June 29, 2014 11:30 pm

Women in Business – Diane Morgan, Imperial College

Diane Morgan

Diane Morgan is associate dean of programmes at Imperial College Business School in the UK and a board member of the Forté Foundation, a non-profit consortium of companies and business schools helping women advance their careers. At Forté, she leads the Global Women on Boards Initiative.

Before joining Imperial in 2014, Ms Morgan worked at London Business School, NYU Stern, Jiangsu Polytechnic and USC Marshall. She has an MBA from Columbia Business School and enjoys mentoring women early in their careers.

1. Who inspires you?

People that are unequivocally themselves and by being themselves, stand up for their principles and make things happen. Viviane Reding who put female quotas for boards on the agenda in a way that is making governments and companies take action; Michael Bloomberg who takes the big and often unpopular decisions for NYC but always takes a stand; Rosa Parks who quietly stood up for herself and inspired others to do the same; Katherine Hepburn who wore trousers and literally set the stage for women’s fashion and women’s rights; Madeleine Albright who said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”; Mary J Blige who reminds me “To bring no more drama in my life” and the fabulous David Byrne, musician, artist and fellow NYC bike rider who I had the pleasure to meet backstage at his London Royal Festival Hall concert in 2009. He was as amazing in person as I’d always imagined.

2. What is an average day at work like?

Varied and therefore at its best inspiring. Meetings vary from the incredibly strategic: contributing to the global expansion strategy that will leverage the STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) disciplines with business to the more tactical pedagogy of how many hours of curriculum should be dedicated to team work vs individual contribution. Imperial accommodates time zones around the world, making for long intense days.

Recently, I slipped into a lecture theatre to hear the dean teach operations management to MBAs and in the evening attended the Imperial Start-up Showcase where students, academics and alumni from across the college presented early stage ideas to investors, angels, venture capitalists and accelerators. The winner for social enterprise was a flat-pack wind turbine that can be assembled by anyone in less than two hours and the £10k prize went to Eddy, a home sensor device based on sound.

3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?

Make London our campus. Hold economics classes in the Bank of England, bring our finance students to Canary Wharf, teach negotiations at Berwick Street market, shift our librarians to the British Library, teach innovation at Tate Modern and finally bring our brilliant MBAs to MI6. I’d also love to hire more women faculty. Education institutions struggle with the same challenges as industry in bringing women into the most senior positions. We benefit from the efforts of former business school leaders and have an average of 50 per cent women on most of our degree programmes. Prof Anandalingam, the dean of the business school, and I are keen to continue this trend and bring more women into the faculty and the boardroom.

4. What advice would you give to women graduating this year from business school?

Focus early in their careers on building concrete skills that are critical to the mission and financial backbone of the organisation and economy. Manage a P & L so that you have financial, management and frontline customer and client expertise. Be a leader of your own long-term career options and set direction for yourself, right from graduation through to the boardroom. Look at skillsets before you look at gender, both men and women can be outstanding champions and career advocates. Then find someone to emulate who matches your passions and interests and chart the choices they’ve made in terms of geography, career transitions, partners and education.

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

Be confident in the expertise that I bring to the table, name bad behaviour and bring humour when I need it, or think they do. And, always ask for what I’m worth. The gender pay gap still has women earning on average 15 per cent – 20 per cent below men in most industries in most countries and that is unacceptable.

6. What is the last book you read?

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. A thoughtful book on what is valued in society and how that has shifted from generating expertise through knowledge, practice and application to being the loudest or most polished person in the room talking about expertise. In such a fast-paced world does one have time to individually master a skill for 10,000 hours, the often quoted rule of practice and if so, will that skill still be relevant when finished? And, if time is spent mastering the skill, how much time is needed to promote that mastery? I think it is a fascinating subject for education institutions to be considering, especially since different learning styles come into play in [the workplace].

7. What is your favourite business book?

Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges. I always re-read it before starting a new role or planning a major change. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report in 2012 tracking younger baby boomers and on average they held 11.3 jobs from ages 18 to 46. It is an astounding statistic when you consider the age of retirement steadily increasing around the globe as well as the perceived length of future careers going well beyond the age of 46.

The book focuses less on change, which is seen as a constant component of one’s career given the rapid development and effect of technology and globalisation, and more on the impact of transitions as a result of the change. I love that it reminds you to focus on individual motivation of colleagues, clients and partners as they will make up the collective organisation and be responsible for the success or failure of any initiative to adapt and improve.

8. What are your top tips for networking?

Be genuine and useful. Networks are relationships that need investment and commitment. If you can deliver what you say you will, be it a contact, a referral, a piece of interesting work, you are investing in someone else’s success and build trust while doing it. LinkedIn is a great tool, I use my LinkedIn network to hire and keep track of former colleagues from around the globe.

At Imperial, we are using the Global Board Ready Women LinkedIn group, Columbia Business School’s alumni network and Women on Boards UK to fill our open board roles. They are partners we can trust and have similar aspirations so we are all vested in the success of adding more women to the boardroom.

9. What is your favourite memory from your time at Columbia?

The admissions process. It was so personal and supportive, it busted every myth I had about pursuing a career in business and going to business school. I applied and was asked to take my GMAT test again to raise my score. The day before my exam the programme director personally called me to wish me good luck. I was so touched, it took away my anxiety and my score went up dramatically. I also had tremendous support from Stevan Trooboff, my chief executive at the time, himself a graduate of Harvard Business School. I still keep in touch with both Stevan and the programme director as they really opened my eyes to what it was like to have career sponsors for the very first time.

I thought business schools would be competitive and a weeding out process, instead it was about trying to make me as successful as possible, before I even officially entered as a student. I try my best to do the same for every potential student I meet because a career in business is about picking the right partners, the right support network and surrounding yourself with people that believe in you and will be honest with you.

10. What are your future plans?

There are great strides and debates regarding online education and its power to truly disrupt how we structure classroom-based teaching. I see big changes and challenges for youth employment as we move from agricultural and manufacturing-based economies to a fast-paced interdependent global economy with technology expertise expected as cost of entry. Business continues apace.

For example, CodeFirst: Girls in the UK is leading free coding courses for female students and graduates to tap into their interests and get them skilled up for a changing workforce. Imperial is launching an online MBA in January 2015. I’m excited by the next wave of innovation and how to marry traditional knowledge sharing with an inventive medium. I want to be a part of that.

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