This winter, the Department of Theater will embark on its second round of an innovative playwriting initiative—commissioning and producing a world premiere play—thanks to Fox alumnus David Steele, BBA ’91. In 2016, Steele, the founder and CEO of One Wealth Advisors in San Francisco, established the Playwright Residency Program at Temple University’s Department of Theater.
A true everyman, Steele began his professional career with J. P. Morgan Securities, but soon branched out as an entrepreneur. Once he was confident and secure in his success, Steele pondered the expansive possibilities of his professional life.
Now he is the founder and manager of five businesses from restaurants to yoga studios in the San Francisco area. In addition to his primary business One Wealth Advisors, Steele is the co-creator Moxie Yoga & Fitness, founder and Managing Partner of Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, Managing Partner of Foxsister Hospitality Group and Managing Partner of Noise Pop Industries, an independent music promoter.
Steele is also a board member of Playground, a nonprofit playwright incubator in San Francisco and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a nonprofit service organization that empowers working artists and emerging arts organizations across all disciplines.
His longtime interest in the arts and the perceived lack of arts patronage on the West Coast led Steele back to Temple University. “We don’t have a patron artist culture or society as I wish we did. This [program] is really just a form of patronage,” says Steele.
When Temple approached him with the residency proposal, Steele, a visual artist and playwright himself, felt it was a perfect match for his ideals and investment. “They came up with a concept that was absolutely perfect with my ideas and my ideals,” says Steele. “I really didn’t have anything to add to it. And I equally believe in getting out of the way of artists.”
The past, present and future of the program
The Playwright Residency Program was developed by former Temple professor Edward Sobel, past Director of New Play Development at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. It is uniquely structured to support playwrights and their work. Playwrights are guaranteed a full production of the play following a short development process, allowing them to remain in close contact with the original generative impulse. They also have the opportunity to write for a known ensemble of actors and artists to create pieces suited to the strengths of the students at Temple University.
The first result of the program was the 2017 production of Reggie Hoops by Kristoffer Diaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Diaz created a full length drama about a former NBA assistant general manager faced with the decision between the profession she loves and the family life she cherishes. The world premiere production featured the six 2018 master of fine arts (MFA) acting students as well as original designs from MFA design students.
This academic year, a new class of students will have the opportunity to participate in the program with playwright Marisela Treviño Orta, a Mexican-American artist whose work has been produced at the Marin Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arizona Theatre Company, among others. The actors and designers will work directly with Treviño Orta and director, Professor Lindsay Goss, on Somewhere, a drama about a world on the verge of ecological collapse. The production will run from January 29 to February 9 in Randall Theater.
To purchase tickets to Somewhere, click here.
Manveer Singh, his cousin and their driver were riding through the streets of Nairobi, Kenya in January of 2019 when a bomb exploded. Within seconds, gunmen were firing indiscriminately at anyone on the street and the trio found themselves hiding in the back seat of their car as bullets pummeled the vehicle.
The three men survived. Now, months removed from the terrorist attack, Singh, BBA ’19, shrugs it off. The coffee business can be dangerous, the young entrepreneur says.
Singh graduated in May 2019 and runs two businesses: Maharajah Coffee and a network of Airbnb properties. He also works online as a stockbroker. Maharajah Coffee is his passion project and his vision for it began years earlier as he hiked along the border between the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais, a few hundred miles north of Rio de Janeiro.
Singh passed what he thought was a winery due to the bustle of men carrying large sacks heaved over their backs in the heat. But the farmer, a friendly, tall man in a big fedora named Ernesto, flagged him down. When he stopped, Singh took note of the strong coffee aroma.
The two men started chatting, face-to-face. Singh prefers face-to-face conversations. He lost 95% of his hearing about 10 years ago and often relies on reading lips to “listen” to what other people are saying. Singh toured the coffee farm and learned about the farmer’s process for growing and harvesting the beans. He already knew that, often, the farmer had to settle for less than a fair price.
They parted with a handshake and Singh began to dream of starting his own coffee business. “I want farmers to have a better life, I want to pay them fairly,” Singh says. “What happens if you do not pay them fairly? Some farmers have committed suicide, some have sold their land. If there are no coffee farms, there is no coffee. A life without coffee is nothing.”
