28th annual Women in Leadership conference to celebrate resilience 

At a time when the world—and especially the job market—is full of uncertainties, it can often seem impossible to rise above the challenges many women face, from the workplace to their personal lives. 

The 28th annual Women in Leadership conference aims to shed light on these challenges—and more specifically, the resilience that women exhibit. This year’s theme, “Leading with Resilience,” features speakers who will discuss their experiences in maintaining strength and overcoming adversity as women, from the personal to the professional to the physical. The conference will be held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Haas School of Business, with an additional optional event the preceding evening at Ivy Room in Albany. 

“Thinking about the theme for this year, we wanted to focus on what was happening in the broader world and physical environment,” said conference co-organizer Jillian Geary, MBA 24. “And this topic of resilience kept coming up for a lot of us in the room.” 

Organized by the Women in Leadership club, the conference is one of the longest-running and highly attended events at Haas. 

The conference will feature speakers such as Yasi Baiani, co-founder and chief product officer at Raya; Shripriya Mahesh, founding partner at Spero Ventures; and more.

closeup of a female student
Jillian Geary

Geary, who worked for a diagnostics startup amid the pandemic, discussed how her background in health care helped inspire the conference themes of leadership and resilience. She noted that, especially during such a time of uncertainty, she discovered the importance of collaboration.“I think of this conference in a similar manner—that we are smarter when we come together and create an atmosphere for people to share the challenges they’ve been through, rather than solely share their biggest successes.” 

Co-organizer Alyssa D’Cunha, MBA 24, likewise noted that she hopes that the conference will help normalize difficult conversations surrounding hardship through a mixture of keynotes, a fireside chat, and panels on topics ranging from navigating male-dominated fields to living a balanced life.

She added that their ultimate goal is for attendees to leave the conference with a toolkit, having discovered their own resilience. 

close up of female student wearing blue shirt
Alyssa D’Cunha

D’Cunha, who has a background in mechanical and materials engineering, highlighted the significance of addressing how women can navigate and succeed in male-dominated industries. Kellie McElhaney, Haas lecturer and founding director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, will lead a conference workshop on the topic.

“I remember having a less than ideal conversation about having reached parity already, and how there is no longer this equality or equity problem that we need to address going forward,” she said. “We want to talk about how you navigate conversations like that with your superiors and what it means to be equity fluent.” 

On Friday, Feb. 23, there will be a pre-conference “Story Slam,” inspired by Haas tradition of Story Salon, where students share their lived experiences with storytelling.

Conference tickets are available now.

‘Empathy and curiosity:’ How queen jaks is helping Haas make teaching more inclusive

Dr. queen jaks listens during a consultation with a faculty member. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

 

When Dr. queen jaks walks into a Berkeley Haas classroom and sits in the back scribbling notes, students wonder what’s going on.

“They think the professor is in trouble and I’m there to get the dirt,” says queen, who writes her name with lowercase letters.

But as the school’s first diversity instructional support consultant, queen is not an enforcer. She’s there as an invited guest of faculty members who want help in making their teaching more inclusive.

“It’s so important to make it clear that I’m not there to tell people they’re doing something wrong. I’m not there to hear both sides,” she says. “I’m there because the instructor wants support.”

Unique role

Over the past year, queen has been helping Haas faculty navigate the minefield of changing mores and heightened awareness around a range of topics often referred to as diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB). Her role is unique: Rather being called in to mediate when things heat up, she coaches instructors individually—by observing classes, offering suggestions on course content, or consulting on issues that come up in class. She also teaches best practices through brief workshops and exercises.

Holding both an MBA and a PhD in organizational behavior, queen is fluent in the language of academia, while also drawing on her own experiences of feeling like an outsider who broke into that world as a first-generation student from an impoverished community. She grew up in San Diego and earned a BS in business administration from UC Riverside, going on for her MBA from the University of Redlands and her doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.

She approaches the job with empathy, curiosity, and a natural sense of humor.

“We’re all learning, we’re all going to make mistakes, and that’s okay,” says queen, whose own research focuses on the contributions of marginalized communities. “Society is evolving, and people want change really badly, so everything that comes out of your mouth in the classroom is going to be scrutinized. I’m here to say ‘I feel you. Now let’s turn it around and see how that might be perceived.’”

A woman with long dark hair wearing a white blouse sits in an office chair talking to a man wearing black t-shirt and yellow pants
DEI Instructional support consultant queen chats with Professor Steve Tadelis in his office. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

Haas Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista dreamed up the new role in response to growing demand from students for more diversity in course content and on the faculty. In addition to the work Haas is doing to hire more diverse faculty members and an effort led by the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership to compile a library of business cases featuring diverse protagonists, Bautista wanted to find a way to directly support current faculty. Dean Ann Harrison greenlighted the pilot position.

“When I looked around for consultants and talked to my counterparts at other business schools and universities, no one was doing this—so we didn’t really have a model,” Bautista says. As a clinical psychologist, she designed the role so that all services would be confidential and voluntary.

“Anytime you force people to do something, there’s an inherent resistance and that decreases the efficacy,” she said. “Some people think that when you make something voluntary, you end up preaching to the choir. But even the choir needs tuning: People who are bought into these ideas still need skills to carry them out, and they’ll end up bringing others along.”

Sensitive content

That’s what has happened. Associate Professor Juliana Schroeder—who championed the new role along with associate deans Jennifer Chatman and Don Moore and served on the hiring committee—offered to be a guinea pig for queen to observe her leadership class.

Schroeder is a social psychologist who has thought carefully about diversity and psychological safety in her teaching and materials. Still, on the day of the observation, when she was referencing the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion to shed light on decision-making pitfalls for a case study about car racing, a student had a “PTSD-like” incident in her classroom.

“He was an Army veteran, and this was directly relevant to his experience,” Schroeder says. “I was so glad queen was there that day, and I was blown away by how great her feedback was. It really illustrated what a benefit it was to have someone well-trained in these topics right there in my classroom.”

After the session, queen gave Schroeder a detailed report with suggestions on adjusting her script and offering both a written and verbal alert for sensitive topics. It also included a list of things she was doing well, and some practices to add—such as repeating back answers that were lower in volume, acknowledging students who were waiting to speak, and using contrasting colors on slides—as well as including photos in her slides that would show diversity beyond race and gender.

Word of mouth

Schroeder thought it was so helpful she asked to share it with other faculty members, and soon queen had a full calendar.

“Every single person I’ve worked with has been so receptive,” queen says. “I’ve spent a lot of time at business schools, and it’s been jaw-dropping how much Haas has embraced this.”

Associate Professor Mathijs De Vaan invited her to sit in on a session focused on DEIJB in his MBA course Leading People. De Vaan, who grew up in The Netherlands, is mindful that his class includes international students who may be new to American culture, as well as students with backgrounds that have been marginalized in the U.S.

“It’s a challenge. There’s always a group of students who are very knowledgeable and very vocal, and others who know these are sensitive subjects and are afraid to speak at all,” says De Vaan. “I wanted students to be on the same page in understanding the scope of the problem that racism and discrimination represent in the U.S., so I gave them a number of examples of where companies fell short.”

That’s important, queen told him, but it can also be stressful for some students. “For minority students in the room, it might reinforce the idea that their group is marginalized,” he says. To address this, in the next iteration of the class he focused less on examples of problematic situations, and more on possible solutions to societal challenges.

