The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Janet Pucino's ('94) new book Not in the Club: An Executive Woman's Journey Through the Biased World of Business won the 2012-13 Los Angeles Book Festival Award in the Business Category. Janet was inspired to write a book after spending a weekend with fellow women MBA students and alumnae from Chicago Booth and recognizing "Not much has changed." Her book draws on her own experiences and conversations with men and women in the workplace, as well as research. She took some time recently to tell CWIBAN more about her book and insights.
Q: What prompted you to write a book? Was there a precipitating event or had the idea been incubating over a long period?
The inspiration for Not In The Club began during a weekend I spent in Chicago as part of the Chicago Booth Executive-In-Residence Program. I heard a great deal from women students and alumunae about the challenges they were experiencing in the workplace; some felt their contributions were being diminished, many felt their male peers had easier access to the boss, and most felt excluded from the social connections they needed to be effective at work. After sharing my front line experiences with them and suggesting solutions for their particular challenges, they asked me if I had a PowerPoint presentation to leave behind as a guide. I hadn't prepared a presentation, and instead offered to write a book that would help prepare women for leadership roles, define the critical elements needed for success, and raise awareness in both men and women about the behaviors and biases that limit women's contributions.
Q: Can you explain what "The Club" is and how it impacts men's and women's careers?
"The Club" is comprised of a group of people in an organization who may or may not have direct power over other individuals, and yet the group shepherds its member to new growth opportunities and career advancement. You won't find The Club on an organization chart. It exists in the group of individuals who freely share information and value each other's contributions. To grow our businesses and sustain economic growth, we need to continually develop talent. The Club often minimizes and excludes contributions from non-members, which limits their ability to expand their skills sets, effectively impacting the bottom line and their career progress.
Q: It feels like the public conversation about women and leadership tends to emphasize what women are doing "wrong". You point out that women have already done more than enough to prove they are "educated, able, and worthy of leadership positions." What do you make of this mismatch?
I believe it's a matter of awareness. Women have been in the corporate workplace for over 90 years, hold 61% of MBAs, an equal amount of PhDs, and have already figured out how to manage a family and career, although they are still being economically penalized for having children. If you search on key words "career advice for women" you'll see hundreds of millions of results directing women on how to dress, network, collaborate, ask for a raise, be a team player, etc. From my experience, women have heeded that advice, and in spite of doing all the right things, women represent less than 4% of CEO's and hold only 16% of Board seats.
I don't see women as defective. The road to a senior leadership position is longer and more arduous for women than their male counterparts due to many external factors within our organizations and culture that perpetuate biases about the value of women's accomplishments. We have decades of research on gender bias (e.g. blind auditions studies in the '70s, the attitudinal studies from the '80s and resume studies from the in the '90s etc.) that seems to end with similar conclusions – if you disassociate contribution, work, or performance from gender, there is a greater chance women's contributions will be perceived as more valuable. Women can't change this without awareness in our culture that biases continue to exist, and without an intervention from our organizational leaders, schools, and government.
Q: Recognizing and correcting biases is a central part of your book. Can you recommend a good starting point for employers/employees who would like to take corrective steps in this regard?
Awareness that bias exists is the first corrective step for employers and employees. Companies need to evaluate their practices and train their management teams to recognize and correct biases. An inclusive, cultural tone has to come from the top. You can't be successful if you're not accepted, and having a diversity program isn't enough. Club behaviors that create the "Lethal Barriers" I outline in my book are not necessarily overt. "Resistance" for example, manifests itself in many ways, and the process of determining who gets an opportunity or promotion typically isn't scrutinized in terms of how many women were considered for the short list, which relegates women to "Being in the Audience."
For women who are experiencing Club behaviors, I recommend what consistently worked for me - draw attention to the behavior. When women's resumes are missing from a potential candidate list, ask your recruiter or HR team to provide them. When I asked to see women candidates, dozens of resumes would appear the next day. If you're being excluded from the decision-making process or your contributions aren't being recognized, it's appropriate to raise the issue directly with the person who needs to hear the message, or, you can enlist the help of your team mates, manager, HR, or any other person of influence to help you change the behavior.
Q: Do you feel that affinity groups can be effective tools for helping organizations achieve gender parity?
