“Recently I was introduced as a ‘female CEO’ and I laughed because I have never heard a man introduced as a ‘male CEO’.” Said Tory Burch during the 2013 Women’s Rule Summit. I stood with the 200 other women in the conference room who represented some of the most powerful individuals in Washington and clapped in agreement. While in D.C., I had the privilege to not only participate in, but also lead a number of women’s events. I was proud to bear witness to President Obama’s speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, and inspired to work with my corporate members at Business Forward to lift up best practices for retaining, developing, and promoting women executives. Possibly my biggest take away (apart from LEAN IN!) is that the environment of a company or organization plays a critical role in a woman’s success.
So, when I began looking at business schools, I knew that I needed a program didn’t just talk the talk, but actually walked the walk when it came to empowering its female students. Looking strictly at the numbers, Anderson has a similar ratio to most top business schools; women account for 34% of my class. But we have something no other business school has – Dean Judy Olian. Since being appointed the first female Dean of UCLA Anderson in 2006, Dean Olian has worked tirelessly to break through glass ceilings, benefitting all students, past present and future. She isn’t just a role model; she’s a gladiator. She is confronting both student and faculty gender ratios. Anderson doubled the number of female faculty members and tripled the number of women who are full professors since 2006. (Yet women still account for less than 20 percent of the faculty.)
Imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to organize a lunch with Dean Olian for the ladies of Anderson on behalf the Women’s Business Connection (I have the awesome job of WBC Director of Professional Development). So last Thursday, 40 gals gathered together and lunched, while Dean Olian dropped some serious insight about life over sandwiches. I think it’s really rare for a leader of any organization to be so humble, honest, and genuine. She shared with us her incredible background because “we are products of our roots” and the below advice for women in leadership. It was inspiring.
Top Ten Lessons By Dean Judy Olian:
10. Be excellent or more than excellent in your performance.
9. Say YES to assignments.
8. When you fail, force yourself to learn from the experience.
7. It’s not personal.
6. Take risks! Don’t be afraid to be afraid.
5. Figure out what you’re really good at and try to structure your role around your strengths.
4. Take care of you.
3. Turn adversity into an advantage.
2. Be great mothers, sisters, and aunties. Be a role model and a mentor.
1. Choose the right partner.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the East Wing on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, signed by President Kennedy. President Obama is no stranger to gender-pay equality issues. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was widely considered a huge win for women and civil rights.
Dean Olian refuses to accept the status quo and views all students as the key to Anderson’s continued success. Apart from last Thursday’s lunch, she continually makes herself available to all members of the student body hosting office hours, events, and joining us every Thursday at Anderson Afternoons (seen here).
Each year Dean Olian generously hosts students who are not traveling home for the Thanksgiving holiday at her home. For many it's their first time celebrating Thanksgiving, and the Dean makes it extremely memorable.