Diversity and Inclusion | Mays Impacts

Duane Ireland was born and raised in Lima, Ohio as part of a family of “railroaders.” He has found memories of hearing stories from his great-grandfather about making certain that trains reached their destinations in a timely manner regardless of the challenges encountered, including those of inclement winter weather conditions. For a young boy, these stories conjured images of brave people trying their best to serve others through their work. For Ireland, following in the footsteps of his great grandfather and grandfather to pursue jobs with the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad company was the logical path for him to take as a career choice.

Unexpected circumstances created different possibilities for Ireland, though. Raised by his mother and grandmother, the three of them left Ohio and moved to Amarillo, TX where his mother and grandmother began working at the Amarillo Air Force base. Ireland entered the seventh grade at this time. He continued with music, playing the clarinet, saxophone, and piano. He started playing these instruments at a young age as a result of influences from his grandmother and great grandmother, both of whom thought that being a musician would be a wonderful life for their grandson and great grandson.

Being a First-Generation Student

Ireland’s family encouraged him strongly to become the first among them to attend college. This strong support was instrumental in his decision to pursue a college-level education. Although involved deeply with music through his high school days, he did not desire to pursue music as a college major, concluding that he lacked the passion (and the talent!) to become a professional musician. Because of his developing interest in understanding how some organizations are able to serve stockholders and societies effectively, he decided to major in management at Texas Tech University as an undergraduate student. “I really enjoyed studying management and its role in organizations’ success. Because of this, I decided to remain at Tech to pursue my MBA degree,” Ireland said.

With a master’s degree in hand, Ireland accepted a position as a strategic planner for a regional government agency serving the Lubbock, TX area. He enjoyed this work, both from the perspective of helping people as well as from trying to understand why some agencies were more successful than others.

Wanting to learn more about factors leading to organizational success caused Ireland to return to Texas Tech to pursue his PhD. Focusing on strategic management and entrepreneurship, he accepted a position as an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University (OSU) following completion of the terminal degree.  Ireland noted that “my time at OSU was wonderful in that I worked with terrific colleagues, one of whom—Mike Hitt–became a career-long collaborator.” While their paths diverged for a while, Ireland and Hitt found themselves both working in Mays Business School beginning in 2004. In addition to spending six years at OSU, Ireland held appointments at Baylor University (17 years) and the University of Richmond (four years) prior to becoming an Aggie.

Scholarship as a Critical Part of His Career

An active researcher, Ireland’s scholarship finds him examining questions related to strategic entrepreneurship, merger and acquisition success, and organizational learning routines, among other topics. Over the years, he served in many editorial positions including a three-year term as editor of the Academy of Management Journal. He also served as the 69th president of the Academy of Management. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society and is a university distinguished professor at Texas A&M University. He is a recipient of an Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Achievement Award for research.

Throughout his career, Ireland has held numerous leadership positions, beginning with an initial term as head of the department of management at Baylor. At Mays Business School, his leadership positions are those of Head of the Department of Management, Executive Associate Dean, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, Acting Dean, and now Interim Dean. “I am honored by the opportunities I have had to serve students, staff, faculty, and other stakeholders in various leadership roles. In each instance, my commitment has been and is to work as hard and as effectively as possible to be a good steward of the trust that others place in me,” Ireland said.

Service as Interim Dean

Ireland says the following to describe his leadership philosophy: “I believe very strongly that collaborating to integrate our efforts allows us to rely on synergy as a means of creating value for those we seek to serve.” In his view, synergistic collaborations are the foundation through which Mays can create value for its students and for the entire university community. As Interim Dean, Ireland recognizes the abundance of talent among Mays Business School’s students, staff, faculty, and supporters. By relying on this talent, he is confident that Mays Business School’s best days are to come. “I am very proud to be an Aggie and to be a part of Mays Business School and Texas A&M University. Truly, the possibilities in front of us are endless and incredibly exciting. I look forward to what I know will be a fascinating and highly-productive time for us in the years to come,” he said.

Categories: Deanspeak, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Perspectives, Texas A&M

Mays Business School’s Master of Science in Analytics (MS Analytics) program welcomed one of its most diverse and talented classes of working professionals in August 2021. This cohort–the program’s ninth–will spend five semesters learning to apply statistical modeling methods to big data to solve business problems.