I lead a Women's Affinity group for a large corporation for a time. There were about 400 members, and they were mostly focused on events – enlisting guest speakers from the business units to discuss their business models. There clearly was a desire by the members to be proactive in seeking career opportunities across the company and in managing their career progression. I think Affinity groups could be used as a platform to raise awareness within companies providing they have the diversity data to support their discussions, and a culture that is willing to consider the financial upside of having a diverse management team and board. A recent article called "The Leadership Gap" by the Catalyst organization, noted that companies that "achieve diversity in their management and on their boards attain better financial results, on average, than other companies". They went on to say that "three or more women board directors in at least four of five years—significantly outperformed those with no women board directors." One would think that this type of data would drive significant change in the composition of most senior management teams and boards.
Q: Any words of wisdom for women (or men for that matter) who want to channel their career efforts most effectively when they are not in The Club?
The eight "Critical Elements of Success" described in my book are applicable to both men and women who are "Not In The Club". They are meant to help us create an effective work environment that focuses on business objectives and company priorities, while we're busy raising awareness of biased behaviors. The Elements address different aspects of work, and I would offer two as food for thought: "Match your work ethic to the business strategy and expectations for your role so you don't overwork and spend time in areas that are not important to you or your company", and "Stay calm, carry on, and remain fierce: Block out the noise and stick to core management principles." They're not necessarily easy to do, but they can provide a framework to solve a challenging problem.
Booth classmates turned business partners, Ruchi Talati, '11, and Jennifer Parkes, '11 founded Catch22Dating, the online dating service targeting successful graduates and young professionals across the U.S. Determined to pursue their shared goal of entrepreneurship, they utilized the Booth network and education, especially the benefits of rigorous quantitative analysis, to launch the company. Ruchi and Jen cite passion and discipline as key factors for success. Here Ruchi and Jen answer a few questions for CWIBAN.
Q: Tell us about your business. What is your service? What is the target market?
Ruchi: Catch22Dating is an online dating site for young professionals and graduate students from the nation's top undergraduate and graduate programs. We're a community that values education and are different because we verify all of our members' educational backgrounds and put members in control with customized privacy settings. I came up with the concept for Catch22 after my first quarter at Booth. I was having trouble meeting nice, educated men despite living in a big city like Chicago. Being really busy with school was a part of the challenge! Countless conversations with friends and family assured me that I was not the only one finding dating difficult when simultaneously trying to get my career going. One night over winter break, I ventured onto some online dating sites. None of them seemed like the right fit and did not have much luck with the ones I tried out. I thought, if I could, I'd do this differently. Two years later, we welcomed our first members to Catch22.
Q: How did you decide to team up?
Jen: I met Ruchi on our first day of business school and was immediately drawn to her warmth, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. We eventually became good friends and when she told me about her plans for Catch22Dating I knew I wanted to help and be a part of it. I had always known I wanted to be a part of building and growing something special but, until Catch22 was not sure where to direct my energy. One of the best things that came out of my business school experience was meeting Ruchi and having the opportunity to build something I feel truly passionate about with her. Our complementary styles make our partnership work particularly well. The positive feedback and support we have had about the site from the Booth community and our members has given us the energy to keep striving and pushing to make Catch22 the go-to site for highly educated young professionals and graduate students.
Q: What was your background before school, and why did you decide to attend Booth?
Ruchi: I have wanted to build businesses since high school. I went to the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business for my undergraduate degree (BBA '05) and approached my post-graduation training much like a medical student does his/her rotations. Eager to get a well-rounded business experience, I worked in strategy consulting, mergers and acquisitions and went on to launch my first website. Getting an MBA was always a part of my plan. I wanted to get an MBA to answer questions and explore topics that naturally arose once I got my feet wet. I especially wanted to use my time at Booth to do a deeper dive in marketing and entrepreneurship, areas I knew I would pursue following graduation.
Jen: I have always been drawn to the excitement and challenge of working in business. I went to the University of Richmond's business school for my undergraduate degree and worked in economic consulting in Boston after school. I learned a ton about different businesses, finance, valuation, and how to approach problems during my time in Boston but, I realized that I wanted to be directly responsible for building and growing a business. I saw attending University of Chicago's Booth School of Business as an ideal place to better learn how, especially when it came to strategy and marketing. I knew that getting my MBA would give me exposure to new people and ideas while also giving me the confidence to follow my dreams. I saw it as a long-term investment and an opportunity to gain broader perspective while developing myself both professionally and personally.
Q: How have your experiences at Booth helped you to launch a business?