Phasing out the ‘cold call’

A man sits in an office chair talking with a woman who has her back to the camera and is typing on a computer.
Professor Steve Tadelis chats with queen about summer plans. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

As an instructor in the Israeli Air Force almost 40 years ago, Professor Steve Tadelis says he learned how to teach through feedback from required classroom observations. But the DEI workshops he had taken hadn’t helped him with the specific challenges he faces as an instructor. “I was very open to this,” he says.

After working with queen, Tadelis stood up at the fall faculty meeting to give her an enthusiastic endorsement and encourage others to seek her out. He says he appreciated that she gave him straightforward ways to improve his teaching, including rethinking how he was calling on students.

“I do relatively little of the classic business school ‘cold calling,’ because of the artificial aspect of it. It’s rare in the workplace that a senior leader would suddenly turn to someone and say, ‘What do you think we should do about this?’ They would want more preparation,” Tadelis says.

But after consulting with queen, he realized he could give people even more choice in how they participate without lowering his requirements. “My goal is to give each student a set of tools that they can use as decisionmaker, but I’m not there to change their personalities,” he says.

Debate and experimentation

Tadelis, an economist, still worries about how to create a safe classroom space without shutting down honest debate, and how to let people have moments of discomfort in a respectful way.

“How do we create language that is precise, knowing that some words are clearly off limits but not everyone is going to love every word?”, he says. “There are so many historical wrongs that need to be acknowledged and addressed. But it would be nice if there was less combativeness and more debate, exploration, and experimentation.”

That’s one of the reasons queen’s approach has been so effective. She believes that instructors need to pay attention to students’ needs as individuals beyond their grades, and that many practices need updating. At the same time, she believes in collaboration—and good intentions.

“How we define and integrate DEI is constantly changing, which means that no one—myself included—has all the answers,” queen says. “We just all have to keep giving each other feedback and grace, looking at what we can do better next time.”

Finance exec Elena Gomez, BS 91, named new chair of Haas School Board

Elena Gomez, BS 91, a finance executive with more than 30 years of experience in leading global organizations, has been named the new chair of the Haas School Board. She is the first woman to serve in the role.

woman in front of a window
Elena Gomez is new chair of the Haas School Board

Gomez, chief financial officer at restaurant technology firm Toast, succeeds Jack Russi, BS 82, a national managing partner of corporate development at Deloitte. Russi, who recently retired after a 40-year career at Deloitte, served as Haas School Board chair for nine years. 

“We are so thankful to Jack for his boundless wisdom and strategic guidance during his tenure,” said Dean Ann Harrison. “We know that Elena will continue Jack’s legacy of leadership excellence and we look forward to working with her to achieve so many of our future goals.”  

The Haas School Board, which meets three times a year, advises the dean and supports the school’s strategic direction. Gomez began her three-year term July 1.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to chair the board, and work alongside Ann and her amazing leadership team to continue to help Haas thrive,” Gomez said. 

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to chair the board, and work alongside Ann and her amazing leadership team to continue to help Haas thrive.” – Elena Gomez  

At Toast, Gomez directs finance and strategy, corporate development, accounting, treasury, and business operations. Prior to Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she helped scale the company to over $1 billion in annual revenue. Gomez arrived at Zendesk after serving for six years as senior vice president of finance and strategy at Salesforce. 

A strong advocate for more women and diverse leaders in business, Gomez served on the founding advisory council for the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership at Haas. As a Haas Board member since 2019, Gomez, a first-generation college student, has worked with Harrison on strategies to promote inclusion and recruit and retain diverse students.

 In a recent Haas podcast, Gomez, the daughter of El Salvadoran immigrants, discussed the importance of being a role model throughout her career. She said she wanted others to see that “not only am I Latina and  female, but I want to excel in my role, to show the next generation what is possible. 

Gomez is a member of the board of directors at Smartsheet and PagerDuty, and is on the board of The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. She was also named to the San Francisco Business Times’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.” 

 

Matt Solowan, MBA 23, on questioning the status quo and finding a fit at Bain consulting

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.

person sitting in commencement attire on Berkeley Haas sign
Matt Solowan, MBA 23, worked in marketing at L’Oréal before coming to Haas. They’re heading to Bain & Company in New York after graduation.

Matt Solowan, MBA 23, embodies the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principle Question the Status Quo in both work and life.  In this Haas Voices column, Solowan discusses their commitment to workplace inclusivity, their work as a marketer at L’Oréal, and a love of all kinds of dance. Solowan will join Bain & Company in New York after graduating this month.

“Dance has always been a passion of mine. Growing up on Long Island, I did tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and hip hop lessons from a very young age. In high school, I was on the kickline team and we performed at football and basketball games and competed in local and national competitions. Dance was my entire life. But when I got to USC as an undergrad, I realized that it wasn’t something I wanted to do professionally, so I took it as a minor and then picked up economics, along with Italian, as a major.

As a junior at USC, looking for a summer internship, I remember this one interview I had with a bank. At that time, I presented quite femininely. I had longer hair and wore makeup. I sat down and saw this smug guy looking over my resume. I had a 4.0 as an economics major and he spent the entire time grilling me about my dance minor, correcting me that dance was my “hobby” when I called it a “passion.” That was all he could see. He didn’t care that I had a 4.0 in economics. I could tell he’d written me off the minute that I walked into the room.

I had a 4.0 as an economics major and he spent the entire time grilling me about my dance minor, correcting me that dance was my “hobby” when I called it a “passion.”

I left that interview feeling so dejected and made a point that this was the type of person that I would prove wrong in my career. Luck would have it that within the next week or two, I went to an event that L’Oréal was hosting on my campus.

At that time, I didn’t even know that you could market beauty products as a career. But when I met with the L’Oréal recruiter it was a total 180 from what I had experienced at the bank interview. Without looking back, I accepted an internship, which turned into a career working on the marketing teams across a handful of L’Oréal-owned brands, including IT Cosmetics, Maybelline, and Garnier.

Making a mark at L’Oreal

Here, I learned that having as many diverse voices as possible on work teams is so critical as it impacts everything from the makeup shades a company markets to how the company hires for its advertising campaigns. There is a pervasive culture in large beauty organizations, where beauty is viewed through the eyes of the white male gaze—white, European features, thinner, and younger women. But you have junior talent who are ready to break away from that and the old-school view of beauty.

Two models posing in an advertisement
Solowan (left) modeled in campaigns while working for L’Oreal brands.

On one brand launch I worked on I was given was a rainbow-handled makeup brush for Pride Month. I immediately flagged the launch as “rainbow-washing,” —which is when businesses use rainbow colors to suggest support for the LGBTQ community without making any tangible effort to positively impact the lives of LGBTQ people. I reached out to L’Oréal’s employee resource group for LGBTQ employees, who put me in touch with a local charity and I worked with them on a plan to have some of the sales from the brush tie back to a center for LGBTQ youth.

I was devastated when my plan was rejected by a company manager due to budget cuts. But then one of our key retailers put the brush on their website earlier than anticipated and immediate backlash from consumers started flooding in. I could have had a “told you so” moment.

Instead, I reached back out to that charity, and got things back in motion and we officially launched the brush tied to this charity. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, which I experienced first-hand modeling for some of the brand campaigns. These multimillion, sometimes billion-dollar brands, often have employees shoot videos and images to post on social media. I was featured in quite a few of their marketing materials that went up on our Instagram. As a model, I would get very nasty hate comments from some of our consumers. That was very hard for me to reckon with. I was an employee of this brand putting my face forward and some of the consumers of this brand had a negative reaction to seeing me. 

 Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, which I experienced first-hand modeling for some of the brand campaigns.