39% of the students are female, 35% are Hispanic, and 9% are Black. One-third of this cohort holds advanced degrees. Additionally, these students average 14 years of full-time work experience in over 20 industries. “Analytics programs globally seek to become more diverse to best meet the industry needs and contribute to the diversity of ideas as technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to develop,” said MS Analytics program director Myra Gonzalez.

To further Mays’ vision of advancing the world’s prosperity and improving quality of life, the MS Analytics program awards two scholarships to students who work in the non-profit sector. The ninth cohort’s scholarship recipients are Kimberly Hernandez ’23 and William Jinkins ’23.

Analyzing Success

The MS Analytics program has a strong history of preparing students to continue to succeed in their careers. Approximately 80% of the Class of 2021 received one raise during the program while 29% reported earning several raises during the five-semester period. Additionally, almost 70% of this cohort reported a new job title while enrolled in the program.

The students’ organizations also benefit. The Class of 2021 created an estimated $18.2 million in average annual value, demonstrating a true return on investment for their companies. “We’re excited when our students apply what they learned in class to their job,” said Javier Aldape, MS Analytics program manager. “That is what our program is intended to do!”

This return on investment makes Mays MS Analytics a top choice for students who want a critical edge professionally. “I’m analytical and can work in teams, but I needed an extra push to give me a competitive edge. This program will provide me with it,” said Victor Frausto ’23, who lives in El Paso, TX and works for a federal agency. “My boss tells me that we need to look at the data. It’s telling a story and we need to understand it to work smarter.”

Creating Applied Knowledge

Texas A&M’s MS Analytics is a part-time master’s degree program designed for busy working professionals who are interested in learning more about this rapidly growing area of study. “Given our current uncertain times, many students pursued admission in order to future proof their careers.” said Aldape.

Classes include regression analysis, time series, financial analytics, machine learning, marketing engineering, and data warehousing. The curriculum incorporates real-world case studies and the most current analytics tools. Students also develop business, technical and leadership skills.

Additionally, students’ coursework supports their capstone project. Partnering with a project coach, students use organizational data to build a predictive model that solves an important business question.

The program uses a hybrid instructional model that allows students to attend class in-person or virtually. A record 60% of the new cohort–including 21% who live outside of Texas—plan to virtually attend classes, which meet at Mays’ campus at CityCentre Houston. “I had the pleasure of visiting a class via stream this summer before I enrolled,” said Chelsea Horne ’23, who lives in Pennsylvania. “I liked the dynamics of it. The professor was explaining, and both sets of students had an equal participation. I didn’t feel there was a disconnect between in-person and video stream students. That solidified my commitment in the program and I’m looking forward to a wonderful five semesters.”

Applications for entry in the fall of 2022 are open now for Texas A&M’s MS Analytics program. For more information, visit mays.tamu.edu/ms-analytics.

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Man presenting in front of a podium with jacket on

As one of the academic year’s first events, Mays Business School’s Inclusive Student Leadership (ISL) Workshop underscores the school’s commitment to preparing transformational leaders who can excel with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The one-day workshop, held August 26, 2021, was funded by an endowment created by Accenture to support the annual Inclusive Student Leadership series of workshops, and involved over 50 Aggie leaders representing every Mays student organization. The ISL initiative offers a series of four workshops throughout an academic year hosted by Mays Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Multicultural Association of Business Students (MABS), and the Business Student Council.

These workshops were planned with the goal of helping Mays student leaders increase their ability to lead their respective student groups while at Mays—and in honing those skills, be prepared to work effectively in a global economy when they step into the work world. “The ISL workshops are designed to help Mays organizations foster diversity. It doesn’t get talked about enough, but it’s now in the headlines so we need to address it and can’t be oblivious,” said Amrita Hooda ’22, the MABS president. “It’s an opportunity to expand your horizons, but it’s up to student leaders to take that opportunity to grow as a person.”

The day’s agenda featured four Former Students – Tarvoris Johnson ’03 ’05, Ricky L. Dillard, Jr. ’19, Jeevika Jarmarwala ’20, and Hannah Murray ’18—who work for Accenture. The company, which has 569,000 employees in 50 countries, has expertise in more than 40 industries across five industry groups: communications, media and technology; health and public service; financial services; products; and resources.

Accenture is known for its commitment to creating and sustaining a culture of equality—including gender, LGBTI, religion, persons with disabilities and cross-cultural diversity. “Mays Business School is grateful for the support Accenture has provided for the ISL initiative.  We believe that a culture of diversity, inclusion, and engagement with our corporate partners fosters a vibrant learning organization. Mays student leaders are fortunate to have this opportunity to learn from experienced inclusive leaders,” said Dr. Nancy Hutchins, Mays Director of Diversity and Inclusion.