Ruchi: My Booth MBA provided me with a great network of fellow entrepreneurs, provided me theory as well as practice in wide array of disciplines, and taught me to be structured and data-driven in my approach. Importantly, through my Booth experience, I also gained a terrific business partner and lifelong friend in Jennifer Parkes. In launching Catch22, Jen and I were lucky to have had exposure to Booth's cutting edge coursework and resources. For example, the Polsky Center and Booth's Entrepreneurial Internship Program were tremendously supportive and provided me with a grant to work on Catch22 for my summer internship. We also benefited from our network of friends and classmates. Jen and I love to apply lessons from our MBA to Catch22, especially allowing the data and rigorous research to help drive decision-making. We're constantly drawing from our education and work experiences because the demands of a start-up are so diverse: solidifying our marketing strategy and messaging, designing and testing a new feature of our website, analyzing the results of our online ad campaigns, managing our team of developers, evaluating partnership opportunities. Booth taught us to challenge the status quo, to never settle. We love Booth's influence on Catch22: we're constantly seeking to improve the site and constantly learning in the process.
Jen: Both Ruchi and I really value the experiences we had inside and outside the classroom at Booth. Our classes provided a very solid grounding for how to run a data-driven business while the diverse friendships and connections we made outside the classroom gave us even more perspective on how Catch22Dating could meet the needs of highly educated graduate students and young professionals. We strongly believe in listening to the voice of our customers and target market by being disciplined in gathering and analyzing data and also by just getting on the phone or sitting down to talk to people using the site. Our Booth experiences also taught us the importance of careful positioning - we knew that how we defined our position in the marketplace would be the ultimate foundation on which we would build the business. In fact, we relied heavily on the Booth community to help us nail down our positioning using surveys, focus groups and lots of one-on-one conversations with our Booth friends. We owe a lot to the Booth community for supporting us and for helping us launch the site and we will always be grateful for that.
Q: Where do you see the business in five years? Ten years?
Jen: We see Catch22 as the go-to site for educated young professionals and graduate students across the United States. Ruchi and I have both experienced how difficult it can be to meet the right people as a young professional. From our own experiences and from the experiences of our close friends, we believe there is a clear need and desire for a trusted community that brings educated young professionals and graduate students that may have never otherwise met. We whole-heartedly believe Catch22 can do a lot of good by meeting this need and believe we are well on our way to making our vision a reality.
Q: What advice would you give to students or alumnae interested in starting their own businesses?
Ruchi: Define what success means for you and find your passion project. The thing you believe in, that you find important and fulfilling. Then, build a team and strategy around that vision. That has influenced how I do things and is what Catch22 is all about. Starting your own business is hard work, even when you love what you do. But, if you believe in what you do and if your team believes in what you do, then that fuel will keep you and the business going even if things get tough. At Catch22, we believe in community and helping each other out. We care that the site actually works for our members and are passionate about helping make great connections that may have never otherwise happened. That's what keeps us going and keeps us constantly working on ways to improve Catch22. Dating can be tricky but it doesn't have to be.
Jen: Be disciplined and data-driven but also know when to trust your gut and intuition. One of the biggest things that Ruchi and I have had to balance is when to be patient and when to push the envelope. It has been essential for us to identify what to prioritize and what to put on the backburner because building a business with a solid foundation takes time. For example, our team and our members have lots of ideas for how we can continually improve the site and our services but we have to balance the energy we spend updating the site with the energy we spend on our marketing efforts and on working to streamline our business processes. This is the part of running a business that is harder to learn in a classroom. It takes a combination of knowing your target market very well, being true to your word and positioning, good intuition and some common sense. In this area, an MBA can give you confidence but in my experience cannot give you a clear guide. Instead, in these cases, we've tried to hone our instincts, run ideas by our closest friends and also test ideas in the market.
Meet Sue Warshal, '04, whose career has focused on health care. Trained as a clinical psychologist, she earned her MBA to move into management and now is the director of a non-profit in the mental health field. Here Sue answers a few questions for CWIBAN about her experiences.
Q: What was your background before coming to Booth?
As a clinical psychologist, I was a non-traditional business school applicant. I had never taken a business class before attending Booth (known as GSB back in my day).
Q: Why did you choose to get an MBA? What did you get out of the experience?
Although I enjoyed the clinical aspect of psychology, I always had an interest in management and administration within the healthcare field. However, I didn’t have the formal business background. An MBA enabled me to learn core business and financial skills, while incorporating my interest in the healthcare field.
Q: Where did you head after graduation from Booth? What steps did you take to get to the career you have now?
