair prices for their products.

Monica Peraza O'Quigley co-founded The Etho to empower female entrepreneurs

Monica Peraza O’Quigley co-founded The Etho to empower female entrepreneurs

How does this platform empower women?

RSM – How does The Etho work? What is the process for an entrepreneur to sell their products on the platform?

MPO – We have an ethical verification process and once an artisan, designer or businesswoman passes the verification, they have access to our platform where they can sell their products and ship them directly when they receive an order.

RSM – You have done a great job raising funds for The Etho. Can you share the most important tips for investors to understand the value of your proposal?

MPO – The Etho is a company with great impact that is perfectly aligned with two global movements that are highly relevant at the moment. On the one hand, the empowerment of women through access to markets and on the other, sustainability through products that not only care for the environment, but that are made by companies that offer fair wages and safe conditions for the women who work there.

In addition, we have a team of women who have extensive experience helping to grow global companies and that gives investors confidence.

Finally, our pitch deck and executive summary are very complete and cover all the issues that investors need to make a decision. Fundraising is largely directly proportional to your network as the decision to invest depends on the trust they have in the entrepreneur to execute. Something only people who know you directly or through someone else know.

Get inspired by a successful shoe entrepreneur!
Photo Credit. Katherine Hanlon-Unsplash

Photo Credit. Katherine Hanlon-Unsplash

Building Future Female Entrepreneurs

RSM – Talking about empowering female entrepreneurs, you are a serial entrepreneur yourself. Could you tell us what this means?

MPO – A serial entrepreneur is a woman who has founded several companies, usually one after the other.

RSM – What are some of the qualities that young businesswomen must cultivate to become great leaders?

MPO – Working on your self-esteem is essential. Recognize ego, don’t let it blind you and learn to see things objectively. Being a leader is a position of great responsibility and personal work is a catalyst to become a better leader.

RSM – How can you introduce the importance of giving back to the community in the minds of future female entrepreneurs?

MPO – It is very important to give back to the community since the more we have the more responsibility we have to share. I especially feel like as a Latina woman in the US it is our obligation to open the road to other women who come after us.

RSM – Why do you think it is so important to have committed mentors? Can you tell us a bit about yours?

MPO – A mentor has the power to change your life. I have been fortunate to have several mentors in my life, but Teresa Lozano Long has been the person who has most influenced my life in the last decade. She has been very generous in sharing her immense wisdom with me and has taught me so much that her impact on my life and my business is impossible to measure.

The Etho is a market created by women for women. Photo Credit. Socialcut. Unsplash

The Etho is a market created by women for women. Photo Credit. Socialcut. Unsplash

The New Normal: The Future of Work Is Here

Who would’ve thought that in such a short period of time the entire world would be thrown into the new normal?

Join me in imagining potential scenarios that may become part of the new normal. This is an invitation to ponder questions about the future of the workplace in order to trigger your own questions, hypothesis and ideas worth pursuing. The more you think about it, the better prepared you can be to influence your own role in what’s coming.

We build together the new normal

We build together the new normal

Creating the new normal where we can all thrive

It’s fascinating to see how quickly things change when there’s a pandemic. Have you noticed how overnight organizations and institutions have been forced to accelerate their timetables? Unlike what happened until now when different political agendas or conflicting interests interfered with progress, it’s quite possible that in the new normal things that have proven to work will be put into practice rapidly so that more people enjoy the benefits.

What about your company and your job? Will anything change?

A large part the planet is working from home right now. Regardless of what your job is, this experience will result in at least some changes. That may mean that you’ll have expanded responsibilities, that your division or business unit has been eliminated and you are asked to take on a completely different role, or that you’ll have the choice to work remotely more frequently. Without a doubt, this is a good time to learn new skills that you can apply in any new role. Showing that you’ve made productive use of this critical time by upskilling will play in your favor.

What to study? Start by review your skills, experience and education against the backdrop of the fields that are doing well and will continue to flourish when this is all over. For example: anything that makes life livable right now such as Internet providers, streaming services, virtual conferencing platforms, logistics companies, online retailers, anything to do with healthcare, mental health, entertainment, and so on. Spend some time considering: What other areas can you think about that will remain a necessity or will become a necessity when we are on the other side of this crisis?

