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Wall Street Journal features Q&A with Simmons School of Management Dean Cathy Minehan

August 2, 2012

Cathy Minehan, dean of Simmons School of Management, appeared in the Business Schools section of the Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2012. In the story (see below), Minehan explains what brought her to the academic world after spending nearly 40 years working at the Federal Reserve Bank system in New York and Boston. She also shares why she thinks it's better to address workplace gender issues in an all-women's environment when so much of the business world is dominated by men: "[At Simmons, students] can develop tools to navigate better in the business world because they understand the subtleties of a male-dominated culture in a way that they might not understand in classrooms that are dominated by men."

The original article can be found on WSJ.com

Why an All-Female School May Be Best Training Ground
By Melissa Korn

Edited excerpts:

WSJ: You were in a very different industry before coming to academia. Why did you take the job at Simmons?

Ms. Minehan: [The job] intrigued me. I've always had this interest in what you can do, systemically, to make it easier for women to be successful in business.

WSJ: Why is it better to address those systemic issues in an all-women environment when so much of the business world is dominated by men? How is that good training for real life?

Ms. Minehan: Just think about mission-driven education in general—for example, historically black colleges. The schools provide not only a first-class education, but also an environment and culture in which it's easier to talk about some subjects.

[At Simmons, students] can develop tools to navigate better in the business world because they understand the subtleties of a male-dominated culture in a way that they might not understand in classrooms that are dominated by men.

An example: negotiations. Women don't negotiate the same way that men do. We teach classic negotiation theory, classic negotiation practice, but we also teach about the situation women will find in [the outside world] and then how to deal with it.

WSJ: Should coed business schools address gender issues more?

Ms. Minehan: I think some reference should be made to it. Should it drive out the real focus on hard [quantitative] topics? No, it shouldn't.

WSJ: Simmons boasts of teaching "principled leadership." How is what you do different from your peers' approach to ethics and leadership?

Ms. Minehan: We [have] incorporated the "giving voice to values" framework. The idea is that you don't have an ethics course, you embed values in every single course. So if you're talking about finance, you talk about how you develop a financial tool that's appropriate for the customer. You want to serve your customer, you don't want to sell your customer just the next schlocky thing.

[To teach leadership], we give each student the organizational behavior and other theory that goes into what makes a good leader, but we also give them lots of team-based work. You get a lot of opportunities to develop your own voice.

We write cases about women leaders. Harvard \[Business School\] doesn't have a whole lot of cases written about women. If Harvard wants a case about a woman leader, they usually are looking at stuff we've developed.

WSJ: What lessons did you take from the Fed that you want to bring to Simmons?

Ms. Minehan: The process of establishing your personal brand is a good thing to do. I was at the [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] for 10 years before I had my children. Both times, I was promoted while I was on maternity leave. Companies are not stupid; they know when they've got a good asset. You've got to be flexible enough to figure out how to keep the people you really need to have.

I really learned the value of establishing your brand, and then working from there. I was fortunate enough to find good household help. People draw on family, they use day care. There's a lot of different options there and you can make them work if you want to make them work.

WSJ: Women leaders have been a hot topic in recent weeks, particularly after Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo. Should her pregnancy be as big of a deal as it is?

Ms. Minehan: I think it's interesting, but I don't think it's so interesting that you've got to focus so many column inches on it. If she's smart enough to run Yahoo, which the board seems to think she is, she's smart enough to figure this out.

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