My first job after business school was as a healthcare consultant, working within large hospital systems and academic medical centers. I was exposed to the operations and strategic planning of top medical organizations around the country. When I tired of the weekly travel, I obtained a mid-level management position at a national healthcare organization headquartered in New York City. Now I’m the Executive Director of a small non-profit within the mental health field. It’s a dream job for me, since I’m able to incorporate my business and psychology backgrounds. But I wouldn’t have been prepared for this position without my experiences within the larger corporate world of healthcare, which wouldn’t have been possible without the MBA.
Q: What advice do you have for students and fellow alumnae interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit world?
It’s vital to connect with the mission of the non-profit, not just the non-profit aspect of the organization. Most important is to gain experience in that mission, even if it’s from the for-profit world. In fact, experiences from for-profit organizations can positively influence many of the operations of a non-profit. If you feel passionate and have experience around the mission, the non-profit world will embrace the business perspective you bring.
Q: How has networking or mentorship impacted your career?
In particular, I am involved in networking groups geared towards professional women in non-profit. These women tend to be passionate about their chosen profession, as well as successful in business. I learn that these two are not mutually exclusive, which inspires me to strive for excellence within my own organization.
To contact Sue, feel free to email her. Thank you, Sue!
Meet Chicago Booth alumna Terri Lydon, '05, whose career in marketing has spanned from traditional corporations to start-ups. Her love of the dynamic atmosphere at new and growing businesses led to her current role at PromoAid. She also values the time it gives her with her family. Here Terri answers a few questions for CWIBAN about her experiences.
Q: What was your background before coming to Booth?
A: Immediately after college, I was hired by NAVTEQ (then Navigation Technologies, now a part of Nokia) in Industry Relations. It was a smaller company, on the cutting edge of developing navigable maps based on GPS. It was a very exciting time to be in that industry, and I loved the ever-changing dynamic of my job and the company. After 2 years, I became one of the inaugural members of the marketing team. Working with outside agencies reignited my desire to work in a more marketing-oriented atmosphere, so I made the move to work in advertising.
I took a job as an account executive at a small agency and got to work on accounts like the YMCA, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Chicago White Sox, and Advocate Health Care. Working in advertising was a great way to learn about developing a marketing strategy to leverage how different consumers think and interact with brands, which led me back full circle to wanting to have a brand to own. In order to fully understand brand management, and to round out my education with the financial and quantification assets needed to be a successful brand manager, I knew I needed to get my MBA from the top financial and leading marketing school.
Q: Why did you choose Chicago Booth? What did you get out of the experience?
A: I chose Booth because my background was focused in marketing – my undergraduate degree and entire resume was all centered in marketing and "soft" skills. To prove myself and my quant skills to potential employers, to myself, and to any future investors, there was no better choice than Booth. I was honestly nervous when I started, and was not sure about taking classes like Econ and Investments at this world-renowned institution. But then I met the professors. Incredible. I still prefer the "softer" side of things, but thanks to my time at Booth I am comfortable and confident putting on my quant jock hat.
Q: Where did you head after graduation from Booth? Tell us about how your career progressed and how you got to where you are now.
A: While at Booth, I interned at Kraft and accepted a full time position upon graduation. I had never worked at an established company, and felt it was important to continue my education by utilizing all I had learned at Booth in a formal brand management position. When deciding where to go post-Kraft, I examined my experiences prior to, at, and post Booth. It became clear to me what I like and what I wanted to do. I like the ever-changing, fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants atmosphere of a start-up or small organization. That is where I thrive. And, now I was equipped to introduce structure and discipline into that kind of environment. So that was my next move – I joined a start-up called PromoAid and was the 2nd employee back in 2008.
Q: Introduce us to what you do every day. What does a typical day look like for you?
A: Every day is different, and that's how I like it. At a small company, there are no set roles. Yes, there are job descriptions written down, but there are also hundreds of things to get done that don't fall under anyone's specific function. And we get them done. Let's take yesterday – I revised the website to reflect a new service we're launching, edited a press release, word-smithed a couple of emails for our CEO, reported a broken door to our building management, and conducted the 3rd quarter review of our database manager to ensure he's on track to reach his annual goals. And, last Friday my day looked completely different.
Q: How does your work impact your personal life? What would you like to share about your home life and interests?
Home life is very important to me. I am married with 2 kids, and I want to see my family as much as possible, every day. Being at a start-up and now early-stage company, I have the flexibility to be home for breakfast in the morning and also be home in the evenings with my kids. Of course there are downsides (lower pay, lack of stability, working later at night if needed) but these are far outweighed by the benefits.
To contact Terri, feel free to email her. Thank you, Terri!