Setting The Playlist

Setting the Playlist: The Case for Women

June 03, 2020 Erika Valenti and Emerald Publishing Season 1 Episode 5
Setting The Playlist
Setting the Playlist: The Case for Women
Chapters
Setting The Playlist
Setting the Playlist: The Case for Women
Jun 03, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Erika Valenti and Emerald Publishing

Elissa Sangster, CEO FORTÉ Foundation and Lesley Symons, founder The Case for Women discuss how The Case for Women was founded and the partnership with the FORTÉ Foundation.

Show Notes Transcript

Elissa Sangster, CEO FORTÉ Foundation and Lesley Symons, founder The Case for Women discuss how The Case for Women was founded and the partnership with the FORTÉ Foundation.

Erika Valenti :

Welcome to setting the playlist. I'm your host, Erica Valenti, North America regional manager for Emerald publishing. If diversity is being asked to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance, then equity is setting the playlist. This series focuses on gender equity, and how women are setting the playlist. This podcast series was created for librarians in the United States and Canada, providing a voice for women librarian leaders in higher education institutions and public libraries. Hi, my name is Erica Valenti. I am the regional manager for Emerald Publishing's North America operations. Alright, so welcome to the Emerald publishing podcast series called setting the playlist setting the playlist is particularly focused on issues of inclusion, Equity, and Diversity within the higher academic channel. I'm really excited for this podcast. We have two dynamic and incredibly passionate women joining us. First we have Alyssa Sangster, who is the founder of the Forte Foundation. The forte foundation is committed to changing the gender balance of power in the workplace. That's sort of under that's a one liner, they do quite a bit more. I'm particularly struck by Forte's community which is commendably diverse. And the benefits for this community really are access to business education, professional development, amongst other services that really formed the core of this forte. Welcome, Elissa,

Elissa :

Thank you, Erica. You bet.

Lesley Symon :

And our second guest is Lesley Symons. She's The founder of the case for women, the case for women is dedicated to promoting women's leadership and women's presence in business and at business schools. Leslie has done some just some fantastic research on the under representation of women in the B school sector. We'll talk about that a little bit. You can probably guess that these two women and their organization and company have a ton of they align beautifully and align up to emeralds commitment to addressing and trying to be a partner to groups that are working to peel back more layers on the under representation of women in higher education writ large. But most certainly within the business school, I think it's safe to say that power comes with economic parody. power comes with representation across all aspects of finding your way into business. And it should be a really great conversation. So I'm going to start off with you, Elissa. Please feel free to fill in any pieces that I might have missed that are critical and notable for Forte's mission. But I'd really like to ask you about drilling down. How does improving the number of female protagonists in business school case studies and case studies are a very tried and tested teaching methodology in business schools? How will that change business education? You know, what, what real difference will it make them? What have you seen so far?

Elissa :

I think that just to add a little bit on the Forte conversation, just as we started forte back in 2002. We were really looking at how could we change the gender balance in MBA programs full time and what would that look like? And so we wrote a business plan that was specifically focused on moving the needle. Along those numbers, but as we began to go about the work, we quickly realized that there was a lot of work that needed to be done building the pipeline. So going into the universities and into the early career and talking to those women about what business careers look like, because it wasn't something they were necessarily even exposed to, because they didn't have someone in their influencer set that immediately said to them, a business career is a perfect fit for you. And if they didn't have a family member or a friend, they're really really wasn't a place for them to go to find this information. And by and large, they were in liberal arts programs and the undergraduate space. They were not pursuing a business undergraduate, they most likely weren't in engineering. So really trying to educate more women about what business had to offer them and demystify It was kind of where we got started. And, you know, you asked you why is it important that we have female representation in these case studies and how is that going to change Business School Then very much in the same way, it's changing the balance of power in business itself. And we're seeing a more diverse leadership, we're seeing better decision making high impact on the bottom line in terms of the return on investment for organizations. So all of the data and the research that's been done showing why it's important to have more women on board and more women in the C suite. All of those things are similar, very similar to what happens in business school and you see more diverse conversation, better decisions being made by the groups, a highe r or more engaging dialogue in the classroom when you have these diverse perspectives. But what we were seeing in the business cases and what Leslie can talk more about, from her research is just that those though, we had we had started to see the needle moving in terms of MBA enrollment. And so you were bringing in 40 classes of 35-40% women, yet you are still serving them. The Same balance of gender in their educational experience. So they would go into a classroom and they would see a body of cases and they would all be male leadership examples. And so when they would have some kind of conversation in the classroom, that was the only leadership example they were being given. And so it didn't give them anything to aspire to. And it didn't give them or the men in their classroom any exposure to how a woman leader would have done it differently. And that's what we really wanted to see play out in the classroom.

