Ten Questions

March 18, 2013 12:05 am

Tara Mohr

Tara Mohr

Tara Mohr: "There are more educated, financially empowered women on the planet than ever before "

Tara Mohr is founder of Playing Big, a women’s leadership programme, and an MBA graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business in the US, where she was co-president of the Women in Management organisation.

Ms Mohr studied English literature at Yale University and then co-created two collections of Jewish women’s writings, which included contributions from Eve Ensler, the playwright, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She also lead a blogging campaign for The Girl Effect movement and participated in the BBC World Service radio programme Born A Girl which followed six young women from around the world through their young adult years.

In her spare time, Ms Mohr enjoys psychology, dance, art and long walks with her dog.

1. Why did you choose to do an MBA?

I was interested in having a major impact and in growing an organisation to a significant scale. I knew I didn’t want to work in traditional business, but I believed business school would teach me the tools for management, strategy, marketing and so on that I could use to have impact around the issues I cared about most. I was right. Now I run a business empowering women and training them for leadership – and I use what I learnt in business every day to help my work increase in scale and impact.

2. What inspires you?

The reality that there are more educated, financially empowered women on the planet than ever before and now is the critical moment for us to begin sharing our ideas and innovations to try to change the world for the better.

3. What is your favourite business book?

It’s a book about finding your vocation and place in the world, Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. I also love Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, and Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields.

4. Who is your ideal professor?

I’d love to learn from Oprah – but since her show is her “classroom”, I feel like in many ways I’ve been lucky enough to have that opportunity. For me, she’s an incredible exemplar of leading with vision and integrity, allowing one’s convictions and spiritual life to guide a career, and fully utilising one’s unique gifts.

5. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?

Hire more women professors. Sit with women students and work with them on speaking up in class more. Make sure every one of my students got to see the reality of what happens at every stage in the supply chain of a leading company – to see the environmental impact, to talk with minimum wage workers and visit them in their homes, and to work a day in their shoes. Corporations will become more humane when their leaders are in touch with – not removed from – the real human impact of their decisions.

6. What advice would you give to women in business education?

Well, I’d invite them to check out 10 Rules for Brilliant Women, where I wrote down the 10 things I wanted every brilliant woman on the planet to really know about herself.

I’d ask them to question the voice inside that says, “I’m not ready yet” for that next step. Recognise your inner critic is a liar and that you need to start ignoring what it says. Pay attention to the little voice inside that keeps speaking up about a potential project or career direction you feel drawn to. Learn to be the ally of that voice, not the sceptic constantly questioning it.

7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I make sure that I’m complementing my time spent in those environments with time in a supportive network of women friends and colleagues. I keep my focus on my big goals – not the immediate reception I’m getting from those around me. Research shows that in corporate environments, women tend to be perceived as highly competent or highly likeable, but not both, so I aim for being respected – not universally liked.

8. What is the worst job you have ever had?

Herding cattle. I only did it for about five days, while on a homestay in rural Austria when I was about 16 years old, but I was woefully unprepared for it. Some cows wandered off.

9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I stopped eating sugar and wheat about seven years ago and if I could go back, I’d do that even sooner, because I feel more healthy, energetic and alert ever since.

10. What are your future plans?

I’ll continue teaching my Playing Big course to new audiences. I am writing a book on the topic as well.

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