Lack of mentorship, weak professional and social networks—these are just a few of the unique challenges facing women building research careers in business-related fields. To confront those obstacles and work to overcome them, our group of Wharton doctoral students founded the Wharton Society for the Advancement of Women in Business Academia (WSAWBA) in 2013.
One of the highlights of WSAWBA’s first year was a star-studded panel of female Wharton faculty members who discussed their personal experiences and offered advice on navigating the academic job market. Professors Katy Milkman, Ann Harrison, Ashley Swanson, Jessie Handbury and Natalya Vinokurova balanced levity with candidness, earning raves from a crowd of more than 70 students.
Last year, WSAWBA opened this conversation to a wider audience of faculty and students across business schools, establishing the first Women in Business Academia Conference here on campus. The event featured a wide array of keynote speakers from the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Harvard Business School, Wharton and Yale School of Management, as well as PhD student research presentations and a job-market panel. This past April, the second annual conference was even larger, with representation from 11 business schools and seminars throughout the day on topics that ranged from successfully navigating the academic job market to seeking mentors in academia to managing work/life boundaries to understanding the day-to-day life of a young professor.
Through these successful first few years, the Women in Business Academia Conference has cemented its place as an important opportunity for female faculty and doctoral students to engage in a dialogue over their identities. We look forward to fostering this conversation and providing a network for female academics during our next conference in the spring of 2017 and for many years to come. —Lesley Meng
Published as “Change Agents” in the Fall 2016 issue of Wharton Magazine.