Ten Questions - Diana Bilimoria

The professor advises women to figure out their personal mission and strengths and always be mindful of them

Diana Bilimoria is a professor of organisational behaviour and the 2011-12 division chair of the gender and diversity in organisations division at Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management in the US. She is an expert in leadership development and diversity and most recent book, Gender Equity in Science and Engineering: Advancing Change in Higher Education, urges universities to address the lack of women’s leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Prof Bilimoria grew up in Mumbai, India and then moved to the US to study for a PhD in business management at the University of Michigan. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and travelling. Her studies have helped organisations establish practices that attract and retain a high-performance, diverse workforce.

Prof Bilmoria will be available for a live web chat on Thursday, 19th April 2012, between 14.00 and 15.00 GMT. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

1. When did you know you wanted to teach?

In some ways I’ve been a teacher and educator all my life. In a more formal way, my passion for teaching and learning in management education began as a PhD student and has grown over the years I’ve been teaching at Case Western Reserve University.

2. Do you have a teaching routine?

I teach an unusual format for most colleges and universities – mostly I teach in full-day class sessions at the masters and executive education levels. I intersperse many activities during a full-day class session in order to keep students engaged (and awake!) – for example, in any given course session I employ a combination of mini-lectures, case studies and vignettes, experiential exercises, videos, external speakers, small group discussions, self-assessments and student reports-out. Most of my courses require students to engage in self-reflection as well as exploring the perceptions and experiences of others.

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

I would look at how our school and management education as a whole could develop new programmes, partnerships and relationships to connect our students more deeply with the world of business and management. This would allow students to experience real organisational challenges and engage with key leaders and decision-makers while finding solutions that make a positive difference to our economic, social and environmental well-being.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

Be authentic – don’t try to be someone you’re not, become comfortable with ambiguity and learn to take criticism constructively.

5. Who are your business influences?

I am inspired by the women entrepreneurs of the world. Many of these women start with very little and are often in circumstances that are extremely difficult, yet they persist, working tirelessly to create the life they seek and often giving themselves to a larger social purpose. Some may succeed while others continue to persevere, but each story inspires me.

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

Figure out your personal mission and strengths as a leader and team contributor – what is the distinctive purpose of your contributions and what are the talents and qualifications you bring to the table? Create strategies and priorities to advance your purpose, through enhancement of both your human capital (education, work experience and skill development) and your social capital (networks, relationships and collaborations). Even if you are required to take a detour in your path or if some other attractive opportunities come your way, always be mindful of your ultimate mission, because this is where true fulfilment will come from.

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

I address how we can proactively change the structural inequities in a system so that everyone can compete equitably and that everyone’s talents and contributions are valued and employed to drive the organisation’s success. As a senior woman faculty member in my organisational system (which is a highly male-dominated environment), I am conscious of the impact my actions may have to inspire other women - students, faculty, staff and alumnae - even those with whom I am not in direct contact.

8. What is the last book you read?

The last book I read is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I am currently reading The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar.

9. What is your life philosophy?

Enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Share yourself generously - seek opportunities to serve others and give of yourself. Persevere despite challenges and adversity. Don’t get derailed from being your best self. Build friendships wherever you go. Learn to love and accept yourself for who you are. Be humble and kind to others.

10. What is your plan B?

My alternative career would be to be an international chef and culinary entrepreneur!

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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