The New Normal is happening now

The New Normal is happening now

Here are the kinds of questions that can help you explore areas of opportunity

  • Will people be more or less likely to travel?
  • In response to a long time in isolation, how will people’s spending habits change? Will they try to live a smaller, more controllable lifestyle or will they splurge on luxuries they were deprived of for a long time? Think about products and services that may become popular.
  • Will people try to become more self-reliant or be ready to hire the services of others after a long time in isolation?
  • Will people continue to order everything online or will they opt to do their food shopping in person and walk to their favorite boutique to try on the clothes they want?
  • Will most K-12 schools become technologically savvy and finally enter the 21st century with an education model that is more aligned with kids’ real life outside of school or will they go back to traditional teaching?
  • Will this accelerate the AI revolution or on the contrary, slow it down?
  • Are there new opportunities to expand the shared economy? And what about the caring economy?
  • Will there be new opportunities in exercise/sports that people can do on their own while still feeling part of a team

What aspects of the present will remain?

Companies have been forced to implement quick changes. I believe that as they prove to be useful, many of those changes are likely to become permanent. What do you think?

  • In certain sectors, many companies will close their office buildings, now that the organization has verified that employees can be equally productive from home. Other companies may establish remote work as the default policy, as the software that helps people work in teams at a distance has now become a standard tool for companies big and small not only in the US but in regions such as Latin America.
  • Having had to shuffle people around to cover different functions may help establish formal programs for associates to rotate roles in different business units so that the organization remains nimble.
  • Perhaps seeing how useful it was to have certain people be able to deal with a wide variety of issues in an organization might encourage a return to generalists versus specialists.
  • When I see how companies and the public sector tend to collaborate in times of crises, I can’t avoid being hopeful that at the end of the crisis at hand, that collaboration remains in place. So, I hope we’ll see an increase in cross-industry collaboration and in collaboration between competitors.
  • Most likely, there will be an expansion of the gig economy. It’s likely that many of the people whose jobs get eliminated will opt to work for themselves. This will in turn create more opportunities for large organizations to interact with these individuals and new small companies.
  • If you think distance learning was already a well-established sector, it will now be much more widely adopted. As more individuals and companies realize the convenience it offers, the ease of customization and the flexibility for everyone to study at their pace and at the time of their choice, online learning will offer many more options and formats. A sign of things to come is the high demand we are experiencing right now for our virtual leadership programs for female talent and for men: Step Up Plus and Step Up Men.

Gender equality may happen overnight

Here’s one of the great opportunities to make a change overnight taking advantage of the current situation.

Think about the following. For a long time, the double burden (of working full time and having to take care of the family) and the demand to be available anywhere anytime were two of the biggest obstacles for women to get executive positions.

Now, when almost everyone has experienced working remotely from home while quarantined with their families, both men and women from senior executives to support staff, suddenly, the playing field is leveled at least for a moment. Remote work is no longer an accommodation for women, or something they can do so at the same time they can take care of the family, but a benefit used across the board.

As everyone is home together, men and women working remotely and not able to get out of the house, it’s a great opportunity to renegotiate roles. Responsibilities previously thought to be women’s can (and should) now be shared more equally. This must be done in a deliberate way in order for the new roles to be clearly defined and to be long-lasting and not only temporary.

It may be the push we needed to shift social stereotypes. When both mom and dad are home and they alternate cooking, household chores, taking care of the kids, homeschooling and working remotely, suddenly, it’s hard to go back to the old ways. So, may this crisis give us the chance to come out on the other side a totally new society? It may.

We must also be observant of the possibility of the exact opposite outcome. That the likely economic downturn in most countries may create a conjuncture where women are expected to stay home again. When, because resources are limited and jobs fewer, the family needs to make a choice around who goes back to work and who takes care of the household and kids. And we go several steps back in terms of a gender inclusion at all levels in our organizations and institutions.