But looking back, it is something I’m very proud of. I helped push a brand forward. My motto has always been, if I can have one person look at that image, and see themselves represented and feel like there is a space for them, that means much more to me than a hundred negative comments from people who really do not matter to me. It’s a trade off I’m willing to make. 

Why an MBA?

At L’Oréal, I met a few people I admired for the way they spoke and presented, and the way that they tackled problems. I found out that a lot of them had MBAs and had previously worked in management consulting. It was a formula that I thought might be a good path for me.

large group of people standing in front of a curtain
Solowan (back row, middle) with Q@Haas friends at the 2022 ROMBA Conference in Washington D.C. Solowan served as VP of Careers & Alumni for Q@Haas last year.

When I came into Haas I was determined to land an internship in consulting. One of the most helpful resources to me at Haas was the second year peer advisors who had just gone through the recruiting process. They were the ones who looked at my resume, reviewed my cover letters, and were practicing cases with me during the fall and into winter break. We have a very strong pay-it-forward culture at Haas. I ended up becoming a peer advisor myself, working with both the second-years in my class who were recruiting for full-time roles in consulting and the first-years recruiting for internships. I think that was one of the most rewarding things I did at Haas.

We have a very strong pay-it-forward culture at Haas.

Heading to Bain

I chose Bain over other firms I received offers from because, even though it has a generalist model and I am hoping to specialize in retail and consumer early on, I loved all of the people that I met at Bain during the recruiting process. They were in many ways similar to the people I know at Haas: very down to earth, very kind, very warm, very supportive. I knew that consulting would be a tough job. I knew the hours would be long. It’s a rigorous role to go into post MBA. I wanted to make sure that I was surrounded by a good support system and I felt like I had met people there who would be cheerleaders for me. That carried a lot of weight.”

Afraz Khan, MBA 23, blends business strategy and social activism

Afraz Khan, MBA 23, has led a life driven by faith, community engagement, and social activism. Prior to business school, Khan served as an outreach coordinator for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program and wed interracial and interfaith couples within the Muslim-American community as owner of Muslim Wedding Service. In this interview, Khan, an LA native, discusses his journey to memorize the Quran, his activism and social enterprise work, and why he decided to study business.

What brought you to Haas?

I joined Muslim Wedding Service in 2017 as an officiant. Our focus is providing qualified officiants who work alongside interracial and interfaith couples to craft culturally inclusive wedding experiences for all those in attendance. In 2018, I took over the enterprise and have built it out to a team of about 25 officiants. We conducted 120 weddings last year across the U.S. and, given our business is a social enterprise, we successfully donated $50,000 to nonprofits and social services over the past three years.  My thinking was, “Let me come to business school to get a better sense of how business strategy and revenue models are used to build sustainable funding streams.” The hope is to incorporate that type of approach into social enterprise work, where we can sustainably fund the types of initiatives that would help tackle some of our current social issues.

My thinking was, “Let me come to business school to get a better sense of how business strategy and revenue models are used to build sustainable funding streams.”

Tell us about your family background.

My parents immigrated from North India in the 1980s to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised with an older sister. Growing up, we were pretty attached to the local Muslim community, which was primarily immigrant and South Asian. My parents prioritized faith and building connections with immigrants from that same background.

Afraz Khan weds couples with interfaith backgrounds as owner of Muslim Wedding Service.

How did you connect to America and LA from that space?

Until Kobe and the Lakers, my family had little attachment to American culture. However, we really started getting into basketball in the early 2000s when the Lakers were winning championships. I have a lot of memories of watching games with my family and listening to them on the radio. It helped me feel more connected to the broader American culture claiming the Lakers as a piece of our own. Also pivotal was 9/11, when I was in second grade. After 9/11, there was a push for us to demonstrate more of our patriotism. It was understood that you had to have an American flag in front of your house. I remember people in our community not sending their kids to high school because there were instances of racial targeting and Islamophobia.

How did 9/11 change your life?

One moment comes back from eighth grade. I was sitting in class and the clock struck noon and the teacher was in the middle of his lecture. My watch started beeping and this student yelled from across the room, “Watch out! He’s [Afraz] got a bomb.” Most of the kids were laughing. The teacher didn’t really say much, and I was frozen, not knowing how to react. But there wasn’t much addressing of the comment or an acknowledgement that it wasn’t appropriate. In high school, I was one of maybe five or six Muslims in a school of over a thousand kids. It was hard to understand how I, as a Muslim American, was supposed to integrate into this larger society. Islam felt foreign to the American experience, and there was not really a place for my faith identity to exist. This othering continues to persist.

It was hard to understand how I, as a Muslim American, was supposed to integrate into this larger society. Islam felt foreign to the American experience, and there was not really a place for my faith identity to exist.

You began memorizing the Quran in fifth grade and have continued religious work as a teacher and advisor. What drove that commitment?

A big part was this general desire to build a closeness with my faith and take ownership over my relationship with the divine. I spent eight years memorizing the Quran, which also included taking a gap year before college. As an undergraduate student at NYU, I found for the first time a large community of native Muslim Americans also trying to understand their journey with faith. I started delivering sermons and facilitating classes at our Islamic center on campus and unexpectedly fell into a role in providing the community with something I hadn’t had while growing up: a person who possessed the lived experience of growing up Muslim in America and could draw upon deeper sources of knowledge of the faith in demonstrating how Islam can actually serve as a source of empowerment. 

I found for the first time a large community of native Muslim Americans also trying to understand their journey with faith. 

Where did you work after your undergrad program?

I spent a year in New York City government conducting community affairs work, and then the next three years at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, focusing on advocacy and outreach. I was doing some organizing work around changing the disorderly conduct statutes in the South. These were policies designed to provide law enforcement broad discretion in criminalizing students of color for typical youth behavior—like when a kid purposely burps in class or doesn’t sit in an assigned seat. Law enforcement was charging these kids with disorderly conduct. We were working to help dismantle that policy, starting a lawsuit and organizing. But we had to shift our priorities at a certain point based on the desires of our funders to focus on a different issue within criminal justice. It’s tough when you know the on-the-ground realities, but the folks providing the funding have a different view. So, there was that lack of agency plus the reactionary way in which a lot of nonprofits understandably need to behave that pushed me to think more about business as a potential force for good. 

What relationship does your faith have with your activism work?

In 2016, our country bore witness to the continued murder of unarmed Black bodies at the hands of the police as well as a spike in xenophobic and anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks. In organizing several university-wide rallies alongside various allied minority groups, I started to learn how the same white supremacist institutions that govern this country uniformly and uniquely impact different marginalized communities. In learning from organizers and advocates who have dedicated their lives to social change, I sought to utilize my own lived experience of being Muslim in America to focus on dismantling broader systems of oppression. As activist Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

What’s a principle of your faith you seek to incorporate in your day-to-day work?

In 4:135, the Creator commands me “to uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly—if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.”

This verse pushes me to reflect on justice as a universal principle that exists outside of ourselves. A commitment to justice actually starts with a willingness to interrogate our own unjust behavior. This requires a strong development of humility and self-awareness which I believe is key to any movement work. 

How have you continued your activism work at Haas?

I’m focused on leveraging the clout and influence of Haas to bring light to issues that otherwise aren’t discussed within elite institutions and circles. Through Haas Hearts, a student-led non-profit consulting program, I got to work with and now currently serve on the board of Urban Compassion Project, an Oakland-based grassroots organization dedicated to empowering unhoused populations. Over the past few months, we’ve organized volunteer events for Haasies to attend as well as hosted an on-campus discussion on the current housing crisis in the Bay Area and what our role as MBA students is in supporting those fighting for change. 

