Advancing Careers

Institute seeks to elevate women leaders

When Jana Rossman signed up for Weatherhead School of Management’s Institute for Women in STEM and Manufacturing, she wanted to build relationships with her peers and learn best practices for developing women leaders. “What works?” wondered Rossman, an engineering supervisor at Swagelok, which manufactures valves and fittings.

Steeped in research findings, the institute is one of Weatherhead School’s Executive Education programs. It’s designed to provide “the specific and intentional development of leadership skills and a leadership framework for women, particularly in male-dominated fields such as STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] and manufacturing,” said Diana Bilimoria, PhD. She co-founded and teaches in the program and is a professor and chair of the Department of Organizational Behavior.

It features one-on-one coaching, leadership skill-building activities, development of personal vision statements, discussions about leading change and network-building exercises spread over three, three-day sessions.

Months after completing the institute program, Rossman still meets monthly with her peer-coaching group. She’s found that the collaborative work and soul-baring involved in developing a personal vision statement with her peers helped forge supportive bonds.

Institute alumni also report back about promotions and other successes, said Ellen Van Oosten, PhD (MGT ’94; GRS ’13, organizational behavior), an associate professor and the institute’s co-founder and faculty director.

For example, one participant spoke up at work after routinely being seated on the sidelines while male counterparts met at a conference table. “I need to be part of these meetings,” she told them. “For the next meeting she arrived early and took a seat at the table,” Van Oosten said. “This is the kind of individual empowerment we often see, and it can lead to institutional transformation.”

— Dan Morrell