Struggling to find his path
As a teenager, Singh began to lose his hearing. He adapted to his new normal and in 2012 he came to the Fox School.
“Fox’s international business program is really diverse—there are a lot of students from different countries,” Singh says. “Students from China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and India come here to study and we all get to learn from each other about different cultures.”
As enthusiastic as he was about Fox, Singh struggled to adjust. Trying to read the lecturers’ lips was not easy for him; he often felt confused and anxious. By 2013, he faced academic dismissal, so he decided to travel and find opportunities to volunteer. As a Sikh, he took up Seva, or service, and traveled to Turkey, Syria and Nepal. Following an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Singh volunteered to help clear the rubble and search for survivors. Singh said the travel and volunteer work helped “put my mind and soul back together.”
Hearing loss is not a disability; not listening is
In 2016, he returned to Fox and his lip-reading skills improved. Taking online classes worked well for him. His grades improved, but he still struggled at times. The key, Singh says, was that he never lost hope.
Singh attempted to find internships and other job opportunities, but he was turned down, occasionally because of his hearing loss. Singh learned to turn that rejection into a source of inspiration after realizing that the true disability was others’ inability to listen to him and see his value.
“I used to think my hearing disability was my obstacle until one day I realized that was not true,” Singh says. “It did not matter that I had 95% hearing loss, it is the people who cannot see what I can do that are the obstacle.”
He decided if he could not get hired, he would run his own business.
In 2017, he cashed in stocks and started two companies, one based on turning real estate into Airbnb locations and the other, partially inspired by that conversation with a Brazilian farmer, was Maharajah Coffee.
Singh’s model is simple: he finds quality coffee grown at organic farms and he pays farmers fair market value.
“I want farmers to harvest their seeds with happiness,” Singh says. “If a farmer harvests their seed with depression or sadness, the coffee will be bitter.”
Earlier this year, in January, he went to Kenya to visit his father’s family, and, of course, meet some farmers to try some coffee. He felt welcomed by the Maasai tribe and was intrigued by the strong coffee grown in the red soil of the Kenyan mountainsides.
On Jan. 15, 2019, while Singh and his cousin, a government official, were traveling through Nairobi, there was an explosion and several gunmen started firing on a crowd. After the gunfire died down, the men hid in the car for about an hour before they climbed out of the bullet-riddled vehicle and ran for home.
“The coffee business can be risky sometimes,” Singh says, noting that in many countries, the areas filled with coffee farms are also known hideouts for criminals and terrorists. But Singh was not deterred.
By February, Singh started selling coffee from Sumatra, Ethiopia, Brazil and Kenya. He sells one-pound bags of whole beans or coffee grounds online through Amazon and plans to open a shop in the U.K.
Courage and hope
“In the future I do hope to become a motivational speaker to inspire others and help them succeed,” Singh says. “When you are going through hell, there are three things to keep in mind: keep smiling, have hope and don’t let yourself down.”
Money is at the forefront of the way we think about business—how can you make your company, and in turn yourself, more profitable? A recent Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey reports that “92% of surveyed corporate human resources executives agree that contributing business skills and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to improve employees’ leadership and broader professional skill sets.”
We agree. That’s why the Fox School offers a well-rounded business education. In the classroom and the community, these three alumni gained tangible skills that empowered them to carry forward altruistic efforts that enhanced their personal and professional lives.
1. Empowering the next generation
MELANY BUSTILLOS, BBA ’16, believes that lifting up others is the key to helping the city of Philadelphia thrive. As the education officer for Prospanica, a nonprofit supporting the educational, economic and social success of Hispanic professionals, Bustillos encourages young adults to understand the value of education. She discovered her passion for mentoring students when volunteering in the Philadelphia public school system.
“A lot of kids feel like they can’t have big dreams or aspirations because their future is just set to what it is,” says Bustillos. Experiencing that response firsthand, Bustillos knew she needed to be a part of an organization that showed students the ways education could make their dreams a reality.
Bustillos works with local Philadelphia universities to foster relationships with students and transition them from campus life into career management through workshops on financial literacy, community service and personal branding. Bustillos serves on Prospanica’s board while working full time at Cigna as a risk and underwriting senior analyst. She also serves as a lead for Cigna’s Colleague Resource Group. She volunteers in a role that leverages cultural insights and connections to innovate approaches and solutions to increase engagement, performance and career mobility, while building enterprise capabilities to address the needs of diverse customers.
