By Jonathan Robins ’15
My tenure at CBS started just before The New York Times published an article about gender equity at Harvard Business School. The piece demonstrated the myriad of challenges that many women faced at HBS, and some of the efforts the school undertook to improve the situation. Various aspects of the piece, from the top-down approach taken by HBS administrators to the existence of “Section X” for wealthy students, didn’t sound like what I had seen in my first two weeks at CBS.
I received a first-hand glimpse soon thereafter. Alex Ginsberg, my peer advisor, organized an informal group of (mostly) second year students to talk about the article and how we thought it applied to CBS. As one of the few first years at the meeting, I wanted to better understand the experience of students who had already completed their first year. Needless to say, I was surprised—a number of female students in the room described intimidating classroom environments and a social schedule dominated by “fraternity-style” events.
Soon thereafter, I heard that a group of second-year students were organizing a group to tackle these issues head on. I immediately signed up for the project, and am proud with how far it has come. By working collaboratively with the administration, faculty and the entire CBS student body we were able to get all the data required to run extensive analysis; 74% of the student body took the CBS Community Survey.
As we continue to analyze the data, we are developing a clearer picture of the challenges CBS faces in providing an equal opportunity of experience for women. I am the co-leader of the academics track of the project, and one of the key findings is that female students from the classes of 2014 and 2015 have lower GPAs in the core curriculum than their male counterparts—something that is particularly pronounced in “technical” classes (corporate finance, accounting, etc.). We are working on identifying the reasons for this, and will include a series of recommendations to improve the situation in the final report—slated to be released at the end of this month.
In the interim, we held CBS-wide “inclusion discussions” on March 27th with each cluster. Participants in the project led the discussion with their individual clusters, outlining the rationale for the report and some of the preliminary findings. The reaction from students was positive across the board; folks were highly engaged in the conversations and asked important questions about the results we had thus far, and what could be done to make progress on these issues. In my cluster, one of the most poignant questions that came up was if background played a big role in academic performance. As a guy who came from a “non-technical” background before matriculating at CBS (i.e. I was not a banker or consultant and was a foreign affairs major in undergrad) this is particularly interesting to me; I want to know how I compare to a female classmate with a similar profile.
Like all of you, I’m anxiously awaiting the results—and to working with all the aforementioned parties to make CBS an even better place.
Meri Crowther has served on the CWiB board for the past two years and currently holds the VP Finance & Membership role. Continue reading to learn why it was so important for Meri to get involved with CWiB and what she will be taking away from her time at CBS.
Why did you choose to come to CBS?
I wanted to stay in New York, and the areas I wished to emphasize in my MBA education, including social enterprise and finance, were strong offerings here.
What has been your favorite moment at CBS so far?
Any moment hanging out with my cluster, D’14 – especially at Juranimal shows.
Why is being a part of CWiB important to you?
I came to CBS from a male-dominated industry, so I wanted to take this opportunity to build relationships with more professional women. In my two years on the board, I’ve been impressed by the impact CWiB can have across the school, from Admissions events with prospective students to driving the CBS Reflects discussion.
Do you have any memorable CWiB moments?
My favorite moments are randomly catching up with friends I’ve made through CWiB throughout the day – preferably over food.
What does being a CBS Woman mean to you?
The women at CBS are open and supportive while also being strong leaders. I’ve been so impressed by the community of women we have at CBS!
What woman inspires you?
Lucille Bluth. When I retire, I hope to be like her.
What will you be taking away from CBS?
My CBS experience has taught me the importance of connecting with others on a personal level. Peer advising, PLS, and my favorite thing – CBS Matters – have reinforced this lesson throughout my two years.
During Women’s Week, Yumna Cheema was one of the CBS Matters presenters and shared her amazing journey with us. This week, she discusses why she decided to come to CBS and who she gains inspiration from.
Why did you choose to come to CBS?
I decided to come to CBS because of its strong community and the New York experience. I immediately connected with the students at Connect I and knew CBS was the right choice for me.
What has been your favorite moment at CBS so far?
