Members of Phi Chi Theta, the women’s professional commerce society at Berkeley.

Women of Influence

Celebrating 150 Years of Women at Berkeley

In 1870, while the nascent, campus-less University of California was operating in Oakland, the UC Regents unanimously approved a resolution with profound implications for the world: they admitted women to the university. In fact, Berkeley was one of the earliest institutions of higher education in the country to formally adopt a policy admitting women. Over the next 150 years, women have made immeasurable contributions to campus. Here, a look at some of the trailblazing accomplishments from women in the Berkeley Haas community.

Photo at top: Members of Phi Chi Theta, the women’s professional commerce society at Berkeley.

Cora Jane Flood

Launching the College of Commerce

Cora Jane Flood

Cora Jane Flood’s substantial gift in 1898—then the largest private contribution in the university’s 30-year history—launched the College of Commerce. During its 44 years in existence, this precursor to the business school granted 5,512 Bachelor of Science degrees in commerce, with 13.4% going to women. Mary Dickson was the first woman to get a degree, in 1906.

Catherine DeMotte Greene Quire

Breaking teaching barriers

Catherine DeMotte Greene Quire

In 1937, Catherine DeMotte Greene Quire, BA 15, MA 29 (economics) became the first woman to teach accounting in a university business school.

Karlene H. Roberts

Breaking teaching barriers

Karlene H. Roberts

In 1970, Karlene H. Roberts, of the Organizational Behavior and Industrial Relations Group, became the first female tenure-track faculty member in Berkeley’s business school. She’s now professor emeritus.

Janet Yellen

Influencing markets worldwide

Janet Yellen

In 2014, Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen became the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve. From 1980–2004, she taught thousands of Berkeley Haas students in the undergraduate, full-time MBA, and evening and weekend MBA programs.

Lisa Rawlings

Developing accomplished professionals

Lisa Rawlings

Lisa Rawlings, EMBA 19, is the first Black female president and CEO of the National Urban Fellows Organization. NUF provides a rigorous, 14-month, full-time graduate program for mid-career professionals of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, particularly people of color and women.

Ulrike Malmendier

Pioneering behavioral economics research

Ulrike Malmendier

Professor Ulrike Malmendier is the first woman to win the American Finance Association’s prestigious Fischer Black Prize for her work in behavioral economics. The biennial award honors the top finance scholar under the age of 40 and is modeled after the Fields Medal in mathematics and the John Bates Clark Medal in economics.

Talia Caldwell

Playing in the Big Leagues

Talia Caldwell

Talia Caldwell, BS 13, is the first Haas alumna to play pro basketball. She played for teams in Europe and earned a stint with the WNBA’s New York Liberty.

Margo Alexander

Smashing Wall Street’s glass ceiling

Margo Alexander

Margo Alexander, BS 68, rose to become one of the most senior women on Wall Street as CEO and chairman of UBS Global Asset Management—the first woman to oversee a major trading floor and to head a top-ranked research department.

Soyeon Yi

Exploring outer space

Soyeon Yi

South Korea’s first astronaut, Soyeon Yi, MBA 14, spent 10 days at the International Space Station in 2008. After a whirlwind few years of speaking engagements, Yi decided to add an MBA to her PhD in BioSystems.

Laura Kray

Championing equity and inclusion

Laura Kray

Professor Laura Kray pioneered the Women’s Executive Leadership program through Berkeley Executive Education in 2008, spawning similar EMBA and EWMBA programs.

Kellie McElhaney

Championing equity and inclusion

Kellie McElhaney

Distinguished Teaching Fellow Kellie McElhaney founded the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership in 2017 to support research and teaching in gender, equity, and inclusion. She is EGAL’s executive director; Prof. Laura Kray oversees EGAL as faculty director.

Laura D'Andrea Tyson

Advising Government

Laura D’Andrea Tyson

Laura D’ Andrea Tyson was the first woman to serve as a top economic advisor to a U.S. president when she was appointed chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (1993-95) and director of the National Economic Council (1995-96) by Bill Clinton

Eleni Kounalakis

Serving California

Eleni Kounalakis

Eleni Kounalakis, MBA 92, became California’s first elected female lieutenant governor in 2019. She’d previously served as President Obama’s U.S. ambassador to Hungary—at 43, one of the youngest women to head a U.S. embassy.

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