Bustillos continues to pursue opportunities in advocacy, and by investing in the next generation, she works to build the foundation for a smarter Philadelphia.
2. Studying the business of medicine
For NISHANTH SHAILENDRA, MBA ’18, finding a career in analytics was a driving force throughout his time in the Fox Global MBA program, but he didn’t know which industry to enter—until he discovered healthcare through networking with classmates. “I was very curious how the industry operates because what surprises me in the U.S. is the high cost of healthcare,” says Shailendra. Originally from Bangalore, India—a country with drastically different medical costs, quality of care and infrastructure than the U.S.—Shailendra wanted to better understand healthcare here and its unique set of challenges. In his role as business analytics administrator for Cooper University Healthcare, Shailendra uses data to improve affordability and accessibility for patients.
“We are trying our best to make sure that any patient that comes in does not need to come back. By reducing readmission and improving access, such as not waiting long to get an appointment when you’re sick, we’re working toward a healthier community,” says Shailendra.
As for his personal life, Shailendra plans on translating his experience at Cooper University Healthcare to improve aspects that the healthcare system lacks in his native country. “I believe that the quality of care in the U.S. is one of the best, but there are cons—like the high costs. My goal is to take the ‘pros’ back to India and apply my experience to improve the health and wellness of the community there.”
3. Encouraging nonprofit work for all
LINDA MCALEER, MBA ’74, is the president of The Meilor Group, a strategic marketing research and consulting firm in Center City. McAleer also serves on three nonprofit boards and advocates that her employees do the same. “Part of the mission of The Melior Group is to give back; it’s part of the culture. Each employee is active or involved in at least one mission-based organization,” says McAleer. She believes nonprofit work supports well-rounded professional growth and has an impressive track record to prove it.
McAleer came to her nonprofit role as chair of the Philadelphia-area National Multiple Sclerosis Society and board membership at both JEVS (formerly Jewish Employment and Vocational Service) and Career Wardrobe through understanding the needs of those around her. When her sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the mid-90s, accessing information and resources was difficult. She joined the National MS Society and was immediately tasked with fundraising. “I didn’t know how to raise money, but I said I’ll figure it out—like we do as Temple grads. We figure it out and solve problems,” says McAleer.
Most recently, McAleer supports Philadelphia’s new MS Navigator Program that helps those newly diagnosed (and those with needs) by providing information about insurance, home modifications, support to live independently and other services. She also promotes the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride, one of the most successful fundraising events in the country that allows participants to have fun, raise money and see the difference the MS Society is making.
Fox School of Business MIS professor examines how the introduction of dynamic security warnings could lead to safer online behavior, ultimately eliminating hackers.
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 13, 2020—Surf the net or play with your phone for any decent amount of time, and it’s inevitable that you’ve seen this familiar message before.
“Important update available. Install now.”
Yet, how often have you actually dropped what you’re doing to install the update? If you’re like the average technology user, you probably just ignore the message or ask to be reminded at a later date. However, a researcher at Temple University’s Fox School of Business says that could be a mistake.
“Our brains are wired to tune things out over time,” says Anthony Vance, an associate professor of management information systems in the Fox School. “The thing is, software updates fix security vulnerabilities that hackers know about and can take advantage of. As soon as Apple or Microsoft publishes these security updates, the whole world knows what needs fixing. Hackers start writing attacks to take advantage of these holes.”
Past research has outlined how it’s important to be proactive when it comes to updating software, but that’s easier said than done. Old habits die hard, and a person cannot be expected to immediately start paying close attention to software updates.
Vance’s new research could offer a solution. Recently published in MIS Quarterly, “Tuning Out Security Warnings: A Longitudinal Examination of Habituation through fMRI, Eye Tracking, and Field Experiments” investigates how changing the design of security warnings might help stop users from ignoring them. The research was presented last year in Santa Clara, Calif., during the Fifteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security.