The new normal is being created now. We are building it together with every one of our acts every day of this pandemic. The way in which we behave, in which we work, live, communicate and care for each other is creating a new fabric as we were stitching together a global quilt. New social agreements, structures, priorities and values will emerge as a result. And as all of us will be changed by the experience it’s critical that all of us participate in the making of this new society.

Take this time to think about what future you want. Defining the new normal is everyone’s responsibility. Let me know your thoughts so we can keep this conversation going!

Anxiety: What Causes it and How to Keep it at Bay

We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of humanity. A moment that requires us to take care of ourselves and in most cases shelter in place in isolation or with our family. Today we talk about anxiety: what causes it and how to keep it at bay.

It is the first time in history that a pandemic is taking place through a virus of such rapid contagion and long incubation in the midst of globalization. This virus can get to any of us. It makes no differences.

In our normal lives, there are many reasons why thousands of people die, but since they seem like problems of another country or region, we usually feel safe.

Do you remember a couple of years ago, the photo of a little dead boy in the arms of a rescue worker on the shores of the Mediterranean? It moved us all for a few weeks and then we forgot. The image had the audacity to penetrate our daily lives and yet it did not provoke more than a few minutes of emotion in our lives. Soon that death, like that of so many thousands of other refugees who continue to die at sea, was forgotten and no longer news.

The same goes for wars, famines and many other diseases like Ebola that are restricted to areas far from our homes.

This virus, which in the early days could be believed only affected a far- away town in China, soon spread throughout the world. And it has the particularity that it makes all of us equal. (In Argentina, for example, the first case we had was of a passenger who arrived in first class on a flight from Milan.)

Here's another post on how to overcome anxiety inside and outside of work
Understanding what causes anxiety will help you control it. Photo Credit- Priscilla Du Preez. Unsplash

Understanding what causes anxiety will help you control it. Photo Credit- Priscilla Du Preez. Unsplash

What causes anxiety and how to keep it at bay

When we talk about anxiety, it is important to explore what causes it and how to combat it, since understanding the cause will help you find solutions tailored to your situation.

1Feeling like everyone is a threat

First, a source of anxiety is that anyone can be a threat and infect you. You don’t know where the enemy is. It is an invisible microbe that has humanity in checkmate.

2Feeling that you are not in control of the situation

Many people feel anxiety in response to thoughts like, “I can’t control it.” That is, the idea that you can’t control it simply because you don’t see it. These past few days, many of my patients expressed this concern. If this is your case, let me remind you that the idea of ​​having things under control is just an illusion. Actually, you never have complete control of anything. There is always a margin of error and chance that makes us susceptible to things not going the way we expect. When this illusion explodes against an indisputable reality it makes us anxious because we suddenly feel out of control. The illusion that dissipates and makes is that it is impossible to have absolute control. Ever. Only until now you did not see this fact clearly clearly. Therefore, let yourself be guided by the authorities, and live one day at a time without trying to plan anything, even in the medium term. This situation is changing minute by minute and we will have to adapt to the new normal.

3Feeling uncertain about the future

Uncertainty also generates anxiety. But this is a time to be patient, and not try to anticipate anything. In other words, as I said before, manage your life minute to minute. We do not know when the quarantine will end, nor in what situation we will be. Right now it is important to think about today’s actions and projects and perhaps those for the next 2 or 3 days. Let’s put to work our creativity and internal resources.

If up until now you were someone who liked to have her entire schedule planned well in advance, take the opportunity to “break” away from your structure. Maybe you can use that ability to organize your closets, drawers, books, the kids’ room, or the kitchen cabinets. For the next few days you will have to make friends with uncertainty since it is not possible to do anything else. The sooner you do, the less anxious you’ll be.

One of the activities to keep busy at this time is to clean up your closets and organize your home. Photo Credit- Dhruv Patel. Unsplash

One of the activities to keep busy at this time is to clean up your closets and organize your home. Photo Credit- Dhruv Patel. Unsplash

4Having an excess of information

You have to be very careful with excess information. Especially the one that flows from unofficial media. We all have many chats where we get videos or audios. Some seem scientific others are funny. People bombard us with information. In some cases, we ourselves go looking for it on the Internet. That excess makes you crazy. Because it often involves false or contradictory information that is hard to weave out from the real one.