Encouraging Inclusion, Innovation

During the first session, the Accenture team talked about the importance of building strong and diverse teams, a challenge that has become even more pronounced during the pandemic. Johnson noted that the company has emphasized defining what it means to create a culture of equality, based on its core values of stewardship, best people, one global network, client value creation, and respect for the individual. “Inclusion is an environment where diversity can flourish,” he shared with the student leaders in the room.

Accenture uses diversity and inclusion training as well as specific affinity groups to create bonds between different employees. “We have different engagements and conversations around some of the outright things that happened in this past year,” Johnson said.

The company encourages its employees to explore other cultures through the different employee resource groups (ERG). Murray, who is Caucasian, has taken advantage of this flexibility, through engaging with Accenture’s Asian Pacific ERG. “It was interesting to me to be surrounded by many different cultures that make up the Asian Pacific ERG,” she said. “I also was able to bring these cultural lessons from the ERG to the rest of the organization and to the other groups that I’m part of.”

Team Characteristics

In building high-functioning and diverse teams, Accenture focuses on six characteristics: visible commitment; curiosity about others; cultural intelligence; humility; awareness of bias; and effective collaboration. Cultivating an atmosphere that includes these traits allows participants to be vulnerable and share areas where they disagree.

Dillard told the Aggies that it’s important to be authentic and show visible commitment to diversity. He gave a personal example of how he wanted to increase his own commitment to diversity at Accenture. To accomplish this, he created relationships with two Historically Black Colleges and Universities and will be serving as Accenture’s lead recruiter to these institutions.

The presenters also noted that leaders need to listen to different viewpoints. “I have an open conversation with my team leader. She has always had an open-door policy and encourages that if you think there’s a better way to improve the process, feel free to speak up,” Jarmarwala said. “Sometimes when I put the idea out there, we realize that I don’t have the bigger picture of what we’re looking at. She tells me, ‘This is why we don’t do this.’ But just having the ability to put the idea out there is great.”

The Former Students also shared the importance of identifying and addressing unconscious bias and micro-behaviors, such as micro-insults, to create a more diverse team. “As you grow and move towards trying to be non-biased, you have to train yourself because facial expressions are part of communication,” Dillard said.

Social Style Self Reflection

The Accenture team also asked students to identify their social styles—analytical, driving, amiable and expressive—based on assertiveness and responsiveness.  After asking the student leaders to consider their own styles, the presenters shared the traits of each style, as well as an analysis of the need, strength, and area of improvement for each style.

Additionally, student leaders learned about conflict resolution styles of competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. These styles were analyzed based on the importance of achieving a goal as well as the importance of the relationship.

The speakers told the students that being aware of their own social styles and conflict resolution styles as well as that of others will enhance their ability to lead. “You will have different leaders who are spread throughout the organization, and you’ll have to flex what you decide to communicate to them, based on what you’ve learned from your initial questioning and discovery,” Dillard said. “It’s just a matter of first learning these and then taking the moment to say, ‘When I meet new people and have to communicate with them, I need to figure out where I see them because it will help me to have a more streamlined conversation rather than us trying to battle through our social styles.’”

This workshop offered new insights to help Mays student learners support their student organizations and also reinforced Mays commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, which is part of the school’s strategic plan. “Encouraging diversity and enhancing equity in student organizational practices can have a tremendous impact on our college climate. The ISL workshops are intentional efforts to establish an inclusive culture at Mays with our students leading the way.” Hutchins said.

Categories: Business Honors, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

Originally posted on universitybusiness.com


Dr. Eli Jones of Texas A&M’s Mays Business School and colleagues at The PhD Project are identifying and encouraging leaders of color to make a long-term impact by pursuing futures in education.
By:  | November 23, 2020

People Images/Getty Images

 

 

Dr. Eli Jones

Dr. Eli Jones

Dr. Eli Jones, the dean at the Texas A&M Mays Business School, and his colleagues at The PhD Project are leading the charge to get more people of color in significant academic roles.

The list of strategic initiatives at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School include many of the goals set by other institutions: high-impact research, impactful teaching and learning and transformational leadership.

But at the very top, strongly and purposefully, is this: Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement.