As part of the research, Vance and his research colleagues altered the design of typical security warnings and then tracked user reactions to the new designs over the course of five days through fMRIs and eye-tracking. These were not your run-of-the-mill security warnings. One featured a yellow, triangle-shaped warning sign. Another had a jiggle animation with it. One even quickly zoomed in and out.
The new designs seemed to have a positive effect.
“Those treatments sustained attention across the whole week,” Vance says.
Vance and his colleagues further tested these new security warnings during a field experiment. More than 100 participants were recruited to evaluate apps on, unbeknownst to them, a fake Android store. Out of a list of ten apps, participants were asked to download and evaluate three of them over a three-week period.
The permission warnings and visual displays varied, depending on the app. For some apps, the warnings were in line with a typical generic security warning. Others were more elaborate, similar to what users saw during the first part of the experiment.
“The people who saw the variations in warning designs had more secure behavior over time,” Vance says. “These designs are more resistant to us just doing the natural thing where we tune them out. By the end of the three-week period, nearly 80% of the folks who saw the dynamic security messages were still adhering to safe behavior compared to just 55% of those who saw the static warnings.”
Does this mean that we can expect our next security warning to come in the form of a flashing, luminous red light? Not necessarily.
“In this research, we were careful to design warnings that do not annoy people, like a blinking warning. We wanted to show that we could reduce habituation without making people’s computing experience worse. We found that even our comparatively restrained designs made a big improvement and that this improvement held over time,” Vance says. “Together, these findings provide the most complete view yet of how people habituate to security warnings over time, and the significant impact this can have on the effectiveness of warnings, the last line of defense in cybersecurity.”
About the Fox School of Business
The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research.
The Fox School’s research institutes and centers and 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market.
The school’s knowledge-creating research faculty affords it the flexibility and responsiveness to address the needs of industry and generate courses and programs in emerging fields of study. As a leader in business research, the Fox School values interdisciplinary approaches and translational research that advance actionable insights to solve real-world problems. Our research informs an adaptive curriculum, supports innovation in teaching and prepares students for the changing nature of work.
In this new section of the Fox School alumni magazine Fox Focus, the editorial team interviews Fox employees about what extra knowledge, credentials and support they offer students and alumni. Here, our faculty and staff share the ways in which they do everything they can to empower our students and alumni to reach their full potential and achieve personal and professional fulfillment.
Born, raised and educated in Philadelphia, Kamina Richardson, assistant program director and pre-law advisor for the Department of Legal Studies, has a strong desire to give back to the local community. Richardson is certified in American Sign Language (ASL), Safe Zone and Narcan/Overdose Reversal. She is committed to and passionate about providing knowledge, resources and services to meet the needs of Fox undergraduate students and alumni.
Why did you pursue an ASL certification?
I grew up with a deaf brother, and I really came to understand his struggles. When I learned that Temple offered an ASL certification, I enrolled because I realized there is no ASL translator at Fox. I believe we need one in order to best support our efforts to be diverse and inclusive, and I would like to be an interpreter nationally and at Fox events. I started two years ago and completed the certification in May. I believe this will help our community because we have a large population of students with disabilities at the school.
What does your Safe Zone certification mean to you?
I’m a minority and I understand the stereotypes and assumptions that people have. The LGBTQIA community suffers from this too. I am willing to listen and understand the different kinds of things they go through, especially in college. I want to open my door for advising and to offer a safe space to talk so that people can vent about the frustrations of coming out or figuring out who they are when it comes to gender identity.
Safe Zone is a two-day training that involves looking at assumptions that we may have regarding LGBTQIA. The training highlighted the privileges of those outside of the community and how we can be more understanding to those inside it. Through the training, I learned that there are different ways to talk about gender identity that won’t discriminate against members of the LGBTQIA community. If people come to me with questions, I can speak to them about this and other topics.
What led you to pursue a Narcan/Overdose Reversal certification?
I’m from North Philadelphia, which is one of the places impacted by drug issues. Drug addiction is intense, and students are often open to drugs without realizing the consequences of their choices. Some may need liquid courage or a pick-me-up for school and they don’t realize some substances can be deadly. I got this certification because I want to be there in a moment’s notice if a student is having an overdose on campus or in the community. It’s necessary, especially with young minds who are trying to figure out who they are.
What are your personal goals for your work at the Fox School?
