Assistant Professor of Organization Science
Teaching at MIT Sloan since: 2005
When a teaching position at MIT Sloan came to my attention, I viewed it as a tremendous opportunity. I had completed my master's degree in Engineering from MIT, and I knew it was a great place. MIT is pretty special and is high in the constellation of educational institutions because of its focus on technology and innovation. It also provides a broad offering that has evolved from its stellar foundation of science and technology.
I find the students at MIT Sloan to be very interested, engaged, and valuable in terms of what they bring to the classroom. Because of their diversity and their own work experiences, they bring a unique perspective to the class work, and we learn from each other.
The dynamics of the classroom in many ways are like collaborations I deal with in my research, which involves the interactions of groups and teams and how certain factors such as diversity and status impact the processes, performance and dynamics of a group. For instance, let's say a company's marketing group has high status and an engineering group has low status. The two groups' perceived status affects how they interact with each other and share information. Ultimately, the members' interactions influence which group's ideas get presented and promoted and how decisions are made.
Another piece of research I'm probing deals with the notion of avoiding the appearance of favoritism. I look at how the composition of a group impacts the group's judgment of someone outside the group. For example, in one study, individuals evaluated two candidates for a college scholarship in advance of an anticipated group decision. One candidate was male; the other was female. Other than gender, the two candidates were equally qualified and non-distinguishable by any obvious characteristics. The male and female evaluators anticipated talking about their decision in a group where they would either be in the numerical majority or minority. The only condition in which the two candidates were not evaluated equally was when the female evaluator anticipated being in the numerical minority in the group. In this condition, the male candidate was rated more favorably than the female candidate. I argue that the female evaluator was afraid to appear biased in front of the other members of the group (by rating the female candidate favorably) especially because she was lower in status (due to gender) and in the numerical minority in the group. This dynamic is important because it raises questions about what it means to companies if you're trying to encourage diversity in teams and the expression of true feelings. If everyone isn't comfortable with it, it can create problems.
When I'm not teaching or doing research, I am focused on being a mom, which is filled with new challenges. The experience has inspired me to engage in some different areas of research — including looking into questions of life and work balance. Just because technology has enabled us to do many things more efficiently doesn't necessarily mean we have to or should do them. It is very challenging. I don't know any woman grad student or faculty member who is considering a family who doesn't have the ongoing discussion in her head of Should I have children? When should I have them? How will it impact my career? Balancing work and non-work is somewhat easier than it used to be, and generally academia is very supportive of flexibility in scheduling, but we need to understand that these issues impact all employees, not just women or workers with families.