Erika Valenti :

That's really interesting. And I have a conversation with one of you got it was now a year and a half, two years ago. The I think it was your research Lesley did the sense that when there were women included in the case narrative, they were very we know it's a management decision case. It often had this perceptible emotional decision making by which I did Remember being like, oh boy, boy, can it get any more predictable? Well, let's see. So what have you seen in the last 10 years beyond, as you mentioned, more success arriving at gender parity in the B school, from where I sit, I see people hit this, you know, almost 50 and 50, and almost not be able to hold it. And I wonder whether the infrastructures and the operations are there to support a sustained parody.

Elissa :

I think the challenge is really the pipeline and that there are not enough women in the pipeline to tip 5050 yet and schools are working very hard to identify the right women for their class. But what they rely on us and partner with us to do is to continue building that pipeline to the point where we no longer have to do the work to see that pipeline show up at the door to apply. And so I think that it is hard to sustain And I think until we have that pipeline large enough, you're going to see volatility in the numbers of women being admitted, and matriculating into those classrooms and the schools at the top of the food chain, who are the highest ranked and who have the reputation that's out there without, you know, that's a household name, those schools are going to continue to be able to pull the numbers up. But the schools that are not that fortunate are going to have to work even harder to get women to come to their school out of that smaller population. So it's something that we're constantly working on and the more women we can reach in those University years and then pull them into this idea that an MBA is a good career path for them. That that's our ultimate goal, in terms of MBA pipeline building is just to expose them to what an MBA offers and make them understand the process of getting into an MBA program and preparing for that journey because they need to make preparations even as early as undergrad Graduate thinking about the career choices they make and the tests that they take, and the exposure they get the network, they're building and really getting the best information out of that whole process. So

Erika Valenti :

that's great. Thank you. And Lesley, of course, you know, I work in academic and scholarly publishing. So I am intrinsically turned on by good research. I wonder if you would tell us a little bit about how the case for women was founded. I know it sprung out of some research that you did, but what led you to be interested in this in the research that eventually forms the case for women?

Lesley Symons :

I so what led me to be interested was my time instead, which is a business school sorry to mention names, and I didn't do an MBA, I did a different masters. So my classroom was almost 50/50 women to men. But what I did notice on campus was the lack of Generally of women far fewer women. And then I also noticed that I was given case papers to read before every module. And after about the second module that I did, I was I was reading this case paper, which was full of men, and there wasn't a woman in it. And I suddenly thought, where am I? Right now? And my background is business. You know, I've managed businesses in Australia, multinational businesses, and I'm thinking, where am I? Where am I? And then I started from that moment on, I started to notice that every case I was given, didn't have a woman in it. And in fact, the first case we got with a woman and it was in our last module, so that was a year and a half into the course. And it was actually about a woman doubting her leadership style. really. And then the Another thing that I noticed was that of the eight or nine modules I did the first female Professor I saw in front of the classroom was in module five. So I had two female professors across one and a half years out of I don't know how many male professors should that's what so I then asked the question about from my thesis, I started to look at, should I start researching where, you know, women protagonists? Where are they? And as I asked, the professor's instead, everyone went, that's a good idea. That's, that's an idea to look at. And of course, once I started reading these case, papers, I suddenly realized this was not about protagonist. It was about women all together, because they were just not in the papers at all. So that's how it started. And so I did my thesis got published and then I've just continued the research and have become passionate as Alissa knows about getting this Because even at the moment, it's still not changing as fast as it should be. It is changing slightly, but not that much.

