By Karen Guzman
A trio of distinguished Yale School of Management alumnae came together on November 18 to reflect on the changing career landscape for professional women and on the pivotal role that Yale SOM played in shaping their own career paths.
The “Pioneers: Celebrating Women Leaders of Yale SOM” discussion event was held in conjunction with the university’s year-long celebration commemorating the arrival of women students at Yale.
Panelists included Linda Mason ’80, chairman and co-founder of Bright Horizons; Jane Mendillo ’84, former president and CEO of the Harvard Management Company; and Sandra Urie ’85, chairman emeritus of Cambridge Associates.
Sharon Oster, the Frederic D. Wolfe Professor Emerita of Management and Entrepreneurship, introduced the panel, and Professor Heather Tookes moderated the discussion.
The alumnae discussed how far women have come in achieving greater equity in the workplace, and how much work still needs to be done. “The trend is promising, but the numbers are terrible,” said Mendillo, noting that while women are well represented in entry-level positions, they are still scarce in the C-suite.
But there are undeniable signs of progress. Mendillo, who serves on the board of General Motors, said that both GM’s CFO and CEO are women, and so is nearly half the board. “It really gives me hope that it is changing.”
Times are much better today than they were in the early- and mid-’80s, when the panelists entered the workforce and sexism was much more prevalent, they all agreed.
The panelists also discussed their career arcs and their proudest moments and regrets, and they shared tips for navigating workplace challenges. Mason cautioned students not to put too much emphasis on finding the “right fit” in their first post-MBA position. Careers unwind over time and “fit” evolves. “Your profession will be in chapters,” she said.
After beginning her career in international relief and in management consulting—where she was the only woman in her group—Mason found her role as an entrepreneur. But, she said, her earlier experiences helped her grow professionally, pay off student loans, and find a lifelong mentor.
Mendillo encouraged students to find workplace mentors in whom they can confide. “It has to be somebody you can connect with and ask the dumb questions, and have them encourage you when you think things might be getting a little too tough,” she said.
The panelists agreed that Yale SOM was a great launching pad for the trailblazing women in their classes. “SOM was a welcoming community, one that understood some of the challenges I was facing,” said Urie, who began her MBA as a single mom to a one-year-old daughter.
That support continued at Cambridge Associates, where Urie found her first post-MBA job and where she has spent her career: “I was fortunate to join a firm that recognized that 100% of the talent resides in 100% of the population.”
About the Event
As part of the #50WomenAtYale150 celebration, which marks the 50th anniversary of the matriculation of women in Yale College and the 150th anniversary of the first women students at the university who came to study at the School of Art when it opened in 1869, the Yale School of Management invites you to join us on November 18 for a special panel composed of trailblazing Yale SOM alumnae.
Panelists will include Linda Mason ’80, Chairman and co-Founder of Bright Horizons, Jane Mendillo ’84, former President and CEO, Harvard Management Company, and Sandra Urie ’85, Chairman Emeritus, Cambridge Associates. Moderated by Sharon Oster, Frederic D. Wolfe Professor Emerita of Management and Entrepreneurship and Heather Tookes, Professor of Finance, these pioneering women will discuss their careers, provide advice to students, and share tips for navigating pitfalls along one’s career trajectory.
This event is open to the Yale community.