Erika Hayes James
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  • Work to be done increasing MBA popularity among women

    The value of an MBA offers a range of opportunities for women.

    At the Goizueta Business School, one recent alumna is working in Shanghai while being groomed for an executive role with a Fortune 50 company and her husband serves as a stay-at-home father.

    Another showed her value to a prospective employer as a consultant to the point she could stay in Atlanta instead of moving to New York. That company’s offer kept her from moving away from her spouse’s job location.

    “The MBA empowers women in ways that hardly any other degree can and does,” said Julie Barefoot, director of MBA admissions at the Goizueta. “It empowers you in a way that you can ask for and receive accommodation. That will help you achieve balance.”

    Attracting women to business schools has been an issue for decades, Barefoot said. When the Forte Foundation — a nonprofit group — was founded nearly 14 years ago, women made up about 25 percent of full-time students at business schools. Those numbers were approximately half of those in schools of law and medicine.

    Female Enrollment In Business, Law, Medicine And Education At Universities With Top 25 B-Schools

    Poets & Quants, May 7, 2011

    Poets & Quants, May 7, 2011

    The publication Poets & Quants, which covers elite business schools, quoted Forte Foundation executive director Elissa Sangster saying her goal is that business school female enrollment reach 40 percent. Sangster lamented that a study conducted some 14 years ago remains largely true: women had fewer role models in business and were less aware of career opportunities.

    More women may become doctors and lawyers because they can enroll in graduate programs straight from their undergraduate institution. These paths are also historically perceived as “helping professions.” Barefoot said a graduate business degree offers women career flexibility and the opportunity to take on a leadership roles.Skills that make someone a more valuable employee are developed in business school, such as expertise in analysis, strategic thinking and planning, Barefoot said.

    Historically, Goizueta enrolls about 30 percent of female candidates. Because statistics suggest women make up 47 percent of the workforce and 53 percent of them are primary breadwinners, the school works very proactively to recruit women.

    In recent years it’s taken that focus to the next level.

    “We must show the business world what the lack of women in graduate education means for the future,” said Goizueta Dean Erika James, the first black woman to lead a top 25-business school.

    According to James, the lack of female students will, undoubtedly, have a negative impact on businesses needing qualified workers.

    Being a member of the Forte Foundation, and putting on an annual event to attract more women are two reasons why Goizueta’s female enrollment has jumped about 10 percent in recent years.

    There is also an alumni group, the “Executive Women of Goizueta,” which offers a forum for women to discuss ways to succeed in their careers, communities, and lives. Patricia Arundel, the current president of the organization, is an executive at Google and an EMBA alumna.

    The “Advancing Women in Business Conference” weekend is a recruiting event each fall that provides robust programming for women. It also shows off Goizueta’s small, intimate and collaborative learning environment. Alumni and faculty provide their perspective on the experience.

    Last year the event was moved to the Woodruff Arts Center to accommodate a growing attendance. It has also played a role in creating a pipeline of candidates that appeal to top companies.

    After all, the reasons business schools recruit top candidates are the same as in corporate America.

    “From a class profile perspective, we want women to be equally represented in the classroom,” said Wendy Tsung, director of career management at Goizueta. “From a recruiting perspective, companies put in place many initiatives to attract talented women. They want their workforce to mirror the diversity of their customer base.”

    While life choices often cause women to take more time to reach leadership roles, there is less of a barrier than five or 10 years ago, Tsung said.

    “Women are advancing,” Tsung said. “The workforce wants more women in leadership roles. Women certainly can land these roles, and companies want to support women in that growth.”

  • Recognize the rising tide of female entrepreneurs

    I’ve had the great fortune of spending more than 20 years in business education. As a faculty member at Emory, Virginia, Harvard and Tulane I’ve been able to keep up with various trends.

    I’ve seen two important patterns of late and both hold particular value for women in the workplace.

    For starters, let’s look at where future business leaders are driving their careers. More and more MBAs take jobs with small businesses. Just 10 years ago this would have been extremely uncommon. They may still cut their teeth with major companies, but they are increasingly clear with intentions to start a business or work for small, values-based startups.

    This phenomenon goes hand-in-hand with new roles of women in leadership.

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  • Build your organization’s vision with stakeholders, not by yourself

    “If I continue to believe as I have always believed, I will continue to think as I have always thought.  If I continue to think as I have always thought, I will continue to act as I have always acted.  If I continue to act as I have always acted, I will continue to get what I have always gotten.” – Unknown

    Powerful words that equate to a simple formula:

    Beliefs drive thoughts. Thoughts drive actions. Actions drive results.

    A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lay out a future vision for the Goizueta Business School.

    The vision was not concocted in my own head, but was born from scores of conversations, small group meetings, focus groups, and faculty/staff retreats where I simply asked the question:

    “What results do you want to create for our school?”

    It’s not an easy question for any organization to wrestle with, but it is perhaps the most important one a leader can ask. If we do not have a vision for the future then, frankly, we have no future.

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  • Mary Barra and the GM Recall Crisis, Part II

    In Part I of this blog series, we talked about the importance of early verbal responses to a crisis as an acknowledgement. When the leader recognizes the situation and even apologizes for the negative impact on stakeholders, stakeholders perceive it as a firm’s willingness to take corrective action and is correlated with a leader and his or her organization taking on a learning orientation.

    Framing the issue as a threat vs. opportunity
    How a crisis is framed by leaders also matters to the subsequent handling of the crisis.  Crises are negative events that evoke an emotional response.  According to psychological research, events that are perceived negatively are interpreted as threats, and in turn spark negative emotions (e.g., anger, anxiety, and despair) and negative behavior (defensiveness, deception, paralysis).  Under these circumstances it is difficult for leaders to recognize the potential opportunities for positive change that can manifest from crisis.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that in response to situations interpreted as threats, leaders become more restricted in how they process information and less generative and creative in identifying solutions.

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  • Mary Barra and the GM Crisis, Part I

    A few years ago a colleague and I conducted research that disturbingly revealed that the announcement of the appointment of a female CEO provokes significantly more negative investor reaction relative to the announcement of the appointment of a male CEO.  At the time, we argued that the status differences accorded to men and women, and the infrequency with which women are named to executive positions, made the appointments feel more risky to investors.  Risk translates into reduced confidence, and reduced confidence yields reduced investment, thereby negatively affecting the stock price upon news of the new executive appointment.

    Although in recent years, we have seen ostensible growth in women holding top leadership jobs (think Ursula Burns at Zerox, Ginny Rometty at IBM, and Indra Nooyi at Pepsi), the scrutiny of women in these positions tends to outpace that directed to their male counterparts.  Imagine, therefore, the pressure for recently appointed General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra.  The first female CEO to lead one of the big three U.S. auto manufacturers is now also facing a highly publicized crisis – something else that tends to draw scrutiny and invite reduced confidence in leadership and firm performance.

    GM is embattled in a significant recall for millions of cars with ignition and other defects dating back more than a decade.  The recall is both financially costly and damaging to the beleaguered automaker’s reputation.  For Barra, investors and other stakeholders are voyeurs peering into her crisis handling, prepared to comment (and criticize) at every turn.  Below the surface her gender may make this an even more intriguing case than your average corporate crisis.

    There are some things Barra can do to mitigate the threat associated with the recall, and potentially stave off some of the risk associated with the crisis.  Read More