I understand what it is like to be a student and to feel lost. My goal is to be a resource for as much information and as many services as possible. I never want to be in a position where I don’t know something that would help a student. Next, I’m going to get certified in Spanish to better support the local Hispanic community.
Companies are feeling the pressure to use telework opportunities to satisfy employees. But how does working from home affect our productivity, creativity and stress levels?
“Flexible work arrangements are popular, but can often lead to higher stress,” warns Ryan Vogel, assistant professor in the Fox School’s Department of Human Resources Management. Vogel conducted a survey of over 500 U.S.-based employees of a multinational software corporation. He asked each employee to respond to a short questionnaire four times a day for three weeks, seeking to understand how their creativity, engagement and stress varies throughout the day and in different working environments.
There were no differences in either the employees’ investment in their work and degree of creativity when working from home, at the office or in a combination of the two settings. However, Vogel says, “We found significantly higher levels of stress and lower levels of positive emotion when employees worked at home.”
Why would employees feel more stress when working at home? “There could be several factors,” says Vogel. “But our research suggested the strongest factor was the fact that people are more psychologically attached to home when they are at home.” For example, many employees who are teleworking may find themselves distracted from their work to-do lists by their personal tasks. Imagine trying to work next to a giant pile of laundry—for some, that is hard to ignore.
Unsurprisingly, the same was true for those who brought their work with them, mentally or physically, after leaving the office. Employees who emphasized time in the evening to recover from work and engage with their families reported lower stress levels than those who did not.
“With flexible working environments, it’s important that employees can create mental distance between home and work,” says Vogel. “With the increased flexibility in how and where we work, we need to be conscious of creating some form of mental separation between the personal and the professional, so that employees can focus on each one when it’s appropriate.”
Vogel also advocates for an occasional change of scenery. “When employees switched work locations from one day to the next between their home or the office, we saw significant boosts in their level of engagement and lower levels of stress,” he says.
This study supports the notion that working at home versus in the office does not impact an employee’s ability to be creative and engaged in their work, but it does suggest that employers and companies should exercise telework options mindfully.
“Flexibility to work remotely is an important benefit that fulfills employees’ need for autonomy,” says Vogel. “However, these findings bring a level of nuance to the conversation.”
Reducing Stress at Work
Whether employees have flexible hours or are “always on,” how can companies help reduce stress levels? Vogel suggests ways that leaders can encourage employees to put aside stress-inducing distractions, regardless of their work environment:
- Make lists at the end of a day to let go of stressors overnight.
- Model “protected time” so employees do not feel pressured during non-work hours.
- Start meetings by setting an intention to be fully present and encouraging mindfulness
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Almost everyone who works has a boss. It’s no secret that the quality of this relationship can have a big impact on the lives of supervisors and employees alike. The best bosses provide mentorship, training and support for their direct reports, facilitating professional growth and success for their team. But is it possible for employees, through their actions on the job, to impact their bosses as well?
Soojung Han, a PhD candidate in the Fox Department of Human Resource Management, thought so. During her five years as the first woman engineer at a South Korean petrochemical company, she had an outstanding relationship with her boss, who gave her an unusual amount of autonomy, respect and trust.
“I knew it was out of the ordinary from talking with my friends about their jobs, and I also knew it was important,” says Han. Every time her supervisor acknowledged her work or granted her additional responsibilities, she wanted to do an even better job. The experience had such a profound impact on her that when Han decided to pursue her PhD, she chose to focus her research on just this style of empowering leadership. Her personal connection to the subject is perhaps one reason her scholarship had been so exceptional.
Han and her colleagues’ recent paper, “Examining why employee proactive personality influences empowering leadership: The roles of cognition- and affect-based trust,” explores this territory. The research was published in May in the prestigious Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. A publication of that caliber is a rare achievement for someone who is still a student. This fall, Han assumed a faculty position at Cal State Los Angeles.
Employee proactivity is often the catalyst for supervisors to grant workers greater autonomy and more responsibility, which increases employee engagement, productivity and job performance. Given the importance of these self-starters in the workplace, the proactive personality type is of great interest to researchers. However, to date, most of the research has focused on employee-centered outcomes, such as the relationship between proactive personality and career success. But the complex ways that an employee’s proactive style may affect his or her supervisor has been largely overlooked by scholars. That’s why Han decided to turn her attention to how these proactive employees affect their bosses.