“We made that one the first priority,” says Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “That sent a signal to the organization that this is a really important issue for us. I’m glad that we did. To me, this priority is about setting our culture and climate more than anything else.”

The culture Jones would like to see at his school, and others across the country, is one of belonging – a place for all students to feel welcome. Texas A&M is still a primarily White-student-serving institution. In fact, Black students comprise less than 4% of the population across its campuses, including College Station. The divide in numbers at Mays Business School is just as pronounced: Of its 6,300 students, just over 4,000 are White and 147 are Black. If changing the culture starts with belonging, then closing that gap is a must.

It is not only student enrollment that matters. Leadership positions at colleges and universities need to be more inclusive as well. Not counting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Jones is one of only a handful of African-American senior administrators in the country.

“Think about that for a minute,” Jones says with a pause. “There are more than 800 AACSB accredited business schools, and only a handful of African American business deans at non-HBCUs. Obviously, we have a long way to go.”

Despite that seeming futility, there is hope, and Jones sees change coming. It is starting in the classrooms and it’s weaving its way through MBA and master’s programs and into Ph.D. programs. A number of universities this year have placed leaders of color in president positions. Still, it is a long road to climb.

The opportunity costs are high. To get there requires sacrifice and countless academic steps, sometimes leaving a high salary at a well-known company to become a graduate student. It could take 15-20 years on a tenure track to build the reputation needed to be considered for a senior leadership position in academia.

However, the payoff long-term can be worth it. And it is Jones and his colleagues who are trying to convince more to pursue those tracks. He is part of a non-profit initiative called The PhD Project that aims to diversify business college leadership … and thus change the makeup of leaders in the corporate world by increasing the number of people of color in the classrooms and in academic leadership.

“We’re talking to people in corporations about considering a career change to become a professor, and we’re helping them navigate and matriculate through PhD programs across the country,” Jones says. “These are critical career decisions.”

 

Peathegee Inc/Getty Images

The 1-2 punch: COVID and George Floyd

Not everyone needs to rise to the level of dean to make an impact, Jones says. He notes the continual increase in people of color in important positions in higher education – professor, center director, department head, and associate dean. Their status and leadership have provided reasons for young, under-represented minority students to want to attend classes, enroll in programs and further other academic pursuits.

In fact, The PhD Project notes that since its inception in 1994, the numbers of minorities who have completed Ph.D.s has risen from 294 to more than 1,500. The group is currently guiding more than 300 doctoral students and over 1,300 business professors of color. Their success at these institutions is staggering: 90% of those impacted complete the Ph.D. program, crushing the 70% median rate. Their retention rate is even better – 97%, compared with U.S. national average at just over 60%.

“More people of color are making the sacrifices in the short term so that they can make a long-term impact by becoming professors and helping students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.” – Dr. Eli Jones, dean at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School

Jones points out that change is happening, but it is slower than desired. The pipeline in the past wasn’t there. An infusion of new minority professors and senior leaders, however, is beginning to make a real difference.

“If you happen to be in a classroom, and you see someone who looks like you, sounds like you and has a similar cultural experience, that could make a great impact as a role-model,” Jones says. “More people of color are making the sacrifices in the short term so that they can make a long-term impact by becoming professors and helping students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

Speaking of impact, there may not have been anything more significant to the movement around diversity and inclusion than two major events in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd murder. Jones calls it a “1-2 punch” that created a combination of fear, anger and frustration that led to both a heightened awareness and extreme discomfort over the Minneapolis Police Department’s mishandling of the Floyd arrest – the feeling that “this is not right.”

“People around the world had a chance to see on video how grossly wrong that was,” Jones says. “It was very visible to them and they reacted. We’ve been given lip service about diversity and inclusion for many, many years. But that tragedy and others made it real.”

It not only sparked mass protests involving all races and genders but also ignited conversations among CEOs at businesses, who leaned on Jones and other academic leaders when drafting their statements on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I heard from senior leaders at companies, statements such as, ‘I’m not going to just make a blanket statement that says yes, we believe in diversity, equity and inclusion,’ ” Jones says “I want to put something out that is more meaningful. Could you sit and talk to me so I can better understand the underlying issues? So, I think it’s more than lip service now. There’s a level of sensitivity about it.”

 

Jose Luiz Palaez Inc/Getty Images

The play that changed the SEC

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is best known as the home of major college football – Alabama and Nick Saban, LSU and Death Valley, and of course Texas A&M and its 12th Man. But the SEC recently proved it is more than just gamesmanship on Saturday afternoons.

