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Breaking the Mold conference highlights personal finance and unconscious bias

Alumna Jamie McCourt encourages women to take charge of their personal finances

December 8, 2015

2015-McCourt

Jamie McCourt, SF ’94, meets with students

Attendees at the Sloan Women in Management conference heard a series of keynote talks and panels centered on the group’s Breaking the Mold theme on Dec. 5.

The conference, held at the MIT Media Lab, is the first of two events that Sloan Women in Management, known as SWIM, has planned for this academic year. The next conference will take place on Friday, Feb. 5.

Jamie McCourt, SF ’94, the owner of Jamie Enterprises, and the former co-owner, president, and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, shared her personal story in a keynote address to deliver a call to action to all women seeking a more secure financial future.

McCourt focused on the “taboo” of money, and told the mostly female audience that women need to be more comfortable discussing it.

“Until we get past the awkwardness, we will never truly come to grips with the one factor that drives our lives and determines our futures,” McCourt said.

McCourt, who is an angel investor, entrepreneur, attorney, and mother to four sons, said she has made her “fair share of mistakes when it comes to money.” Four years ago, McCourt’s three decades of marriage to real estate developer Frank McCourt ended, leaving her shaken, she said. The divorce forced her to re-evaluate her life’s work.

Together with her ex-husband, McCourt, who had aspired to own a baseball team since she was a child, owned the Dodgers from 2004 to 2011. McCourt strove to make Dodger Stadium family-friendly and welcoming to women. Attendance records and revenue went up during her tenure, McCourt said.

“I used to say, ‘It might be a man’s game, but women contribute to the bottom line.’ Behind every baseball player, coach, fan, whether it’s Little League, minor league, or major league, there’s a woman with a checkbook. Why aren’t we paying attention to these women?” she asked.

McCourt believed she was well-versed in business, but, she said, “I could not have been more ignorant or naïve about my own personal situation, and I ended up paying dearly for that mistake.” Today, she is a major supporter of MIT’s entrepreneurial community, as one of the original investors in Grove Labs, LTG Exam Prep Platform, and Zipcar, among other ventures.

McCourt stressed the importance of self-sufficiency and planning for the future. The divorce rate and the statistical probability of women outliving men means women need to educate themselves, she said.

More than 200 people attended the Breaking the Mold conference, where they also heard a keynote presentation given by Jimena Almendares, MBA ’11, chief product officer at OKCupid, an online dating site. The conference also featured panels on implicit bias and building diverse startups.

Tickets for the Feb. 5 Breaking the Mold conference are available here.