There are so many! The best ones involve spending time with my cluster: from group study sessions to hearing everyone’s stories during CBS matters and going on cluster trips (New Orleans, Vermont, Bear Mountain, etc.).
What does being a CBS woman mean to you?
Being a CBS woman means I am part of a group of intelligent, ambitious and strong women who are the future leaders.
What woman do you most look up to and why?
I have always looked up to my mother. She taught me to believe in myself, to never give up, to live life on my own terms and to help as many people along the way as possible.
Do you have any memorable CWiB-related moments from this year?
Hearing Ms. Lulu Wang share her incredible story during Women’s Week.
How has CBS changed you so far?
I have always been amazed by the incredible sense of community at CBS and how helpful everyone is. There are so many opportunities to be involved and to give back. I particularly enjoy the hour I spend every week at a KIPPS school tutoring 6th grade students. I want to make community service a permanent part of my life.
What are you most looking forward to in your second year?
I am looking forward to meeting more people at CBS, hearing their stories and figuring out where my MBA will take me next.
By Sophia Dadas ’15
As Columbia Women in Business, we made the special promise to foster a lifelong community where women can achieve their personal and professional aspirations – we possess the power to mentor, to inspire, to make a difference.
During Women’s Week, CWiB provided its members the ability to impact the community through its partnership with Girls Inc. of New York City. At this event, CWiB members shared advice about their college experiences with 25 female high school students through fun and interactive conversations on academics, extracurriculars and internships. The bonds the girls created with each other and their mentors were so beautiful to watch! The girls also built their inner confidence, celebrated their individuality and set ambitious goals for themselves.
So, you want to make an impact? There are a lot of ways! Whether you have a couple of hours a day, week, month or year, there are plenty of opportunities to help build strong girls with Girls Inc! Click here to learn more.
One of CWiB’s goals is to foster a lifelong community for its members. On Tuesday, March 25, as part of the SPARC (Students Partnering with Alumni to Reignite Connections) Engagement Series, CWiB was able to help facilitate this by gathering a group of current students and alumnae together at Havana Central. Over 20 alumnae and 15 current students attended and got to know each other over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, all while discussing their time at CBS, what life is like after business school, and the bond they feel with Columbia and CWiB, even after graduation.
“If you can’t be smart be memorable,” quipped Shelly Lazarus – one of the many quotable one-liners and sage advice that the audience ate up during the Women’s Week Fireside Chat. The Chairman Emeritus of Ogilvy & Mather began the evening recalling her experience at Columbia Business School. Part of the class of 1970, there were only four women in her graduating class. As one of the pioneer females at CBS, she discovered her love for marketing.
She worked her way to the upper echelon of the marketing field not by craving a spot in the C-suite – she maintains that she never wanted a ‘big job’ – instead she seized opportunities as they arose and advised audience members to do the same. In fact, she believes the more frightened an opportunity makes a person, the sooner they should take it. If too much time is taken to make a decision, a person is more likely to talk himself or herself out of it, often hurting themselves in the process. She believes the way to move forward is by doing things that scare you just a little bit. Moreover, one should not be intimidated by the feeling of not being fully ready to take on a new, challenging role: “you don’t need to know all the answers yourself; you need to know who to ask.”
When asked about what it takes to be a good leader – she referred to advice she received from Ogilvy & Mather founder, David Ogilvy, who said “just worry about the people and the rest will follow.” In that vein, she stresses that a leader needs to challenge, reward, and recognize your employees.
She continued, “CEOs are inherently optimistic,” they believe what needs to get done will get done – if belief in success doesn’t come from the top, where else would it come from? She believes that people inherently want to be lead, and as a leader you are responsible for picking a strategy, following it maniacally, and communicating it effectively – being able to motivate is an essential trait for a leader.
Then came the inevitable question – can women have it all? Lazarus says she thinks that it is possible, but it is necessary to unload all of the things that don’t matter. One must make a conscious decision to throw out the extraneous parts of their lives that have no meaning for them – whether that’s the sidelined dinner party or falling behind on the laundry– if it has no meaning in your life, it should be shelved or outsourced so you have more time to focus on your priorities.