Additionally, I’m working to expand Haas’ engagement with the broader UC’s union organizing efforts. Currently, a few of us student workers here at Haas are phone banking, tabling, and canvassing to build people power within our program to support the 48,000 UC student employees across the state who are fighting for a more fair and equitable contract. 

Afraz Khan began rapping his student government speeches in grade school.

You recently performed a rap at Haas that highlighted the disconnect between how history is taught in the U.S. and the realities that shaped your heritage under British colonial rule. When did you start rapping?

 In third grade I wanted to run for student government vice president. I wrote a first draft of my speech and my teacher told me that the presentation was boring and that I should rewrite it. My sister suggested rapping the speech and came up with a very simple rhyme and I was like, “What the heck?” and performed it. I was so nervous that I didn’t look away from my paper. I ended up winning. I ran for VP twice more and for president and just kept rapping all my speeches throughout middle and high school. At the end of high school, I started getting more into spoken word and slam poetry, using rap not just as a tool to have a fun experience but to also share more about my own narrative and experience.

For those who are curious, here’s my original rap:

Vote for me for VP/ — I’ll be the best, you can put me to the test/ — Yyou won’t regret and that’s a bet, it’s a promise that will be kept/ — Iif I win, I’ll put a spin to the school year that’s bright and clear/ – Sso don’t forget and put a check, next to the best… Afraz!

Watch Afraz Khan performing “Colonization of the Mind” last month at UC Berkeley’s Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL)’s annual EGALapalooza event.

 

Dean’s Speaker Series: Reddit COO Jen Wong on her leadership journey

Growing up as a shy introvert, Reddit COO Jen Wong said she never saw herself as a leader.

“I think I assumed a leader was a person who told other people what to do,” Wong said.

It was her fascination with companies and the people who lead them, as well as a drive to solve new problems, that led her to pursue a career that has included leadership positions at Time, Inc.; PopSugar; AOL, and now Reddit.

“I’m a puzzler at heart, and when my mind starts searching for a new problem to solve, and there’s something I can learn, that propels me forward,” Wong said. “I always want to move into something that has a clear lane for me to have an impact.”

Wong, who topped Reddit’s Queer 50 list this year, shared her leadership journey with MBA students and the Haas community at a Dean’s Speaker Series talk on Sept. 21. The talk was co-sponsored by Q@Haas as part of Coming Out Week, September 18-22.

As Reddit’s Chief Operation Officer, Wong oversees business strategy and related teams.  Only four years into her tenure as COO, she has helped lead the growth of Reddit into a profitable business by scaling ad revenue to well over $100 million.  Her leadership goes beyond growing the business; she is also passionate about Reddit’s company goal that’s just as important as revenue: diversity and inclusion. In addition, Jen is viewed as an expert in the digital landscape.

Watch the full talk:


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What’s your personal brand? New class helps students craft one

A man and woman bump fists to show solidarity.
Berkeley Haas Lecturer Kellie McElhaney co-teaches the class with Graduate Student Instructor André Chapman, Jr. Photo: Jim Block

“Classified” is an occasional series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas.

On a recent Monday evening Berkeley Haas Lecturer Kellie McElhaney opened her class with a challenge, asking her students how others have defined them. “Too bossy” and “too sensitive” were among the responses that McElhaney quickly urged them to dismiss or proudly own as they began a journey of how to describe themselves.

“What do you want your brand to be?” she asked the class of 48 students, most of them Cal athletes—a group that’s at the heart of her new class, Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand. It’s designed to teach primarily Cal student athletes and undergraduates how to create personal brands. 

This class comes after California and eight other states passed laws in 2019 that allowed college athletes to benefit from their names, images, or likenesses (NIL). In July 2021, the NCAA followed suit and adopted its own NIL policy for all college athletes. Similar to professional athletes, college athletes can now engage in sponsorships and receive cash payments and gifts. However, the policy continues to preclude students from entering pay-for-play contracts with colleges and universities.

“The NIL policy is in its infancy right now and many college athletes haven’t fully grasped the policy in its entirety,” said McElhaney, who’s also the founding executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership. “My hope is that I can give students the tools to discover who they are and what they stand for, regardless of whether or not they enter contracts.”

Focused on core values

The Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand class has drawn the interest of many athletes, including Cal football players, swimmers, and gymnasts, five of whom are Haas students. Non-Haas students are also enrolled in the course.

college students sitting at desks in Chou Hall classroom
The Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand class has drawn the interest of many athletes, including football players, swimmers, gymnasts, and non-Haas students. Photo: Jim Block

“This class has really re-energized me,” McElhaney said. “It’s bringing my three passions together: Equity Fluent Leadership, Cal athletics, and the love for my dad, my role model.” (McElhaney’s father, Harold “Hal” McElhaney, played football for the Philadelphia Eagles, coached at Duke, and went on to become the athletic director for Allegheny College and Ohio University.)

Black undergraduate student wearing blue hoodie smiles.
Cal women’s basketball player Jazlen Green, BA 22, a brand ambassador for Stoko, is working to better define “the best version of herself” in the class. Photo: Jim Block

In addition to crafting their personal brands, students explore their core values based on their social identities, learn about the power of allyship, and discover their own brand of leadership. Throughout the semester, students have been tasked with giving presentations about leaders whom they admire, finding songs to represent the soundtrack of their lives, and designing social media accounts that reflect their brands. 

Cal women’s basketball player Jazlen Green, BA 22, (sociology) has already benefited from the NIL policy, serving as a brand ambassador for compression legging company Stoko. In exchange for using Green’s name and image, Stoko gives the Cal basketball player free products. But her primary motivation for taking McElhaney’s class was to be the best version of herself.

The personal brand hero assignment, which required students to write about a leader who reflects their brand, has been the most impactful exercise, she said. 

“I had a hard time narrowing my decision to one person, which highlighted the fact that I’m multifaceted,” Green said. “I am an athlete, a student, a Black female, and a creator.” 

Cal baseball player Garret Nielsen, BS 22, said he took the class to learn more about himself and to become more empathetic. 

Male undergraduate student with cap turned backwards. He's smiling.
Cal baseball player Garret Nielsen, BS 22, enrolled in the class to become a more well-rounded and empathetic person. Photo: Jim Block

“This class asks the hard questions,” Nielsen said. “The most important lesson that this class has taught me is you have to establish a foundation of who you are before success comes.” 

Conversely, Nielsen said he’s not interested in benefiting from the NIL policy. He’d rather use his status and expertise to help children become great baseball players.

“I would have been ecstatic if a college player had helped me with my game when I was a kid,” Nielsen said. “I now have the opportunity to do just that. I think that’s the true gift of being a Cal athlete.”

Looking ahead

Over time, McElhaney hopes to expand the class to include topics such as how to read contracts, money management, and investing. She wants to bring in lawyers and more professional athletes as guest speakers. Earlier in the semester, she invited former NFL player Lorenzo Alexander to talk about the value of having a board of directors. She’s also tapped the wisdom of her graduate student instructor André Chapman, Jr., a former UCLA 400-meter hurdler who was bound for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

“At its heart, this is a leadership class,” McElhaney said. “Whether or not students, specifically my student athletes, enter sponsorships, this course sets them up for life.”

Viva la mujer: A Women’s History Month message from Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista

This month, as we celebrate Women’s History Month and prepare to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we are called on to imagine a world where women across all intersectional identities have equal access to opportunities, income, safety, political representation, and choices.

