Women and Leadership at Sloan

As a woman in business, I was always very interested in different aspects of women in leadership, especially in the workplace. My time at MIT Sloan has given me both the space and the opportunity to learn, discuss and reflect some of these aspects. I wanted to share a few of my recent explorations at Sloan:

1. Breaking the Mold (BTM) Hackathon – The BTM initiative is aimed at educating the MIT community about unconscious bias and providing tools to help solve it. This year, it took the form of a one-day hackathon at the MIT Media Lab. The team I co-led with Catherine Wright, focused on Gender and Leadership styles, a topic very close to my heart and our challenge was thus:

How would you legitimize working styles that are traditionally considered feminine (e.g., cooperation and coaching) while simultaneously addressing the double standard that women face when displaying “aggressive” behavior?

To prep for this, we were paired with an amazing mentor, Courtney Emerson, Co-founder and COO of All In Together, who provided countless insights and tactics into tackling unconscious biases especially when it came to women in leadership in the workplace. For instance, we learned the importance of having more executive sponsors who can use their social capital to advocate for the qualified women. So we spent the day trying to understand the challenges of finding a sponsor and had a fun time brainstorming solutions to the identified problems. I also got to hear amazing pitches and learn more about solutions to other diversity and inclusion challenges such as bias in the classroom, policing and even hacking the sports bra!

My BTM Hackathon Team
Our Challenge: Gender and Leadership Styles

2. 15.304 or Being Effective: Power and Influence – Basically, the class is aimed at making us better “players” in a political organization (the syllabus asserts that all organizations are political in varying degrees). It’s a really fun and insightful class (it helps that we often have movies to watch as assignments) but I was pleasantly surprised to see one of our topics be on Gender:Power and Influence. In addition, we had to write a reflection essay on our experience with the same.

Having worked at a fast growing startup before coming to Sloan, I felt that I didn’t face much discrimination on account of my gender. But as I spent more time reflecting on my professional journey, I began to see some things which I took for granted. For example, given my tenure in the company, it was pretty easy to find sponsors who really pushed for me but that might not have been the case for a lateral hire. Having this topic on the syllabus and as an essay assignment helped me reflect on my journey more and get a different perspective.

3. SWIM and a Day without a Woman march: The Sloan Women in Management (SWIM) seeks to increase opportunities for women at Sloan. Not only do they have some cool swag for members (check out Exhibit A below), I found SWIM’s events to be very helpful especially in learning more about women in leadership through Speaker Series, Workshops etc.  Today SWIM and the Senate is co-organized to mark the Day without a Woman march by holding a symbolic walkout to show our support for the national strike. In particular, we believe that businesses should provide equal pay to men and women and wanted to raise awareness about the wage disparity issue on our campus.

Fellow Sloanie Malli rocking a SWIM Tote

I came to business school for the usual reasons – switching careers, learning from an amazing peer group and sharpening my skill set. But Sloan has also provided me with plenty of opportunities to pause, reflect and explore what it means to be a woman in business.

If you’d like to learn about more opportunities for women, attend MIT Sloan Women’s Week, August 7-10 in Chicago, NY, LA, DC, San Francisco, or Cambridge.

Register here.

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