When the George Floyd murder occurred, the deans of the business schools in the SEC put out a collective statement together – 14 strong – to back diversity, equity and inclusion. And not with a nod to the moment but a lean to the future.

“We are soundly committed to fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals — students, faculty and staff,” the statement said. “Likewise, it is our duty to prepare our future business leaders for careers in an international and increasingly diverse workforce. We strive for inclusion, equity and diversity where all voices, viewpoints and backgrounds are valued and supported.”

It was a special moment for Jones. He is the only African-American dean in that contingent and the one who spurred the call to action.

“We have been talking about doing something together, and what a great opportunity to show how cohesive we are on an issue that truly matters.”

Moments like the Floyd murder – and the resulting response – have opened a lot of eyes and a lot of minds.

“I’m now sensing that people really want to listen,” Jones said. “I’ve had lots of non-minority colleagues say, ‘we’ve never really talked about this, Eli. Maybe we should grab dinner and talk through some of what we’re seeing nationally.”

On a more macro level, the work of The PhD Project continues. There is an annual conference for potential doctoral students interested in a number of disciplines, including accounting, finance, management, marketing and entrepreneurship. The cadre of business school leaders hope that those discussions will spark interest and lead to others follow the same paths that Jones and others have taken.

Jones believes that sooner or later, it will happen … where incidents like George Floyd no longer occur, where the pool of students is forever diverse and where belonging is just happenstance.

“I think we’re positioned now to really make some substantive changes, that will actually help in the future,” he says. “I’m thinking about my grandkids. I want my grandkids to have a better future where they’re not having to struggle through these issues.”

 


The PhD Project resources

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion

James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School ranks first in the nation for underrepresented groups among Ph.D. graduates and faculty 

Survey finds Texas A&M’s accounting program has most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and faculty in U.S.

 ______________________________________________________________________________

An article forthcoming in the peer-reviewed American Accounting Association Journal, Issues in Accounting Education, has found that the James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School has the most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and the most underrepresented accounting faculty of any top business school in the country.

The essay, the first-ever report of its kind on the state of the accounting academy, “Towards a More Inclusive Accounting Academy,” details the state of underrepresented minority Ph.D. students and faculty in the top 50 accounting departments. The number of underrepresented minorities has nearly tripled in the last 24 years, largely to the credit of The Ph.D. Project. However, despite almost tripling, the proportion of underrepresented minority faculty remains less than 5% of all accounting Ph.D. faculty.

Nate Sharp, Ph.D., the Nelson D. Durst Endowed Chair in Accounting and head of the James Benjamin Department of Accounting said, “Although we would all acknowledge that these results represent only one of many ways to measure a program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the overall numbers of underrepresented faculty and Ph.D. students across the academy are low, I am proud that our department is receiving recognition for its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion among Ph.D. students and faculty.”

…Read more

Categories: Accounting, Diversity and Inclusion, Rankings

Amid Black Lives Matter protests this summer, the 14 college of business deans of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) decided to make a joint statement in support of diversity, equity and inclusion in their programs.

They are “soundly committed to fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals — students, faculty and staff,” their statement read… read more.

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Deanspeak, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Perspectives, Texas A&M

Attendees at the annual Women in Technology Conference celebrated the 20th anniversary “Beelieve it or Not.” With a theme of hard-working bees, the conference brought together women to network and learn from others currently building their careers in information technology. It was hosted by the Center for the Management of Information Systems (CMIS) on March 1 in the Annenberg Center at George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.

Female students with an interest in information technology participated in roundtable discussions on topics such as lessons learned from senior executives, managers, professionals, and new graduates in the workforce. They discussed advice such as leadership, work-life balance, and new technology trends.

…Read more

Categories: Centers, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

SEC-member schools, business leaders and professionals attended the 4th annual conference to explore best practices in diversity and inclusiveness

Business leaders, working professionals, diversity officers, human resource officers, and others gathered at Texas A&M University for the 4th annual SEC Business School Diversity Conference on Feb. 27 through March 1.

Hosted by Mays Business School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the conference focused on strategic planning for diversity and inclusion leadership.

The keynote speaker was Damon Williams, head of the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership & Social Innovation and a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. He is one of the original architects of the Inclusive Excellence concept in American higher education and a nationally known leader in diversity leadership and responsibility.