I suggest that you focus on the information shared by the official channels of your country, such as that of the ministries of health. If you don’t trust your own authorities, you can visit the World Health Organization’s (WHO) page. Establish one or two times a day when you’ll seek this information and then disconnect.

The coronavirus ends up infecting everything, not only physically, but mentally. If you allow it, it will take over your whole life. Even if you are tempted to be on social media constantly or watch the endless stream of news, do your best to avoid it. More information will not benefit you. Also avoid forwarding messages and videos to others in your network. Not only does it overload them but it also overloads the system which is already stressed by everyone being online all the time.

Learn what causes anxiety to limit these situations

Learn what causes anxiety to limit these situations

5Formulating apocalyptic ideas

Situations like the one we are in lend themselves to apocalyptic ideas. Maybe it is not your intention, but when you see that your neighbor buys food as if he were preparing to spend six months in a bunker, or you see the empty shelves at your local supermarket, you start to think that perhaps the apocalypse is indeed around the corner. Keep calm. We are not facing the Third World War or the end of the world. It is important that you stock up knowing that you will be able to go out again in a few days. I reiterate that if in doubt go back to well respected sources: your government’s official page or the WHO site.

6Overestimating or underestimating the situation

Another thing that generates anxiety is not being able to assess accurately what is happening because we don’t understand it. Let us trust that in each country there is a committee of experts advising the authorities.

It’s as important to avoid overestimating the situation by creating an apocalyptic movie or underestimating it to the point of putting your life and that of others at risk. If you follow the guidance of your local authorities, anxiety will drop substantially. It is not you who has to make the key decisions right now. Delegate that responsibility on those who understand the subject. Your responsibility is to abide by their recommendations and to use common sense.

Don't miss 10 things you can do to stay sane during the quarantine
Anxiety: What causes it and how to keep it at bay. Avoid overestimating or underestimating the situation. Photo Credit-John Cameron. Unsplash

Anxiety: What causes it and how to keep it at bay. Avoid overestimating or underestimating the situation. Photo Credit-John Cameron. Unsplash

7Feeling dragged down by the vertiginous moment

Another cause of anxiety is the speed of changes we are experiencing. Between the uncertainty and the confinement, it would seem that nothing contributes to calm you down. But think about this: When there are strong winds, the trees that survive are the most flexible. The stiffer ones will probably break. So stay flexible.

The news flow is ongoing and the information is not always consistent. It’s two steps forward and one step back. Maybe two days ago you were working at your office, and now you are doing remote work. Maybe tomorrow you’ll be laid off. We all have to adapt all the time. Don’t think for a moment that you are the only one who’s having a hard time adapting. To a greater or lesser extent it’s hard for everyone. What you should know is that as long as you want to cling to the way things used to be, you’ll have a worse time.

As a psychologist, I have always seen patients in person. In the last few days due to the measures taken by the government, they weren’t able to come to my office. So I offered to hold our sessions by phone, Zoom, FaceTime or any other virtual platform.

Many accepted the idea immediately and some decided to wait because they still don’t feel ready for it. Think how permeable you are to change. The new norm, for some, is an inaccessible monster. Try going slowly, taking on the challenge of doing something you have never done before. You may be surprised to see that it was not so difficult. And the monster was nothing more than a defense mechanism of yours to hold on to rigid models.

This can be a great time to rest. It is as if the world has stopped for a while, giving us the possibility to look each other in the eye, or to look ourselves in the mirror. Reflect on the direction our life is in and the one we want going forward. Let’s think about the things we have never said, and to whom we would like to say something. It is also a great opportunity to get bored. Yes, getting bored allows ideas to bubble up.