“The proactive personality type is defined as someone who makes changes in their environment, so we suspected that these employees might change their supervisors as well,” she says. She gathered more than 100 pairs of supervisors and employees and surveyed them to assess the qualities in question: proactive personality, empowering leadership and supervisor trust. Via questionnaires, employees rated their own proactive personality traits and their boss’s leadership style, while leaders scored their direct report’s level of trust in an employee.
Han’s research examines two types of trust typical of work relationships: Cognition-based trust, which is based on logic and facts regarding an employee’s work responsibilities, and affect-based trust, which boils downs to whether or not a supervisor personally likes his or her direct report.
To test their hypotheses, Han and her coauthors used statistical models, including hierarchical multiple regressions, to analyze the data. The team found that supervisors were more trusting of employees with proactive personalities and thus were more likely to empower them.
“It’s risky for leaders to let employees make decisions,” says Han. “What if they lack skills or, worse, what if they take advantage of less supervision and more autonomy?”
Her work shows that, in spite of the risks, the payoff can be significant for an organization. Empowering leadership pays tangible dividends. “Previous research has supported that empowering leadership is associated with a host of positive outcomes, including increased psychological empowerment, task performance and citizenship behaviors for both individuals and teams,” says Han. She recommends that companies work on building both cognitive-based trust, through formal skill-building training, and affect-based trust, by taking the time to plan and invest in social events and team building.
This specific research paper gives the edge to affect-based trust—likability. But Han cautions that the two types of trust are more interrelated than they may first appear. “Though it seems like affect-based trust shows a stronger effect, its impact on empowering leadership is less likely to occur when cognition-based trust is low,” says Han. “Therefore, both cognition- and affect- trust are important to induce leaders’ empowering behaviors.
Her research also speaks to the importance of improved screening of prospective employees. It pays to be able to identify new hires who will consistently demonstrate proactive behaviors at work, not just say they will during a job interview. Han believes tools like personality tests and questionnaires that assess proactive traits specifically would be helpful as companies seek to fill their ranks with these go-getters.
“As we can see, their proactive style benefits not only the employees themselves, but their supervisors, too,” says Han.
This article was originally published in On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Big data is a buzzword everywhere in the business world, but there are a few specific sectors where this revolution is making an especially big impact: information systems, operations management and healthcare.
That’s why Subodha Kumar, the Paul R. Anderson Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, turned his attention to these areas. While big data experts across the board have breakthroughs in their individual fields, Kumar’s research focuses on the importance of sharing these advancements, as well as the data and systems that made them possible. Cross-pollination of ideas will be the key to future progress, according to Kumar.
The insights Kumar gleaned from his analysis of the existing academic research in these specific sectors informed his predictions and recommendations for how businesses might harness big data s in the future. “The whole idea is that there have been a lot of discussions and a lot of research about how big data is impacting the industry, but less attention has been paid to how all the different work in big data fits together, how it is connected,” says Kumar.
For this research, Kumar picked three areas where some of the most interesting and innovative developments in big data are happening. These are areas where massive amounts of data aren’t simply being collected, but that data is also being analyzed and put to use. Take healthcare as an example: As entities across the healthcare space, such as hospital systems, begin to combine their data sets, you can create more intelligence and make better inferences.
“But whenever you have data from many sources, you need smarter systems to read all this data and make sense of it. How can we create algorithms to help doctors make better diagnoses? That requires new and different thinking,” says Kumar.
As researchers learn how doctors use an enormous database of cancer patients worldwide to settle on effective treatment more quickly, experts in the information systems space are racing to find effective ways to work with the massive flood of data like text, photos and video generated by social media use. Meanwhile, operations management experts perfect the algorithms needed to detect fake online product reviews.
“In different industries, people are very siloed. Healthcare people are only worried about healthcare,” says Kumar. Competition has made firms secretive, reluctant to share and combine their data and methods, but this fear often does more harm than good, according to Kumar. “We really need to learn from each other. What would happen if Amazon were more open to learning from how hospital systems use big data and vice versa?”
