There is a saying that you can’t be what you can’t see. For the record, I don’t think that is true, there are trailblazers out there every day boldly becoming the first!
What I do believe is it is much easier to become what you can see.
I believe seeing others you respect and admire make it an easier path to follow or to visualize for yourself. I’ve had the opportunity and fortune to work with so many amazing women business academics, I wish I’d had the chance to see them when I was an undergrad.
When I came up with the idea of WiBE, I initially outlined the vision and mission in an email, and then I hit save as draft. At the time I was busy running entrepreneurship programs for women business owners, working with Fortune 500 companies in the Middle East and consulting for the Global Business School Network. I was traveling the world and raising a family. The idea then sat in my drafts for over four years. However, in the fall of 2019, I attended yet another business school conference that had only a handful of women speakers. I read another article about how there is still a glass ceiling at business schools, and there are still so few women at the top tiers of leadership. I attended another steering committee without gender balance. Another panel with no diversity.
Progress is being made,
but it’s been slow.
More needs to be done.
So in the winter of 2019 I dug into my drafts and I found my original email. I dusted it off, made a few tweaks, closed my eyes and I hit send. I sent it to a close business professor I respected, and her response? “This is a good idea. You should do this.” So I sent it to another academic colleague, and she responded, “lets do this, how can I help?” I had an amazing network. All I had to do was be brave enough to hit send. The creation of WiBE is the definition of what you can achieve when you bring together a powerful network to make change, and when women come together it is exceptionally powerful.
I want WiBE to be your powerful network.
Who you can email that crazy idea to,
and know the response will always be,
“we’ve got your back.”
As I came closer to launching in the early months of 2020, COVID-19 shuttered small businesses. Business schools and higher education institutions were in crisis mode, cancelling programs, classes and moving to virtual. It didn’t seem to be the right time to launch a new initiative. It seemed like a good time to draw everything in and stay home. My creative spirit and energy were running on empty, and every morning I, like many others, lay awake every night with the heavy weight of the world on my chest.
But then, in the darkest moments, it was my own community who I reached out to for virtual visits who helped me rediscover the light. It was those working in experiential learning who I would talk with about what the future would look like with less mobility. It was my neighborhood community who encouraged each other to get through the home schooling while juggling full-time work. Community and connection never felt so far away in the times of social distancing, or so important. It was my connections that made me realize how important it was to continue to pursue WiBE, and to finally move it out of my inbox and out into the world.
I invite you to join me in launching Women in Business Education, a global community championing for more gender balance and diversity at all levels of business schools. We are here to elevate the visibility of your work, your research and your impact. I am launching WiBE in one of the most complex and difficult times in the world, because there is no better time to come together for positive change.
Founder & CEO
Follow Lisa on Twitter @leanderlisa
Lisa Leander is an international development and management expert with eighteen years experience managing higher education initiatives in 22 different countries. During the day you might find her consulting for U.S. multinational companies navigating complex market opportunities in the Middle East, creating complex art creations with her two daughters or attempting to train a high energy German shepherd.
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