While we don’t know how long this isolation will take, it won’t last forever. At some point we will meet others again, we will hug again, we will kiss again. Perhaps by then we will have discovered abilities that we did not know we had. Perhaps by then, a painting created by us will hang on our wall. Perhaps by then, we have become friends with unthinkable people. Or we have become wiser, more cautious, with some permanent habit changes, truly valuing leisure time.

There is so much to do …

Be flexible. Photo Credit-Mahkeo. Unsplash

Be flexible. Photo Credit-Mahkeo. Unsplash

10 Things you Can Do to Stay Sane During the Quarantine

If you want to remain sane during the quarantine, when you’re likely working from home and living with your family in closed quarters, you must quickly incorporate new routines. Here I share 10 things you can do during the quarantine that will hopefully awaken other creative ideas to keep you and your family in the best of terms.

For some time now remote work has been a common practice in a large number of companies. But what makes this situation unique is that now, while you’re home working, so are all the members of your family who normally may be in school, at work or doing other activities.  Add to this the fact that you may not be able to take a break and grab a cup of coffee with a friend or hit the gym, and you have the perfect storm to be overstressed.

Without minimizing the seriousness of the current situation, I invite you to remember how many times you have longed to have more free time to do countless things like cleaning up your closet, reading a book, watching movies, or taking an online course. And above all, to spend quality time with your loved ones.

Taking into account that the isolation can last several days, I suggest some activities that can be sustained over time.

Spending quality time with your family. Photo Credit- National Cancer Institute. Unsplash

Spending quality time with your family. Photo Credit- National Cancer Institute. Unsplash

10 Things you can do during quarantine with your family

1Read aloud

Here’s a personal experience that may help you. When I was in high school I had a literature teacher who read novels to us. She did it with in a very histrionic way. She’d only read a few pages and stopped in a cliff hanger. Although they were young adult novels, she managed to create the climate to keep a group of 15 years-old intrigued for a whole week. (Along the line of what Netflix or Amazon series do today.) I remembered that teacher all my life for instilling in me the value of reading and in turn, I did the same with my young children, to whom I read stories every night. We put together what we called the “storybook corner”, which was a hallway halfway between the rooms of my two kids. Every night, before going to bed, they brought their pillows and I read to them. It was part of beloved ritual.

You can also carry out this activity with adults. There is something very special about reading aloud and having a book read aloud to you.

2Share old stories

Is there a story in your life that you haven’t told your family yet? As simple as it may seem, it may be a nice moment to share it. There are always things that others don’t yet know about you. Especially if it is your partner or your children who seem to know everything there is to know about you.

3Write letters

What to do during the quarantine. Photo Credit- Annie Spratt. Unsplash

What to do during the quarantine. Photo Credit- Annie Spratt. Unsplash

How long has it been since you last used pen and paper to write a letter? Whether it is to someone who lives in another country, or someone who lives in your own town and who you don’t see often. Think of your old school friends. Is there anyone that you stopped seeing long time ago and with whom you would like to reconnect and still have not done so on Facebook?

4Review photos

Those old printed photos of your childhood, the ones you didn’t digitize, can lead to beautiful moments. While you digitize them, or organize them in albums, you can go through them with your partner, children and even parents who remind you of stories you didn’t know. Write down the names of the people who appear on the picture. And you can even add a paragraph on the back that reminds you of when it was taken. Another option is to take advantage of this moment to create books with digital photos. It is a fun and time-consuming task that you or your children can undertake.

5Retrieve the old board games

Another beautiful activity to do during quarantine is to play board games. Our dependency on virtual life has made us forget those old games. Cards, dice, Monopoly, Backgammon and so on are among many games that our children may not even know about. Show them. Dust them off and put them to work. Both with children or between adults, you will be surprised at how much fun they were and how much you can enjoy playing them again. You can do championships that carry on from one day to the next.

6Drop down and play

How long has it been since you drop to the ground to play? Whether you are with children, with other adults or alone, this is a great opportunity. Assemble puzzles, Lego castles, Barbie stories, or whatever you like. You can make collages or pictures with recycling material, or crafts with discarded objects.