To that end, his research synthesizes what is already known from research in these three key areas to create a framework for thinking about big data going forward and how these disparate learnings and datasets can be put together for the greater good. “Our research shows that even direct competitors can benefit from sharing data,” says Kumar.
He points out that as data collection devices (including smartphones, smart speakers like Alexa and wearable devices like Fitbit) proliferate and more data-producing machines infiltrate everyday life, business opportunities and challenges will grow. It’s only a matter of time before people live with smart refrigerators that track your calories and driverless cars that know your daily routine and pinpoint your real-time location.
Unless everyone interested in big data learns to share and solve problems together, missed opportunities will continue, costing firms time and money. “Right now a lot of the data being generated from social media and other sources is not being collected or analyzed in a way that makes it meaningful or useful,” says Kumar. His research could change that.
Kumar outlines a proposed framework for mapping big data applications and insights across industries in his recent research paper, “Emergence of Big Data Research in Operations Management, Information Systems, and Healthcare: Past Contributions and Future Roadmap,” published in the journal Production and Operations Management. “The framework essentially provides a breakdown of different topics that have been investigated and what could emerge because of new advancements,” explains Kumar.
Looking to the future, Kumar sees some specific sub-areas of the domains he studied where big data will make an even more significant impact and improvements in business. His proposed future roadmap points to cloud computing, the internet of things and smart cities, predictive manufacturing and 3D printing, and smart healthcare as the likely places big data will flourish most dramatically in the years to come. The possible developments have the potential to change the quality of life for people around the world.
As boundaries between these once discrete domains continue to fade, big data emerges as a powerful common denominator. Up until now, the focus has been on how to get more and more data. But, according to Kumar, the focus must shift into how this data can be combined and analyzed to make sense of it. Without context, the data is little more than ones and zeroes.
“This research is about how can we generate value for the whole society from this data by collecting, analyzing and sharing data,” says Kumar.
“Nano-marketing” is more than just a buzzword—it’s a way for companies to capitalize on the current trend of personalized and authentic marketing.
As the millennial generation has grown—both in size and purchasing power—to be the largest demographic segment in the country, companies are trying hard to gain their attention. “As a whole, this group of 80 million prefers photos and mini-videos that are visually appealing and can be processed quickly,” says Jay I. Sinha, associate professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School. “That is part of the reason why we’ve seen a tremendous surge in the popularity of visual platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube, among others.”
Together with Thomas Fung, assistant professor of instruction, Sinha advises the “Right Way to Market to Millennials.”
Who are Micro-Influencers?
It may seem like everyone is “Insta-famous” these days. Micro-influencers are social media personalities who have cultivated their defined brand and fan base, typically between 1,000 and 100,000 people, with very specific areas of focus.
For example, Melissa Alam, BBA ’10, a brand strategist, shares her recommendations for food and drink locations around Philadelphia. She has cultivated relationships with companies like Starr Restaurants and Drink Nation to arrange giveaways of gift cards and event tickets for her 11,000 followers on Instagram. “I’ve been hired as an influencer and worked with many large brands,” says Alam. “I share all sides of my life so that people can relate to me both online and offline if they meet me in person.”
“Micro-influencers bring credibility and authenticity,” says Fung, “typically due to their extroverted nature, relatability, and genuine passion in some niche field.” In Alam’s case, her followers may see her as a real person with insider knowledge and honest advice. “The internet is full of people showing off lavish lifestyles or reaching unattainable goals for the average person,” says Alam. “It’s so important to stay genuine, authentic and true to yourself and your personal brand if you’re trying to attract an honest following.” The grassroots feeling of this kind of marketing allows companies to address the unique needs of individuals through their relationships with micro-influencers.
Advice to Companies
So what do companies need to know to take advantage of this new kind of marketing?
1. Micro-influencers have their own brands and followers with very specific interests.
“They provide opportunities for companies, big and small, to reach out to narrow and often difficult-to-access sub-populations,” says Sinha. For example, he shares that GE used micro-influencers to help find and recruit female technology specialists for the company.
2. Micro-influencers are accomplished and personable storytellers.
Millennials relate well to storytelling. “The best micro-influencers bring in their own personal narratives that mesh well with the brands they endorse,” says Fung. Micro-influencers have been able to build up their own personal brand by leveraging this skill, so companies should encourage sponsored influencers to incorporate their products or services into their own authentic narrative.
