In 2020, the MIT Sloan School of Management strengthened its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by establishing the Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion—a fellowship program that aims to encourage and empower students from underrepresented populations. The MIT Sloan community has since responded. Here is one of their inspirational stories...
When Mindy Hsu, LGO ’06, and David Lee, MBA ’04, consider the impact they want to have on the world, they think about their two young daughters and what the future might hold for them.
Both parents work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields and were excited to bring their older daughter to a space-themed camp this summer. But they were also saddened to learn that their daughter would be one of only two girls in attendance. Mindy is well aware of the underrepresentation of women in STEM, and has experienced the implications of that in her professional life. “Being in the tech world, I have not seen many female role models—especially at the executive ranks or as board members—but I think generating a greater pipeline of women in leadership will help create those opportunities,” says Mindy.
Mindy and David see this issue and the necessary response as two-fold: creating a better demographic balance in the tech world by debunking stereotypes and generating clearer pathways and more support for those populations that are underrepresented at the management level. “Corporations and corporate leaders have an outsized impact on society. If we do not have women leaders in those roles, we will continue to perpetuate many of the harmful policies, inequities, and systems that hold women back for another generation,” David says.
One way Mindy and David have set out to help generate better representation in leadership across all sectors is through supporting MIT Sloan’s Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion. “Education is one of the things that both of us are really passionate about,” says Mindy. The couple sees business education as a key point of access into the management level and believes in lowering the financial barriers for students from underrepresented populations.
When Mindy was attending MIT Sloan, the percentage of women at the school was in the low thirties. For David, the number was in the twenties. While MIT Sloan has made progress toward retaining a more diverse student body, there are still gaps to close. “Even at the graduate level—which is one of the highest levels of the pipeline for future management roles—we're imbalanced, and that’s not good enough,” says David. “MIT Sloan to me is the best place on earth to learn how to lead through change, so having a broad, more balanced set of voices to help lead through that change will enable our community to do more. We are focusing this fellowship on advancing women, but fully support MIT Sloan’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its many forms.”
The couple takes to heart the idea of being the change you want to see in the world. Mindy engages in mentorship opportunities that support professional women and is encouraged by the allyship she sees in male leaders like her husband. Both have benefited from the MIT Sloan alumni network. “We have an amazing community, but sustaining it requires ongoing alumni investment and commitment,” says David. Fellowship support is a way to give back and extend that network to those who might not have the resources to access it otherwise.
Being well situated at the crossroads of management and tech, Mindy and David credit MIT Sloan for introducing them to many of the ideas and tools that they still use in their professional lives today. But the couple by no means sees MIT Sloan as limited to one sector. “There’s a perception of MIT being very tech and quant heavy,” says Mindy, who speculates that the representation of women in her graduating class might have been compounded by the larger trends in the tech field. “But the reality is that MIT Sloan has very broad offerings—from finance to general management and entrepreneurship, it supplies the tools and programs that help a person grow in whatever they’re passionate about.” Those offerings go hand-in-hand with Mindy’s hope for and advice to the future recipient of this award, which is to, “follow your passion and take risks that enable you to change the world for the better.”
Mindy and David know firsthand that fellowships can greatly assist women in pursuing leadership roles in their field. Mindy was a fellowship recipient herself. “I know that it’s a sample size of one, but Mindy is my proof point that this works,” says David. “Without this fellowship, we would have one less talented alumna.” The couple is enthusiastic about keeping up that momentum and strengthening the pipeline through their own fellowship support.
“There's a qualified candidate out there, and I hope they see MIT Sloan as something that they can choose—I want others to have the opportunity I had,” adds Mindy. Fellowship support enabled her to pursue her passion, and she hopes that she can give that opportunity to someone else. “Going through the LGO program and through MIT Sloan changed my life and my career. It was through the people, the network, broadening my mind, and thinking through what I wanted to contribute,” Mindy says. “The fellowship was the big decision in choosing MIT Sloan. Our hope is that through contributions like this, we can help to increase the numbers of girls at those science camps who then grow up to be rockstar coders, set international fiscal policy, and lead major tech companies.”
For Mindy and David, their fellowship gift is the next step in a positive cycle. “If you are fortunate enough to have some measure of success, you should send the elevator back down for others,” says David. "We've benefited greatly from MIT Sloan, and we couldn’t be more excited to create that opportunity for a very deserving woman in the incoming class.”