Erika Valenti :

It's such compelling research and, you know, the the proven or at least tested, I think validated cognitive pathways of seeing yourself represented. Or being taught something that sort of reflective modeling is just a catalyst for deeper learning and deeper understanding. So you ask you where am i is quite possibly any of this podcast because it's, you know, thank God for I guess I'm going to call you guys Nancy Drew and Beth, like you guys are on the hunt for answers and more importantly, making things really happen. I'm so grateful. Now remind me.

Lesley Symons :

I just add to that, as well as that. You know what I was looking at, and Elissa is totally right. We need to increase the pipeline. for women to get into these schools, but also what we need to do is once they're in the schools, they need to be themselves, right. They need to see that they can do this. And my concern is that there are more and more women going into business schools, but they're still not seeing themselves. And that's and that's true for women as it is for men as well. Men need to see them as well.

Erika Valenti :

Correct. Remind me about that. Is it Simons Test?

Lesley Symons :

yes. Yes, please. Yes. So part of the research was, you know, when I was researching it, I found the Bechdel test, which probably most of you know about, which is a test for movies, and you can still go online and find it. And I think it's about it has to have two women in it to speak about something other than a man. And I looked at that and I thought, Okay, what can we do with that? For my research, and it spoke to me about the fact that what I was seeing in the recent Such was not just very few female protagonists, but no women are tall in the papers. So I twisted the bechdel test board at the Simons test. And it basically says that the paper has to have a woman in it. So please, at least have one woman in it. And she has to be the leader. And she needs to talk to another woman about the business. Because what we were finding was that often when she is the leader in the paper, she's actually the only woman in the paper among a myriad of men. Right? And that, again, send some other messages, and it can send, you know, it can send messages that women don't promote women. And we know that's not true, right? It doesn't reflect today's business, right? It doesn't reflect to the tool. So the Simons test is almost like a benchmark of You can't just add one woman and say, well, I've got a woman, a woman in this paper.

Erika Valenti :

Yeah, they become totems where they're just inserted as many people who are underrepresented, do almost, you know, to tick a box, and then you're dead. You're not that that one female voice in a business case, is also then sort of said, this is the norm of what business looks like there is none woman. So it's really Yeah, I love that test. And I love it.

Lesley Symons :

Yeah. And also the other thing that we're noticing that there has been an improvement over time of the number of female characters added in cases. And what we're seeing is that that's an easy quick fix. We'll we'll change the name of one of the characters to a woman's name. But what we're not seeing is multiple women and we're not seeing more protective female protagonists and we're not seeing her talking To another woman about the business,

Erika Valenti :

God i wonder if there's some way to use some pattern recognition and AI technology and get somebody to say, your canon of cases, we'd like for you to make your cases and truly reflective the business world you need 50% of them to be change Howard to Helen. I don't know, I just it's a rote, not deep way to assess what is a really long a really big issue. But oh, my God, it would be a start. And

Lesley Symons :

the only thing there is you got to make sure they change the descriptors of the characters, because that has happened in the past. You know, they've changed to they change to male protagonists to be female because they wanted women to see role models. So it was done for the right reason, but they didn't change the descriptors of those leaders. So those descriptors, her name was female, but she had very masculine descriptors.

Erika Valenti :

Wow. Interesting. Would love to talk about the cases competition that Emerald publishing is partnering with you both on, and I believe the calls for papers went out earlier this month. Obviously, you tell us a little bit about the competition. And I guess what the goals and ambitions are of this project and

Elissa :

I'm gonna let Leslie take that one.

Lesley Symons :

So, um, thank you, Elissa. The goals really are to build awareness and create more papers that have female protagonists. And the other goal is and, and part of that we have put the Simon's test as well out of the criteria, so that we can start to see what we consider more balanced gender in papers. So that's really, you know, the impetus behind this and, you know, for both forte and for the case for women, it's an important topic. So that's why we've both sort of got involved and said, this is a I mean, it's almost like a pincer movement. I think we're trying all sorts of things. You know, Alyssa through forte is trying ways of upping women in schools and male allies in schools. I'm trying through case paper. So it's just another way of perhaps saying to schools, this needs to change. And, and therefore we're, we're, we're wanting to sort of push this on.