7Put together a band

From conventional instruments such as guitar, piano or drums, to homemade and invented instruments. Pots and pans, glasses with different amounts of water, rattles made out of plastic bottles and rice, combs made out of aluminum foil. You can search the Internet to find tutorials or let your imagination run wild.

Cooking together is something you could do during the quarantine. Photo Credit- Toa Heftiba. Unsplash

Cooking together is something you could do during the quarantine. Photo Credit- Toa Heftiba. Unsplash

Time to get a little dirty

8Create a vegetable garden

Being in close proximity to soil, even if it is just with a few pots, can make you feel great. You can germinate beans and then move them to soil or plant seeds alone or with your kids. You can even grow some aromatic plants or herbs to use in the kitchen. Taking daily care of a small garden and seeing plants grow is extremely gratifying.

9Cook together

Cooking can be very enjoyable and creative. Even teaching children to collaborate in daily housework is a way to educate them, not only for this atypical situation, but for life in general. Be sure to rotate activities so you avoid creating stereotypes where girls always do certain things and boys other things. (Example, girls set the table and boys wash the car.)

10Learn to compost

During quarantine you will have a higher volume of garbage in your home. Take this opportunity to learn how to compost. In addition to increasing your home’s sustainability, you will send your children a clear message about the importance of caring for the planet. There are many tutorials to help you along the way.

During the quarantine we all have to change our habits

As you can see, this isolation will require a change of habits on everyone’s part. From hygiene, social interaction, to everyday life. It is an excellent opportunity to revalue the connection with our loved ones, as well as giving rise to creativity and using that time that you so longed for in a productive way.

Reading out loud during the quarantine can help you spend quality time together. Photo Credit- Kinga Cichewicz. Unsplash

Reading out loud during the quarantine can help you spend quality time together. Photo Credit- Kinga Cichewicz. Unsplash

 

Inclusion: Pushing for Real Results in Academia

If there’s someone pushing for real results in diversity and inclusion at all levels of academia, that’s Dr. Alison Davis-Blake, the eight president of Bentley University.

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

RSM #IWDleader Hall of Fame

Before this role, Dr. Davis-Blake was the Dean of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan (2011-2016) where she positioned the school globally for its new mission to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Prior to Ross she was the Dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota (2006-2011.)

Dr Davis-Blake was the first female dean at both Carlson and Ross and is Bentley’s second woman president. She is a talented scholar with expertise in strategic human resource management and organizational design for effective management of human capital.

For breaking the glass ceiling in a historically male-dominated sector, and for relentlessly pushing for real results when it comes to full inclusion in academia, we honor Dr. Alison Davis-Blake with the 2020 Hall of Fame.

The influence of great women leaders

Red Shoe Movement—Why do women make great leaders?

Alison Davis-Blake —In a recent study published by Harvard Business Review, researchers found that women in leadership positions are rated equally or more competent than men in leadership positions. I am not surprised by this data which also show that in particular, across thousands of the 360-reviews used for the research, women leaders were highly rated as “excelling” in “taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty.” I have personally found that women are more likely to engage in integrative (both parties win) negotiations than distributive (win-lose) negotiations in the workplace. It is also my feeling that due to personal experiences of exclusion women can often be more sensitive to the need for diversity and inclusion, thus unleashing organizational potential for creative and innovative solutions.

RSM— How have women helped you along your career?

ADB—Women have been essential to my career as sponsors, mentors, collaborators, and supporters. While the importance of sponsors and mentors is well understood, I think we overlook the vital role of collaborators and supporters. My female collaborators have provided a space where it was safe for me to be myself, to vet concepts, and to test ideas. A space where it is safe to express incomplete thoughts in private with a collaborator or a supporter is vital because so often women face a smaller margin for error in public. I have also been the beneficiary of a great many women who were working on the front lines but who went out of their way to tell me that they were supporting me as a female leader and wanted to see me succeed. Their votes of confidence kept me going during some of my most difficult days.

