Women in Business — Patricia Greene

Academic director of female entrepreneurship is quick to question any form of discrimination

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Patricia Greene is the academic director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and 10,000 Women programmes at Babson College. She is also a professor of entrepreneurship studies at the US school. Before this, she was dean of the Undergraduate School.

Prof Greene worked in retail and healthcare before entering academia. As well as her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), she has an MBA from the University of Nevada (UNLV) and invests in Portfolia, a collaborative funding platform targeted largely towards women investors and women-owned businesses. She is also a founding member of the Diana Project, a research group focusing on women and the venture capital industry. The Diana Project’s books include International Women’s Entrepreneurship: Research on the Growth of Women Owned Businesses, Women and Clearing the Hurdles: Women Building High Growth Businesses.

1. Who are your business influences?

The small business owners of 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) and 10,000 Women (10KW), who constantly invent new ways of growing their businesses. From them I learn new ways to look at opportunities. I like when they question the way things are done. They have taught me to consider industry standards as the average of big businesses and to ask if that is really the best we can do. They have also shown me that those who co-operate with other business owners grow more often than those who hunker down on their own.

2. What are your best and worst business decisions?

My best decision was to go back to school, both for my MBA and then later for my doctorate. At the time I was told by multiple people that studying women’s entrepreneurship was academic career suicide. Far from it. My favourite professional activity is to design and build entrepreneurship programmes that last and have measurable impact. Going back to school gave me both the knowledge I needed to understand the situation, and the research skills I needed to be able to identify the important questions, and design ways to look for answers.

My worst business decision was to not seize my platform when I entered a new job. I knew what the platform should be, but didn’t come out swinging strongly enough. That is no longer an issue. I’ve learned to clearly identify my objectives, study my audience, and seize the moment.

3. What is an average day at work like?

I spend a great deal of time on the road so days tend to fall into four categories. Many days I am at a site for 10KSB, meeting with the delivery team and observing the new cohort of small business owners going through the programme. I recently went to a Babson Connect event in Cartagena, Colombia and had a fantastic time. Some days I work from home. Some days I speak at conferences. And finally, I also work from Babson, coordinating the Babson team on our 10KSB and 10KW initiatives. I tend to start work early, usually with the intent of working on my latest writing project. Most days I tend to work too long. Just ask my family.

4. What are the gender dynamics like at Babson?

They are actually pretty good. Kerry Healey is our first female president. We have women serving as our chief administrative officer and dean of executive education. While, like almost every college and/or university, the most senior tier of professors is male dominated, that is changing. In fact, within the entrepreneurship division, four out of our seven full-time professors are women. We also have a very strong Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, with an executive director and faculty directors who make sure we look across at all aspects of the campus, from recruiting, to mentoring, to curricular activities, to make sure our environment is diverse and positive.

5. How do you deal with male dominated environments?

I’ve worked in several heavily male dominated environments and I deal with them by hitting it straight on. I’ve reached the point and position in my life where I’m quite comfortable in calling out and questioning any form of discrimination. I also am prone to citing the scads of research findings showing that a diverse environment is generally a more productive environment by almost any measure. I have no patience for the “we can’t find qualified……” argument knowing that you can’t find them if you only look in your usual places.

6. What is your favourite business book?

I rarely really like business books and I don’t have a favourite. For most of them, you can get the basic idea if you read the flap or the back page. Most of the ones on small businesses are “I did it this way, and therefore so should you”. I actually do tend to appreciate the work of Jim Collins because it is research based. However, he was kind enough to write a blurb for our Clearing the Hurdles book so I’m a bit biased.

7. What are your top tips for networking?

I belong to many networks, although I now manage those networks more intentionally to be fair to the other members, and to myself. To network well you need to think of it as a resource issue. Connections with others are pathways through which resources flow — and they should flow both ways, to you and from you. My key tip is to be intentional and manage your networks as you would any other resource, which does, of course, take time.

When going to an event, first think about why you are even attending and what you hope to accomplish. Then study the attendee list, or if not available, think carefully about who is likely to be there. The goal should be making the one or two connections that could help you achieve your objectives. That is very different from seeing how many business cards you can collect. Once you are there, while avoiding stalking, figure out where you are likely to meet your ideal contacts, be there, and be ready. That means having practised your really, really short introduction in just such a way that the other person wants to ask you questions to learn more. After the event, you need to follow-up. An email providing any additional information you promised, or just thanking them for their time, and then proposing a next step.

8. Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?

Abigail Adams for her organisational skills (and the fact that my mother is her biggest fan), Marie Curie for her intellectual curiosity, and Eleanor Roosevelt for her strength and approach to life. I, along with quite a few of my friends, have the bracelet with words she used: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

9. Which business deals do you wish you could have been a part of?

I wish I could have been part of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic efforts that placed libraries in so many small towns across the US. I practically grew up in the Hamburg Public Library. Education and an entrepreneurial approach to life can pretty much lead to solving any problem.

10. What is your plan B?

Once in a while, usually while sitting in an airport or on a grounded plane, I do think about this. I think about being a bartender, but then remember that I’m not that social when not talking about entrepreneurship. I also think about buying or at least working in a bookshop. But in reality I think the only other career I’d really want is connected to what I already do, and would focus on writing.

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