By Elena Weinstein
Kellogg recently hosted the inaugural MBA Coalition in partnership with the Forte Foundation. The premise of the event was to convene incoming and outgoing Women in Business Association (WBA) presidents from fellow MBA programs across the country to share best practices, hear from inspirational speakers and participate in skill-building workshops.
My biggest takeaway from the weekend was how constructive knowledge sharing can be among like-minded individuals, as well as how many commonalities the WBA’s share in both our mission and execution.
However, rather than pat ourselves on the back that all of our respective organizations have landed in a similar place, we were energized and inspired by the nuances of each others’ outlooks and approaches, and we left the summit with myriad ways to optimize our own organizations and the initiatives we put forth.
Below are a couple of my most poignant takeaways from the discussion:
- We need to pick up the pace: Keynote speaker Bryony Winn, a Partner at McKinsey and Company’s Chicago office, cited a harrowing statistic: If we keep going at the rate we’ve been going for the past three years, it will take over a century to achieve gender equality. While the topics of diversity of thought, “leaning in,” and “having it all” have been omnipresent in the media and a focal priority of business schools and businesses alike over the past couple of years, we need to do even more to move the needle and elevate this discussion. Moreover, we must transcend discussion to action as we continue to make the business case for women’s leadership and empower women to permeate the upper echelons of organizations.
- The checks and balances of effective internal governance: When transitioning into a leadership position of a club, it is natural to focus on the overarching mission and vision and be remiss about the protocols and rules of engagement. However, expectation setting and explicitly stating how decisions are made, how meetings are run and how communications are disseminated can be equally important for overseeing an effective organization. In order to mitigate misunderstandings, bureaucracy, lack of alignment and inefficiencies, it can be beneficial to establish these structural mandates from the get-go.
- Appropriating the notion of #heforshe: Each organization had its own approach to engaging men in the conversation about women’s leadership and involving them in the governance of the WBA organizations. However, the overlapping themes were that men are ready and willing to help champion our causes. But we need to find constructive and substantive ways for them to do so, as well as put forth as compelling content for the men as we do for the women. In addition to galvanizing male allies, we hope to provide pragmatic programming for men to learn about how to be supportive partners and spouses, how to be a good boss to a female subordinate and how to be an effective sponsor of women throughout their career.
The list of revelations could go on. But instead of delineate them in a blog post, we look forward to bringing them to life through the efforts of this year’s WBA. Rather than continually reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch, thanks to gatherings like this one, we can open the aperture on knowledge sharing across schools — and across affinity groups within schools — so we can continue to be mutually supportive of each others’ causes and can each achieve greater efficacy in our missions.
Here’s to keeping the dialogue going!
Elena Weinstein is a first-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to Kellogg, Elena worked in New York in market research and women’s leadership consulting. This summer, Elena will be working at Citigroup participating in their HRDP rotational program.