Center for Women in Business gets to work on making change

Rutgers Business School's new center has goals of empowering women and fostering inclusion and diversity in business.

Rutgers Business School announces the launch of a Center for Women in Business that will combine the power of academic research and the resources of a committed alumni network to make an impact on gender equity in the business world.

With insightful and innovative thought leadership, the center will work to influence change on problems such as the gender wage gap while also providing opportunities to empower working women and to develop women business leaders.

“Study after study has demonstrated that women are not equally compensated or represented at any level of business,” said Lisa Kaplowitz, a professor of professional practice in finance and the center’s founding director. “We are really excited about the prospect of combining the talent of our alumni, faculty and students to remove barriers and empower women to lead in a continuously evolving workforce.”

Across Rutgers, there are nine entities that fall under the auspices of the Institute for Women’s Leadership and address a variety of women’s issues. Rutgers Business School is not currently part of the consortium.  “We looked at that as an opportunity,” Kaplowitz said.

The new center will build on the existing efforts and organizations at Rutgers Business School and Rutgers University to touch more women, both students and alumnae, in bigger and bolder ways through mentoring, workshops, scholarships and conferences.

“We are really excited about the prospect of combining the talent of our alumni, faculty and students to remove barriers and empower women to lead in a continuously evolving workforce.” - Lisa Kaplowitz, founding director of the Center for Women in Business.

Sangeeta Rao, an assistant dean of mentoring at Rutgers Business School who took charge of an undergraduate program called Women BUILD (Business Undergraduates in Leadership Development) five years ago, has seen the transformative power of the program to build skills and confidence in groups of young women who support and empower one another and are cultivated by a larger community of professional women.

“We hope to build on the program’s success and extend its reach beyond this small group of undergraduates,” said Rao, who worked closely with Kaplowitz to create the center. 

The underlying strength of the center is a thought leadership loop that encompasses alumni, corporations, faculty and students. Marketing professor Kristina Durante will lead the research initiatives in an effort to promote gender equity, influence business practices and foster women’s leadership and entrepreneurship.

“The research will really form the foundational part of the center,” Durante said. “We need the research to build the knowledge that will be the basis of conferences and workshops and will guide best practices in the workplace.”

Some of the research topics Durante plans to examine include how participation in youth sports influences women’s risk-taking and perseverance, how non-conscious biases lead to same gender favoritism in the workplace and the critical role of male mentors in women’s business success.  

The founders of the Center for Women in Business pose with Dean Lei Lei.
Professor Lisa Kaplowitz, founder of the Center for Women in Business, (left) with Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei (center) and Sangeeta Rao, assistant dean of mentoring and the center's co-founder.

The ambitious mission of the center has attracted strong support from Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei, faculty, and students as well as alumni and friends from across the region’s business community.

A 13-member advisory board, composed of alumni and other business professionals, will help guide the center’s efforts. One of the center’s first events will be a women’s conference in the spring, but part of its mission is also to host workshops, mentoring programs, networking sessions and professional development programs.

Adam Feigenbaum, an executive at iCIMS who sits on the advisory board, said he and other board members are excited about the potential of the center to make real change. “We’re interested and invested in helping the women from Rutgers Business School get better opportunities,” Feigenbaum said. “The idea of fundamentally changing the way employers are thinking about diversity and inclusion in their businesses through research is also very exciting.”

That is the goal of Kaplowitz and Durante.

“We are partnering together to use the experience in business to fuel research and professional development in order to create best practices in corporations,” Kaplowitz said. “At the same time, we are bringing all of this, including our alumni’s professional expertise, back to our students to create a broader and deeper pipeline of talent and a continuous feedback loop for all of us.”

-Susan Todd

Hear more about the ideas behind the creation of the center:

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