President Alison Davis-Blake pushes for real results

President Alison Davis-Blake pushes for real results

RSM— You were the first female dean of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and at the time that made you the highest-ranking dean at any U.S. business school. Why did it take so long to have a woman in that position? What changes were you able to implement during your tenure there?

Business schools and fields of study have historically been male dominated. And there is a very, very long road to the deanship. One must obtain a Ph.D., get a good academic job, obtain tenure, become a full professor, and get some administrative experience. That can easily be a 20-year process. And, research is clear that just like the corporate pipeline data reported by McKinsey & Company each year, the academic pipeline is extremely leaky at every stage with fewer women than men (proportionally) advancing to the next stage. Thus, there is a pipeline issue with regards to women achieving the highest ranks of academia, from which administrators are typically chosen.

When I became dean, it was not uncommon for only 10-15% of the full professors in a business school to be women, and, based on that, one would expect very few women to be in senior administrative roles and even fewer to be deans.

While at Ross, I led strategic efforts to increase global study opportunities for MBA and Bachelor of Business Administration students and formed new partnerships with universities around the world. Through this work we expanded activities in India, Japan and South Korea. Domestically we expanded our Executive MBA program to Los Angeles and introduced the Master of Management and Minor in Business programs.

We also completely revamped our undergraduate curriculum to make it more experiential and more integrated, better meeting the needs of today’s learners.

Iris Bohnet, Dean, Harvard Kennedy School shares how to get real results in gender inclusion.

What can be done to get real results?

President Alison Davis-Blake

President Alison Davis-Blake

RSM—54% of university professors who work full time in degree-granting postsecondary institutions are White males while 27% are White females. Only 2% of the following groups are full time professors: Black males, Black females, Hispanic Males and Hispanic females. What is the reason for this disparity in both gender ethnicity and race?

ADB—If doctoral programs don’t begin with a diverse group of students, subsequent stages of the pipeline will continue to be less and less diverse. The long and leaky pipeline is the underlying reason for all of these disparities. This is why efforts such as the Ph.D. Project, which focus on increasing diversity among doctoral students in business, are so critical to generating a diverse set of faculty and administrators for the future.

RSM—Can you share the story of a male champion who supported your ambitions along the way?

ADB—When I was an associate department chair, my chair (who I was in line to replace in several years) spent time introducing me to every key leader on campus and telling those leaders how much they would enjoy working with me. He was an extremely well-connected and well-respected person on campus. Those introductions, which took quite a bit of time to accomplish, were invaluable when I later became a department chair and then senior associate dean.

Want real results? Set the example!

RSM—As a leader, what are you specifically doing to level the playing field for women in academia and elsewhere?

ADB— “Diversity & Inclusion” is a key feature in Bentley University’s strategic plan. We have put hiring practices in place at the university to ensure that we are developing a strong pool of gender, ethnic and racially diverse candidates for every faculty and staff position. I believe that setting the example starts at the top. When making my own personnel decisions, I’ve mandated that all executive searches feature a broad slate of highly qualified candidates. And the results have been very positive. My Provost is a woman of color, my CFO is female, and my Cabinet (the people who report directly to me) has a roughly equal number of women and men. As we work together every day, we demonstrate that the contributions of men and women are equally valued and that both women and men can be successful at the highest levels of Bentley University.

Board diversity is also a top priority for both Bentley’s Board of Trustees and me. We are actively working to add women from all industry sectors and, importantly, women from academia to our Board.

RSM—What has been the most difficult lesson you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?

ADB—Earlier in my career, I imagined that by this point in my life, the playing field would be more level than it is. So, the hardest lesson I have had to learn is that the playing field is not level and will not be level during my lifetime. I sometimes joke that women of my generation have to work twice as hard to get half the credit. While that may not be exactly true, it has been my experience that women still have to produce better and cleaner results to be recognized. And we know that it is true that women are less likely to be paid equitably. While I believe the world is improving and that many leaders, both male and female, are working to change these dynamics, the work world I hoped for when I was younger has not yet materialized.

President Alison Davis Blake always looking to bring real results around inclusion to academia

President Alison Davis Blake always looking to bring real results around inclusion to academia