Elissa :

It's also a way for us because forte does work with these business schools across the globe. And we have the them involved in what we're doing. It meant that Leslie didn't have to go out and build this relationship with all of these business schools. And it was a perfect partnership because she brought the research that was going to shine the light on the problem, and we had the network of schools bill that was going to be the object of that light. And so it was really helpful. And we've had Leslie speak at several of our events to showcase her research and talk about the solution. And we also brought in NBA Roundtable, which is a group of schools that come together to really look at the business school curriculum and how it can change. And so between the three of us and now the four of us, obviously, Emerald, being involved in such a critical way and talking to your audience about what kinds of things could change in the business, school case, writing, all of these things just really kind of organically came together. And I think it's worked out to be a really powerful set of solutions from each of these partners.

Erika Valenti :

I couldn't agree more and great, it's, it's a partnership that I know we take a lot of, we feel very privileged to have aligned with both of your missions, found those through lines and are really just active as a conduit, which is fine. On the question of ally ship, I wonder if you both have any opinions on how can men be involved in the solution through ally ship?

Elissa :

Well, I can say on the business school campus that I think we have seen male ally ship be a very important vehicle for a lot of change in business school campuses and men, you know, realizing that their voice can make a huge difference in gender equity is something that I think it's really just happened over the last five or so years. And we've seen some of it play out in, you know, the bigger world with me too. But I think that in the business school scenario, we've just seen men being open to conversations about this being vocal about their thoughts, sharing their opinions outside of just their small group, but talking to faculty talking to other women talking to other men being aware of how they speak in class. During conversation and how rarely the conversation is Volleyed over to a woman in the classroom, how often they support or build off of a woman's idea in the classroom. You know, we've seen male ally ship grow into chapter clubs on many, probably three fourths of our business school campuses have a male ally chapter that works side by side with the Women in Business chapters. And those students work, work together to really build a conversation around gender equity that previously did not happen on campuses except in the shadows of the hallway, honestly. And so now it is, it's something that they're doing together. And it's very powerful when a man, a student, a male student goes in to talk to a faculty member and says, I don't really understand why we're not talking about more women leaders in this classroom. Where are the women that come in to speak about their experience being a leader in business and if you have three or four men say That along with two or three women, it's very hard for a faculty member to ignore that and to not do something. So, case studies is one piece of it. But even the visible speakers in your classroom and the media examples, you use the current events, you know, how are you talking about those in your classroom? Are there any women? Could you talk about different leadership styles? Did you ever mention that there is a different style between men and women in your classroom? And you know, there's so many things that are layered in there. And I think men becoming more active in this conversation is extremely welcome. And I think, you know, as a lot of value, power behind the conversation.

Lesley Symons :

Yeah, I totally agree.

Erika Valenti :

Yeah, I think that is very much emeralds position as well that our work in this area is relies on a shared conversation. It's really interesting. I had a thought, but now I've lost it. I'm really struck by the idea of finding ourselves through this endeavor and this work. And it's I'm really excited about the end result, which is finding ways to support these voices getting into their curriculum. It's, it's really everything. And then also, you know, another step will be making sure that these discussions are happening locally and in communities by female business owners and leaders. I've seen quite a bit of series here in Cambridge, which is kind of a hub of, you know, higher education. But I always try to women are very focused on as women that are in business, they're aware of how critical it is that the C suite is finally like, looks a bit more like more importantly, you need to get an early speaking a pipeline to women to even let them know that this is not only a viable career path, but totally within your reach. You know, I'm super excited to see keep my eye on the competition and talk about it with as many people as I can. So we'll find ourselves together, I suppose.

Lesley Symons :

Yeah, great. All right.

Erika Valenti :

We're all on very timezones and thank you again for being flexible and and for lending your voices to this podcast. I really appreciate it. And I'll close with my usual caveat. Stay safe, stay healthy. And take it day by day. Thank you very, very much for joining

Unknown Speaker :

On the Thank you. Okay,

Erika Valenti :

I'll be in touch for sure. Okay,

Elissa :

fine. Okay,

Erika Valenti :

thanks. Transcribed by https://otter.ai