As in previous SEC diversity conferences, held at Missouri, Arkansas, and LSU, the meeting aimed to:

  • Identify, advocate, and disseminate best practices and promote new initiatives about diversity and inclusion in business.
  • Conduct and promote research initiatives aimed at minority business students, staff, faculty and other stakeholders.
  • Empower academic and private sector professionals to become knowledgeable and engaged in diversity and inclusion practices.
  • Provide colleagues with professional development and resources to advance equity in recruitment and the classroom.

…Read more

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Texas A&M

Each fall semester, Mays Business School students have the opportunity to apply to attend the SUMMIT conference. SUMMIT’s mission is “to empower students as developing leaders through purposeful reflection and honest self-awareness.” This weekend-long overnight conference includes dynamic speakers, small group activities, team building, and time dedicated to personal reflection. The conference took place this year from Feb. 1-3 at Stoney Creek Ranch, and on the final day the students were given the chance to anonymously share their key takeaways.

…Read more

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Programs, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

(Read a comprehensive story about the conference)

By Bill Peel, Executive Director of Innovation & Strategic Planning

It’s impossible to anticipate the dynamic of being one of five men in a room filled with 400 enthusiastic,  energetic women eagerly anticipating the lessons to be gleaned from a conference titled “From Bossy to Transformational.” That’s exactly the situation I found myself in as I attended the second annual Mays Business School “Women’s Leadership Initiative” conference.

To say that I came with preconceptions about this forum would be a gross understatement. Yet, as I peered through the “looking glass” into the world of women in leadership, I was enveloped by the challenges women face in leadership roles – challenges that are unique and uncommon to their male counterparts. I left with an enlightened respect for a woman’s leadership journey and the manner in which I could better interface with women in the workplace. I also left with leadership lessons applicable to my own career.

Julie Lenzer ’88 challenged the conference participants to get out of their comfort zones, go someplace they’ve never imagined, and follow the thread that will weave their career path. She reminded us that we never know who’s following our careers and the impressions we will make with our actions. I smiled as she noted to “beware of saying something out loud, as it might just prompt your next career move.” It was disappointing, yet realistic, to be reminded that “men can make women feel uncomfortable” in the workplace, vowing to increase my sensitivity to this tendency in myself. The point that resonated the loudest was not to “spend our lives ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.” That one hit home!

Janeen Judah ’81 focused her comments on the three E’s that frame our journey from tactical to transformational leadership – excellence, endurance, and empowerment. She reminded participants to “have a specialty people know us for, finding something we like and becoming good at it.” Be open to new experiences and don’t become rigid in our career plan. Her emphasis on the power of people was vividly displayed as conference participants exchanged contact information and broadened their network. She challenged us to “keep the ladder down, helping those behind us,” reminding me of the importance of being a coach and mentoring someone else along the way, possibly even someone we met that day. Judah cautioned women not to say “yes” to everything, as it causes them to burn out.  She also challenged women to brag about themselves and learn how to tell their own story, noting that “if you don’t know it, no one else will.” That one got a star in my meeting notes!

The lunch panel was a rapid-fire exchange of tips on issues and opportunities facing women as transformational leaders. Men are simply unaware of the “cycle of weariness” that women face as they are not only leaders, but also wives and mothers. It’s true that “a woman’s work is never done.”

Communication and presentation skills were common themes as the panelists implored women to “learn to brag on themselves” and “be ready to present at a moment’s notice.” It was interesting to learn that women often lead with “I think” or “I feel” when men seek direct communication. Authenticity and confidence were tips offered to elevate the perception of women’s leadership acumen.

The power-packed day ended with Shantera Chatman ’98’s presentation and role playing on negotiation. She stressed the power of self-worth and the ability to “quiet the inner voices” that distract us. “Every time you have a crucial conversation, it gets easier,” Chatman noted, as she blended hints with humor to engage the audience. A member of my table thrust her hand high in the air when there was a call for volunteers. The young professional, a mere six months into her career, was hungry for the tips that would empower her to be a better negotiator and self-advocate. It was so rewarding to feel the energy and see the impact the day had made on her and the other women leaders in the room.

The view through the “looking glass” was both convicting and compelling. It revealed a day filled with energy, engagement, enthusiasm, and excitement. And this appreciative male participant left with a new perspective of the challenges women face and the value women leaders bring to our organizations.

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M, Women's Leadership Initiative