Viva la Mujer image by Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes
“Viva La Mujer” graphic image credit: Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes

Throughout our history, despite seemingly insurmountable barriers, women across the globe have strived and sacrificed to be seen for our capabilities, and fairly valued for our contributions. Women of all intersectional identities have organized and been a part of many movements to gain equal rights, and to advocate for reforms that impact everyone, including safe working conditions and labor practices, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, obtaining and protecting voting access, and other civil rights. However, women—here in the U.S. and around the world—continue to face epidemics of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment.

Yesterday, President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration Act, a landmark piece of legislation spurred by the #MeToo movement, ending the use of hidden language in contracts that prevented employees from suing in the case of sexual assault or harassment. It is a victory, with so many more battles ahead.

March 24 is All Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into the new year women must work to be paid what men were paid the previous year. On average, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar men are paid. Disaggregating the data shows a deeper disparity.

Asian American women are paid 85 cents for every dollar white men earn, making March 9 their Equal Pay Day. For Black women, Equal Pay Day doesn’t come until August; for Native American women, it’s September. For Latinas, the date comes near the end of October, with their average pay being 57 cents for every dollar paid to white men. The disparities do not stop there.

Women with disabilities make 72 cents for every dollar paid to men with disabilities; but as a whole, people with disabilities make only 68 cents for each dollar earned by able bodied people. Mothers earn 75 cents for every dollar fathers make.  There is not precise national data on equal pay for lesbian, bisexual, queer, or trans women, indicating our need to advocate to include all of our sisters in the data.

Important research insights uncovered by our faculty point to real-world solutions to pay inequity. In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Professor Laura Kray and post-doc scholar Margaret Lee highlighted their findings that women are given smaller teams to manage on average than men, which contributes to the pay gap; Kray is working with Dean Harrison to dig into why the pay gap between men and women MBA graduates increases over time. Assistant Professor Solène Delecourt is studying inequities in business performance; three of her recent studies have pinpointed the factors that cause women-owned businesses to underperform men’s around the world, and how that can be fixed. Former Dean Laura Tyson was the co-author of a key UN report on women’s economic empowerment. Kellie McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) and EGAL Assistant Director Genevieve Smith co-authored a teaching case focused on the importance of pay transparency in closing the gap.

We know the progress toward equity took a giant step backwards during the pandemic. By the end of January, men in the U.S. had regained all of the jobs they had lost since February 2020. But 1.1 million women who left the labor force during the same time had yet to return, pointing to long-standing structural inequities (with caregiving responsibilities topping the list) that make it harder for women to return to work. Recognizing that women in heterosexual dual-career couples, with or without children, still do most of the household/care work, EGAL developed 7 evidence-based ‘plays’ to support dual career couples. 

Burnout brought on by the pandemic has pushed many women to reevaluate and identify new approaches to career and personal life. That re-evaluation is the focus of this weekend’s “Re:set, Re:imagine, and Re:build,” the 26th annual Women in Leadership Conference at Haas. Conference organizers intentionally have integrated intersectional identities throughout the program. The conference will be held tomorrow, March 5, in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum. You may register here.

We have incredible representation of women in senior leadership roles at Berkeley Haas, including our Dean, our chief operating officer, our chief financial officer and several assistant deans and program directors. Yet we have more work to do to achieve balanced gender representation among our faculty and students. Our senior leaders are working to continue to foster a climate of belonging, and strategizing on outreach, recruitment, and yield to increase representation of women among our faculty and students.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and its theme #BreaktheBias, I treasure all of the accomplishments of women around the world and I am grateful to have benefitted from the progress achieved by those who came before me. I also realize that “la lucha sigue” (the struggle continues), as we say in my community. Women with multiple marginalized identities often have even longer, bumpier roads to travel.

We each have the responsibility to continue unlearning the gender bias we have absorbed throughout our lives and we must hold ourselves accountable at an individual level. We have the power to use our leadership to create structural changes at all levels. Collectively, working together, let’s #BreaktheBias.

Sí se Puede,

Élida

Resources for further learning:

Promoting an Equitable Learning Environment

Stop AAPI Hate

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

National Domestic Workers Alliance 

Male allyship at work

81cents Pay Equity Advisors

Equal Pay Day 2022

“Viva La Mujer” image credit: Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes

Dr. Élida Bautista: ‘Why Black History Month continues to be necessary to our collective learning’

A message to the Haas community from Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Élida Bautista on the significance of Black History Month.

Lexi Watson, 10, of Flint, Mich., smiles as she shouts out with joy with Amethyst, an elite dance company, while marching in one of two Juneteenth parades in June 2021 in downtown Flint. (Jake May | MLive.com) Jake May
Elida Bautista
Élida Bautista, Chief DEI Officer at Haas

Every February, the U.S. marks Black History Month to celebrate the unique contributions and achievements of African Americans and the Black community in the creation and building of the United States.

In 1926, the historian and scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson sought to encourage the teaching of Black history in public schools and became the driving force behind the first Negro History Week. It would be celebrated during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, the Black statesman, intellectual and formerly enslaved man who became a leader in the fight to end slavery. The timing was an intentional signal by Woodson to underscore both Black excellence and the role of allies. Following a grassroots movement that stretched across decades and college campuses, President Ford in 1976 provided federal recognition that Black History is American History. 

As I reflect on the legacy of this month, I think of the significant impact and imprint made by those who influenced my personal and academic journey, whether as mentors or as researchers, and whose theories continue to inform my work.

We also see the impact in the research coming from our Haas faculty. A new study co-authored by Associate Professor Amir Kermani identifies the deeply structural reasons why Blacks and Latinos profit less from homeownership than whites; two studies by Assistant Professor Drew Jacoby-Senghor and PhD student Derek Brown found that people inadvertently signal prejudice in the language they choose, and that members of the majority misperceive even “win-win” diversity policies as harming them. A study co-authored by Assistant Professor Conrad Miller showed that racial profiling in traffic stops not only causes harm, but makes police less effective. 

As I reflect on the legacy of this month, I think of the significant impact and imprint made by those who influenced my personal and academic journey

We all gain from those who boldly name their experiences of exclusion and marginalization. We owe much to those who propose pathways toward liberation and empowerment, recognizing our collective responsibility and mutual benefit as we progress toward equality. 

Right now, we are seeing why Black History Month continues to be necessary to our collective learning and understanding. From the challenges to voting rights to the calls to restrict schools from teaching about our nation’s racial past, we are constantly reminded of the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Contributions by leaders, inventors, and cultural icons across a variety of industries continue to be overlooked, omitted from our typical education and public discourse and, at times, vilified. On the first day of this Black History Month, at least 13 historically Black colleges and universities reported bomb threats.

From the challenges to voting rights to the calls to restrict schools from teaching about our nation’s racial past, we are constantly reminded of the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

As you make time to reflect on this heritage month, you will find that the Black community has not only shaped U.S. history and culture, but also global movements. Regardless of your personal identity, my hope for you is that you will find the points of connection in your own journey.

Throughout the month, we encourage you to engage in your own self-directed learning or take advantage of the offerings by Haas students and staff, the Cal Black Alumni Association, and campus to honor the month. The Black Staff Faculty Organization, in partnership with the Haas DEI team, will be co-sponsoring virtual tours of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum throughout the month, with a special lecture planned February 14 from museum curator Dr. Khalid el-Hakim on “The 5th Element of Hip Hop: Using Artifacts to Teach Black History.” Click here to register. 

