Faculty point to challenges for women in business and voice their hopes for the future
What does the future hold for aspiring business women? While its true that women are more often taking on roles in male-dominated industries, confidently negotiating competitive salaries, and seeking organizational cultures that support inclusiveness, one message is clear: There are still challenges for women in business today—and there is still work to be done.
In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business women faculty and leaders share their hopes for aspiring business leaders and offer advice for managing ongoing equity challenges. These mentors, researchers, and industry experts are working with students—both men and women alike—as they equip them with relevant knowledge and awareness, provide access to influential business leaders and hands-on industry experiences, and help them become top candidates in their chosen career paths.
“Women bring a host of strong behavioral investing traits to the table… Although representation won’t change overnight, it is important to keep working at it…”
“Women are vastly underrepresented in the investment management profession at approximately 10 to 12 percent of the workforce, and many studies demonstrate that a diversity of perspectives at the table leads to better business outcomes, particularly in the business of managing money. In founding the Women in Investing Conference, I wanted to create an opportunity for women to explore and pursue careers in the field by bringing students from many schools together in one forum to connect with professional investors and learn, network, and recruit with many companies. I’m happy to say that many woman participants have pursued investment management careers and several have returned as representatives of participating companies, continuing the cycle of hiring more women into the profession.
Women bring a host of strong behavioral investing traits to the table, such as a longer term investment horizon, relatively more risk aversion, and a less reactive approach to investing compared to their male peers. Although representation won’t change overnight, it is important to keep working at it by creating forums, workshops, programs, mentorship opportunities, and other pathways to encourage more women to consider, explore, and pursue the field of investing.”
Bhojraj celebrates the MBA WIN Conference’s 10th anniversary in November 2019
“In terms of gender equity, I believe that things are much better for me than they were for my mother’s generation. However, within my lifetime, I am not sure how much progress has been made.
To promote gender equity, I think that it is essential for women to help each other. We must challenge biases and inappropriate behavior. Don’t be silent.”
“The more mindful we are about making organizations inclusive, the fewer negative effects women will experience.”
—Michelle Duguid, MS ’06, PhD ’08 (ILR), associate professor of management and organizations, Johnson Graduate School of Management
“When men behave in ways that we associate with leaders—such as being assertive, being a visionary by breaking the rules, and self-promoting—they are rewarded. But women who do exactly the same thing are seen as not likable, pushy, bossy. This bias negatively impacts not only women’s careers but also our health and well-being.
Most organizations today approach diversity and inclusion training by highlighting the prevalence of implicit or automatic stereotyping and bias. Paradoxically, my research shows that highlighting the idea that most people stereotype, but should try not to, undermines the desired effect. The message creates a norm for stereotyping, and people don’t feel the need to actively work against their stereotypes.
I hope organizations will be more thoughtful about the policies they put into place and the cultures they create. The more mindful we are about making organizations inclusive, the fewer negative effects women will experience.”
Duguid, pictured third from left, speaks on a pay equity panel in September 2019
“There has been a tremendous rise in women-supporting-women networks. These networks promote a strong sense of belonging, especially in previously male-dominated careers. These networks create very strong ties for women. Dyson’s Leadership Week recently supported the creation of just such a network with its Triad event: Women alumni came to Cornell to spend the day with a group of our current women students and newly accepted women students. One woman from each group created a triad, allowing each to discuss, explore, and support perspectives from different stages of education and career growth. It was amazing to see the bonds forming. There was an incredible amount of positive energy in the room! It was really unforgettable.
As the business analytics concentration coordinator in Dyson, I have also noticed more women arriving with the self-efficacy or confidence to take on spreadsheet modeling and programming. I am lucky to have the opportunity to support undergraduate and graduate women in both leadership and analytics. This puts me in a unique position to support women to become confident, data-literate leaders no matter where they choose to take their careers. My goal is to impact women’s lives with a balance of qualitative and quantitative skills that will inevitably empower them to be successful in life and work.”
“I hope the day when we do not have to give special advice to young ‘women’ will come soon—it will simply be advice to the younger generation aspiring to be leaders.”
“To move their organizations toward greater gender equity, women in business can support other women. Some of the best advice I got was from senior female faculty members who encouraged me to reach out and ask for help, and also to speak my mind and to not hesitate to pursue opportunities. Forget that you are a ‘woman’ and just be ‘you.’
Rules have definitely changed since our mothers’ generation, and things will keep changing. I hope the day when we do not have to give special advice to young ‘women’ will come soon—it will simply be advice to the younger generation aspiring to be leaders. For now, I hope that all young women who aspire to a successful career in business can be confident in their choices. My advice to them is don’t let others question your dreams.”
“My advice to young women who aspire to a successful career in business is to talk to women—both junior and senior—in the organization and ask them what working there has been like.”
“Over the previous decade, female representation in leadership positions has remained stagnant, with women still making up only about 21 percent of CEOs in corporate America and women of color making up only 4 percent. But some organizations are thinking deeply about initiatives to ensure that women can be successful within their organizations without shouldering the additional burden of creating that change themselves.
My advice to young women who aspire to a successful career in business is to talk to women (both junior and senior) in the organization and ask them what working there has been like. Try to get a sense of the opportunities and challenges for women to find mentors and sponsors and if there is a clear path to promotion. I have been surprised with how receptive women have been to these types of conversations and with their willingness to share honestly. This type of information is just as—if not more—important to collect as typical data points such as salary and benefits.”