For the Black community, this month creates an opportunity to feel seen and celebrated, and to come together in joy to restore health and wellness, the theme of Black History Month this year. In her message to campus, Dania Matos, UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion, underscored the value of the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center as a space for community building. One of the center’s offerings is The Well, “where Black folx come to heal,” along with other programming to serve you throughout the year. Here’s to Black History Month, and to Black Futures!

Haas Voices: ‘There’s no excuse but to be great’

Black man in a navy suit with orange tie.
Portrait: Jordan Bell, MBA 23.

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community.

In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with Jordan Bell, MBA 23, an Oakland native who’s determined to rise to the C-suite and open doors for younger generations of Black youth interested in finance careers.

Bell is the community engagement officer for the Haas Black Business Student Association; a “manbassador” for the Women in Leadership Club; and a fellow of the Robert Toigo Foundation and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. He’s also one of 11 Finance Fellows at Berkeley Haas. This summer, he will work at Amazon as a senior product manager.

Tell us about your family and upbringing?

I was born and raised in East Oakland, California, the second oldest of three sons. My parents are college-educated, working-class people. They strongly believed in the value of getting a quality education as the way to change the future. They scraped every extra dollar they had to send my brothers and me to private schools. I went to St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, and after graduation, I went to Morehouse, a historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta, Georgia. To this day, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere other than Morehouse.

What led you to go to a historically Black college (HBCU)?

I wanted to go to a college outside of California where I could grow and learn more about being a Black man. I also wanted to study in a place where I was not a minority. For many Black people in the U.S., there’s this extra thought process that we go through whenever we leave our homes and enter public places. Things like, “Do I belong?” “Am I doing enough?” “Do I fit in?” “Am I assimilating into a society that is not really built for me?” All of these questions are burdensome. Studying at Morehouse alleviated that stress because almost every other person around me was an African American man. There is literally no place in America where an African American of any sex can see so many Black professionals in one setting other than at an HBCU. 

Black male students line up to form the letter M
Bell attended Morehouse College, a historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta. Pictured left, second student from the bottom.

I chose Morehouse specifically because it has an amazing history and legacy of producing Black leaders. I think about the alumni who came before me—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, civil rights activist Julian Bond—and I think about all of the barriers they broke through to lay the groundwork for future generations of young Black men. They inspire me to be the greatest I can be. There’s no excuse but to be great.

What led you down a career in finance, and why did you choose Haas?

During sophomore year at Morehouse, I attended a speaker series featuring former CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein. He spoke about how going to college and choosing a career in finance changed the trajectory of his life. His speech convinced me to explore the world of corporate finance and capital markets.

After college, I landed a full-time job at J.P.Morgan as a capital markets research analyst. There, I learned the importance of networking and honed my technical, presentation, and client-facing skills that are transferable to any industry. Two years later, I moved west to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as a financial regulator. I worked my way through the ranks from a junior to a senior examiner. After seven years, I was at a crossroads: Should I keep going down the financial regulator path, or should I go to business school? I chose the latter. Haas was one of the best decisions I ever made. I appreciate how collaborative Haas is. While business schools can feel very competitive or cutthroat, there’s a different kind of competition at Haas. We bring out the best in each other. We rise together is how I see it.

While business schools can feel very competitive or cutthroat, there’s a different kind of competition at Haas. We bring out the best in each other. We rise together is how I see it.

 

Two older black women and one Black man. The women wear Berkeley shirts
Bell with his grandmother and mother.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means recognizing the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans. It allows us to tell our own narrative on our own terms. Black people were brought and enslaved here. We didn’t come here voluntarily like other cultural groups. And yet, we survived and are thriving. Our collective stories make me feel so proud to be a Black man. I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Black man. During the month, I celebrate by reading a story daily about a historical figure, or I talk to the elders in my family to soak up their wisdom, especially the Black women in my family. They’re the strongest people that I know and the structural glue of my family.

Our collective stories make me feel so proud to be a Black man. I wouldn’t want to be anything other than a Black man.

What are your goals, and what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

In the short term, I hope to become a senior product manager or fintech strategist. My long-term goal is to be in the C-suite. I want to be a chief executive officer for a technology or financial services company. I want little Black boys and girls to see that there are Black people performing at the highest levels in executive positions. I want to show them that it’s possible to occupy these spaces.

‘Driven by our own mission’: Blackbook University builds community and belonging

Blackbook’s co-founders and supporters attend a pre-launch presentation. From L-R: Maya Hammond, former BSU president; Farhiya Ali; Imran Sekalala; Ibrahim Baldé; Nahom Solomon; Hana Baba, NPR; Joy Dixon, Salesforce; Marco Lindsey, associate director of DEI at Haas; Nicholas Brathwaite; and Chase Ali-Watkins. Photo courtesy: Ibrahim Baldé.

As an undergraduate, Ibrahim Baldé, BS 20, said he faced many challenges on top of managing a rigorous course load. They included battling imposter syndrome, experiencing microaggressions from peers, and feeling pressured in class to be the spokesperson for his race as he was often the lone Black student.

After speaking with friends and classmates who also identified as Black, Baldé learned that they faced the same hurdles. A 2019 campus-climate report published by UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity, and Inclusion also confirmed Baldé’s experience, which found that many Black students experienced exclusionary behaviors from peers, including being stared at or singled out to represent their race.

Wanting to improve the Black student experience at Berkeley, Baldé co-founded Blackbook University, a website and mobile app that provides educational and professional resources to help Black undergraduate and graduate students navigate their journey at Berkeley. Blackbook’s other co-founders include Nicholas Brathwaite, Chase Ali-Watkins, both BA 20, Nahom Solomon, BA 21, Farhiya Ali and Imran Sekalala, both BA 23.

The app, which launched Nov. 18 and is a revival of a Black student handbook published in the 1980s and 1990s, includes a calendar with extracurricular and career-related events, a student-alumni-faculty directory, a live chat feed for users to interact, and a scholarship and internship database. The website features student profiles and an internship program for students interested in entrepreneurship and tech. 

Brathwaite manages product development, Ali and Sekalala handle data analysis and design, Solomon serves as the director of operations, Ali-Watkins is the chief marketing officer, and Baldé is CEO.

Student Profile – Adaeze Noble from Made By Chase on Vimeo.

The journey

The son of an imam, Baldé was instilled with a “beyond yourself” mindset at an early age. Growing up in Alameda, Calif., Baldé knew that he wanted to combine his three passions: social impact work, business, and tech. Once at Haas, Baldé took Haas Lecturer Alex Budak’s leadership class called Becoming a Changemaker

“That class allowed me to think about my mission and purpose and to understand that leadership isn’t a defined trait,” Baldé said. 

Following that class, Baldé began to lay the groundwork for Blackbook University. He teamed up with his co-founders and formed an advisory board of faculty and staff across campus, including Budak, Marco Lindsey, associate director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Haas; Miya Hayes, BA 92, associate director of Campus Partnerships & Engagement; and staff from the African American Student Development Office. 

Baldé surveyed about 150 Black Berkeley and Haas students to assess if he had a winning idea. The answer was a resounding yes. 

While Slack and GroupMe are useful networking tools, 90% of surveyors reported that it was important to have a tool that was designed for them.

“Students can’t take ownership of Slack and GroupMe, but they can take ownership of Blackbook,” Baldé said.  

A copy of the original UC Berkeley African American Student Handbook published in 1996.

Successes and challenges

Baldé and his team have had some successes. They participated in UC Berkeley’s Free Ventures pre-seed accelerator, allowing them to test and tweak their business model. They also were one of the Big Ideas Contest grand prize winners, earning $10,000 in prize money. 

But they’ve also had some setbacks, including finding the best developer who could deliver the app they envisioned. Another setback was validating their business model to potential investors. Currently, Blackbook is free to download. 

“We just tune out the noise,” Baldé says. “We’re driven by our own mission and that is to build community and to make our resources and networks available to Black student communities.”

Despite the hurdles, the team continues to press on. Their goal is to make customized versions of the app for Black student communities at colleges and universities nationwide. 

Faculty and staff advisors praise Baldé and his team for creating a sense of belonging on campus.

“I’m inspired by how Ibrahim can readily imagine a better future and then rally the people and resources needed to turn these ideas into reality,” said Budak. “We talked about how one of the greatest acts of changemaking is creating the opportunities for others that we wish we had for ourselves and Ibrahim is doing just that.”

Hayes agreed. “I’m in awe of their innovation–taking both the best and most challenging aspects of their time at Berkeley to create something that sustains and nourishes our sense of belonging,” she said. “They’re giants in their own right.”

Black MBA Association partners with Haas on EWMBA fellowships

The Berkeley Haas Evening & Weekend MBA Program will host a kickoff event Nov. 9 for a new fellowship program aimed at increasing access to business leadership and scholarships for historically underrepresented groups. 

The program, launched through a partnership between Haas and the SF/Bay Area chapter of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), includes networking and mentorship, as well as the opportunity to be selected for a $50,000 scholarship. The scholarship award is more than 50% higher than most scholarship awards to students in part-time MBA programs.

 Joe Handy, president of the National Black MBA Association
Joe Handy, president of the National Black MBA Association, will speak at the Nov. 9 kickoff.

The kickoff event, to be held in Chou Hall’s Spieker Forum from 6-8 p.m., will feature guest speakers Joe Handy, president of the National Black MBA Association; Myisha Robertson, president and CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Black MBA Association; and Élida Bautista, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Haas. A panel discussion with Berkeley Haas alumni and members of the SF Black MBA Association will follow.

Elida Bautista
Elida Bautista, chief DEI officer at Haas, will speak at the NBMBAA event.

“We’re so excited to be partnering with the local chapter of the NBMBAA,” said Jenny Clare, senior associate director of admissions for the Berkeley Haas EWMBA Program. “The Berkeley Haas Equity scholarship will help us to continue to increase the diversity of the applicant pool, and, as a result, increase the diversity of student enrollment in our program.”

As an SF Black MBA Fellow, students will:

  • Become a member of the SF Bay Area Chapter of the NBMBAA and be assigned a mentor who will provide counsel, connections, and guidance throughout their MBA study. 
  • Join a cohort and community of other fellowship recipients and their mentors in the inaugural class of SF Black MBA Fellows, which will begin in Fall 2022 and extend through their time in the Berkeley Haas EWMBA program and beyond.
  • Meet regularly with other SF Black MBA Fellows and mentors, network with the SF chapter and Haas leadership, and have exclusive opportunities to connect with Bay Area business leaders.
  • Be considered for one of the $50,000 Berkeley Haas Equity Scholarships, which will be awarded to SF Black MBA Fellows who exemplify commitment to increasing opportunities and access for underrepresented groups. The number of awards will depend on the applicant pool, and is estimated at two-to-four scholarships of $50,000 each, distributed over three years.

Funding for the new scholarships was provided by Jamie Breen, assistant dean of the school’s MBA Programs for Working Professionals. 

“We’ve been thinking about scholarship support to increase the diversity of our working-professional student population for a while, but it’s hard to get these things started,” she said. “I have the capability to do it, so this seemed like a great place to use my philanthropy.”

Jamie Breen
New scholarships will help increase applicant diversity, according to Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals.

Interested new applicants should apply for the fellowship at the time they apply to Berkeley Haas, well before the final deadline of May 2, 2022, as fellowships are awarded throughout the admissions cycle, Clare said. (The scholarships are not open to current EWMBA students)

Applicants commuting to campus from outside the Bay Area, or who join the Flex EWMBA cohort, are also welcome to apply to be a SF National Black Fellow. 

The fellowship application includes a 250-word essay about how an applicant demonstrated an ongoing commitment to increasing opportunity and access to people from racial/ethnic groups who are historically underrepresented in business (specifically Black/African-American, LatinX, and Native/Indigenous communities).

Berkeley Haas has long been an NBMBAA educational partner, and sought to further this relationship with the local chapter, where some Haas alumni are already active. 

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Black MBA Association is open to Haas MBA students as graduate-level members. Visit their website or contact [email protected] to learn more.

 

‘A place where people can see themselves’: Élida Bautista, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer

Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista.

When Élida Bautista arrived at Berkeley Haas as director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2018, she found a community “ready to do the work and not just pay lip service” to diversity.

Since then, she’s worked alongside that community, building the school’s first five-year DEI strategic plan and creating a culture shift toward one of greater belonging—or, as she puts it, “a place where people can see themselves.” This week, Bautista—who came to Haas after spending 15 years developing programs focused on social justice, diversity, and inclusion for  UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry—became the first woman and Chicana/Latina to be named chief DEI officer at Haas.

We spoke to her about her most pressing priorities, how the pandemic impacted her work, and the diversity-related initiatives she plans to work toward over the next five years.

What are you most proud of accomplishing during your interim DEI chief role at Haas in the past year?

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is getting input from the community to implement our DEI strategic plan. Last year, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team started off with listening sessions across Haas.

We wanted to learn what teams were accomplishing, how they were integrating DEI in their work and to give people a space to feel heard. Those listening tours helped us refine and implement a Haas-wide DEI strategic plan and positioned us as thought partners in helping teams carry out their own DEI initiatives.

As we launched, it was important to be transparent with our community. We publicly shared the plan on our website, and shared regular updates about progress on our deliverables on our website, something that had not happened before. That was meaningful to our community because it allows everyone to get involved and to see our progress as well as any delays.

Beyond the DEI plan, what broad initiatives are you working on that dive deeper into DEI?

We are looking to continue creating a DEI culture shift at Haas. But we’re not just thinking about diversity as scholarships and increasing admissions and representation. That’s an important part of it, but we must simultaneously build a place where people can see themselves. We’re thinking about how we get more diverse folks in the door, but also about their experiences once they’re here in the classroom or the workplace. 

We must…build a place where people can see themselves.

We are creating a sense of belonging through a variety of offerings, including co-curricular educational and professional development activities, as well as community social events. 

We also need to invest in pathways toward making our faculty more diverse. One way we’re doing this is by creating a postdoctoral fellowship through a gift from Allan Holt, MBA 76. Postdocs offer the opportunity to bring scholars into the faculty pipeline who might not otherwise pursue a faculty career at a university where there is a very high level of research activity. We also set aside part of the funds to integrate DEI into the curriculum. 

What are your most pressing goals in the new role? 

As a chief diversity officer who sits on the management team, my pressing goals are focused on partnering with our associate deans of academic affairs to increase diversity in faculty hiring, support retention and promotion efforts for our underrepresented faculty, and support DEI curricular offerings. At a strategic level, my goal is to support our dean and our senior managers in effectively addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging-related challenges, and collectively continuing to make progress on our strategic plan. Additionally, I will be involved in providing feedback to the chairs of the search committees about the diversity of our faculty candidates. Over time, our postdoctoral fellowship will be an additional source for increasing the diversity of the faculty pool.

How has COVID impacted your job during the pandemic?

COVID magnified a lot of existing disparities and social injustices—everything from who had to keep going to work in-person to who had access to health insurance to treat COVID if they got sick. We also saw a rise in visibility of violence targeting some communities. This increased the sense of vulnerability that needed to be integrated into our team’s offerings and approach. 

Initially during the pandemic, a lot of our work was about holding space for community members to reflect, as well as offering managers tips to understand how to support staff who might be having a different experience during this time. We asked: How do we extend empathy at a time when everybody is feeling overwhelmed and stretched? 

How does it feel to be back on campus?

Now that we’re back on campus, there’s a renewed sense of connection that we all need. Being back allows people to engage in a more authentic way with each other, which makes my work a little bit easier when we’re talking about learning across differences. Being online made these connections more challenging. For example, if everyone is off camera and one person is talking and nobody’s clapping or smiling or affirming, it’s unclear if your message has resonated with anyone.

What would be a major achievement for Haas in the next five years in DEI?

I think we’re well on our way, but a major achievement would be to make Haas the leader among business schools in reputation regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, based on our robust offerings, the skills our students gain while at Haas, and the type of leaders we produce.

Another major achievement would be to make meaningful gains in the representation of women among our students across degree programs and among our faculty, including more women of color, LGBTQIA+ women, women veterans, and women with disabilities.

Also, as UC Berkeley continues to advance toward becoming a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by 2027, a major achievement would be to  align Haas with the recommendations of the HSI task force and position ourselves to serve the needs of Latinx/Chicanx and underrepresented communities on campus.

Om Chitale, MBA 18, receives first Equity Fluent Leadership Award

Om Chitale, MBA 18, receives the Kellie A. McElhaney Equity Fluent Leadership award.


Om Chitale, MBA 18, has won the school’s first Kellie A. McElhaney Equity Fluent Leadership award for championing diversity and inclusion initiatives at Haas and beyond.

Chitale, the former director of diversity for Berkeley Haas’ Full-time MBA Admissions, received the award at the Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership’s “EGALapalooza” diversity celebration last Friday. 

The award, named for and funded by EGAL’s founding director Kellie McElhaney, recognizes members of the Haas community who have made significant contributions toward building an inclusive and equitable community at Haas and beyond.

“Om walks through life with a halo of light and love and acceptance and has left a profound impact on our community,” McElhaney said at the event, which brought together about 75 students, faculty, and staff, at Spieker Forum in Chou Hall. 

“Om walks through life with a halo of light and love and acceptance and has left a profound impact on our community.” — Kellie McElhaney

While a student at Haas, Chitale and classmate Liz Koenig, MBA 18, co-founded the student-led class called Dialogues on Race. He also led the charge to create EGAL’s first Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition. After graduation, he founded startup Teachers of Oakland, with the aim of sharing first-person stories from the city’s public school teachers to social media. He later joined the full-time MBA Admissions’ team as its first director of diversity.

McElhaney noted that Chitale was “a real thought partner” who encouraged cross-campus collaboration between students, faculty, and staff on DEI initiatives.

“It’s incredible to be part of this [Haas] community with people who are pushing the envelope, questioning the status quo, and taking action,” said Chitale, who recently left Haas to serve as LinkedIn’s senior program manager of Inclusion Recruiting Partnerships. “This work [DEI] has ripples of impact and so I encourage everyone to continue to take action,” he said.

Other notable EGALapalooza guest speakers and performers included Derek Brown, PhD 23; Ashley Rabinek, director of merchandising at Old Navy; Verse Gabrielle, associate director of full-time MBA Admissions; and singer and songwriter Dominique Gomez.

Haas Voices: ‘Fighting for healthcare equity in my community’

Portrait: Adilene Dominguez, EWMBA 24
Adilene Dominguez, EWMBA 24, is determined to make healthcare more equitable.

Haas Voices is a first-person series that highlights the lived experiences of members of the Berkeley Haas community. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we spoke with Adilene Dominguez, EWMBA 24, who’s determined to create a new business model that will provide equitable health care to everyone, regardless of economic status. She shares her story below.

Growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago, I lived in a world with many blessings. My parents weren’t millionaires, they were migrant workers who worked 80 hours a week. But the opportunities afforded to us–access to public schools, tutors, health insurance, the ability to find work–were privileges that many Latinos in my community, including my extended family members, did not have.

I began to notice inequities, specifically in healthcare, when I was about five years old. I often accompanied friends and family whenever they needed to see the doctor. They spoke little English, so I translated on their behalf. I noticed that they’d have to stand in line for hours at the local clinic to get medical treatment, whereas if I needed medical care, my parents would take me to a hospital because I had health insurance. It just didn’t seem fair to me that our friends and family couldn’t get the same quality health care as I did.

family portrait featuring a mom, dad, 2 girls and 1 boy.
Dominguez’s family portrait. Dominguez, (center), began translating for friends and family when she was five years old.

Observing those disparities early on, coupled with a natural aptitude for science and math, led me to Beloit College where I joined the pre-med program. As a pre-med student, I interned with doctors and volunteered at hospitals, but quickly realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I thought that I’d have a greater impact if I could find a way to bring equitable health care to my community.

After college, I landed at Becton Dickinson (BD), a medical device company, working as a research and development (R&D) technician. I moved up the ranks from a technician to a scientist and eventually transitioned from R&D to global marketing and strategy. 

I also lead the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement (HOLA) at BD. Through my work with HOLA, I help raise awareness within my industry about health disparities that impact the Latino community. When the pandemic hit, access to testing was limited, especially in Latino communities in California, Arizona, and Texas. I, along with marketers across eight HOLA chapters, decided to advocate for the distribution of Veritor, a rapid antigen test that can detect the COVID-19 virus, to health clinics servicing Latino communities. Through our efforts, we helped the Family Health Center of San Diego, which provides care to more than 215,000 patients a year, 91% of whom are considered low-income and 29% are uninsured. 

It’s been gratifying to help my Latino community as it’s been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But I need to do more. The pandemic magnified health disparities that have long existed in Black and Brown communities. Whenever there’s a hurricane, earthquake, or any natural disaster, health care seems to be the primary resource that’s out of reach for these communities.

The pandemic magnified health disparities that have long existed in Black and Brown communities.

That’s why I’m at Haas. I want to acquire the skills needed to disrupt the healthcare system in the U.S. I want to design a profitable business model that will provide equitable health care for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.

What does disruption look like? It’s putting the patient first and profit last. Currently, the way healthcare works in the U.S. is that whoever or whichever entity has the most influence or paying power gets access to the best medical supplies. Typically government contracts are fulfilled first. Thereafter, private institutions and public institutions get priority, and community health centers are served last.

But what if we flipped the funnel? If we help community clinics first, which serve people like farmers and hourly-wage workers–the people who are growing our food and working at grocery stores and other service industries–we can prevent the spread of any disease.

For too long, our approach to providing health care has come from the top down, when we really need to flip the funnel and think about the process much differently. We can’t keep doing business as usual when there are hundreds of people filling up the emergency room because they don’t have access to COVID-19 testing or vaccines.

Creating a new business model for the healthcare system is a lofty goal. But someone has to do it, so why not me? 

Creating a new business model for the healthcare system is a lofty goal. But someone has to do it, so why not me? 

I know that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s my responsibility to help my community. That philosophy has been ingrained in me since I was a little girl. My family, who migrated from Tonatico, Mexico, made enormous sacrifices so that my siblings and I could have a better life. So I must move forward and be a role model for younger generations. If I don’t help my community, who will?