3. Micro-influencers are not direct marketers.
Traditional marketers may feel that the sponsored content is not coming across in an obvious way. But with micro-influencers, their endorsements should never feel forced. “Micro-influencers have finessed the subtle ‘nudge’ into an art form,” says Sinha. He notes that many influencers will refuse to accept relationships with brands or companies that are contrary to their own beliefs or interests, which would damage their credibility with their followers.
Beware of Inauthenticity
The biggest pitfall companies should avoid is appearing inauthentic. Millennials are discerning and skeptical consumers who will turn away quickly from a brand or company that they feel are trying too hard or selling out. “Young, creative micro-influencers know their audience well,” says Sinha. “Let them guide the positioning of the product.”
By diligently finding the right micro-influencer to sponsor, companies of all sizes can cultivate marketing relationships that are interactive, personalized and authentic with the millennial generation.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Sabrina Volpone, PhD ’13, is an organizational diversity expert, researching topics of diversity and identity within the context of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and immigrant status. Since graduating from the Fox PhD program, her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
The On The Verge editorial team had the opportunity to chat with Volpone about how she got started researching the experiences of traditionally under-represented employees, how a more diverse workforce requires organizations to adapt and how they can do better.
How did you become interested in diversity and inclusion?
When I was growing up in Texas, I was not exposed to much diversity. The Dallas/Fort Worth area was very different 30+ years ago then it is now; the only people I knew were white and Christian.
My mom, who had a business degree in accounting and worked for a huge company in Texas, told me a story about how she got fired because she was getting sick at her desk too often when she was pregnant. Her company shrugged it off, saying that they assumed that once she became a mother she would be leaving her job anyway. Hearing these things opened my eyes to small-town values—taking care of your neighbors, for example—being pushed aside when stigmatizing factors were introduced.
Then, when I was working toward my degrees, both my bachelor’s from the University of North Texas and PhD in Human Resource Management from the Fox School, I wanted to do something meaningful that could speak to people’s experiences at work. The research I was seeing did not capture what was going on for women, people of color and other disenfranchised groups.
What are the differences between diversity and inclusion? How does your research incorporate both?
Diversity is more than just checking a demographic box or filling a quota. To really leverage the benefits of diversity we have to talk about inclusion, a separate, but related, topic. The difference has often been illustrated in the following quote from Verna Myers, the vice president of inclusion strategy for Netflix: “Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.”
In a recent research project, my team went back to basics to investigate how organizations actually define diversity. There are a host of organizations that would like to improve how they are managing diversity because they are facing lawsuits, or simply because they want to be more strategic about managing human resources. There is an increasing need for organizations to collectively rebuild and expand the way we think about these topics.
For example, we looked at the way a few Fortune 500 firms were defining diversity and found that only 38 percent had established definitions on their websites. A large number of those who did listed standard descriptors typically found on HR hiring paperwork that are based on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, stating that the company does not discriminate based on age, sex, race, etc. Other companies take a different approach, however, and use language that extends beyond “legal” terminology.
In my work, I am trying to illustrate that diversity and inclusion must work hand-in-hand. The diversity element establishes the organizational environment and the legal mandates required by law. Inclusion facilitates a climate where employees feel valued and included as a result of their unique characteristics. This is important because, as some of my other research shows, leveraging diversity in this way can result in financial gains. We found that one small change in a diversity definition can relate to more than $2 billion in current profits and more than $1 billion in profit growth. Thus, being inclusive when defining diversity results in increased financial outcomes for companies.
How does inclusion impact companies?
To explore the importance of inclusive policies and procedures in the workplace, I was part of a research team that examined the experiences of breastfeeding women in the workforce. We interviewed women in the morning, afternoon and night to see how the quality of their breastfeeding space throughout the day improved work outcomes. The data and quotes from the women illustrated a powerful point: the legal definition of what must be provided (a space to pump that is not a bathroom and is shielded from view) will not make a satisfied, productive employee. When companies provided more than the bare minimum for breastfeeding mothers, we noticed an increase in their work goal progress and their breastfeeding goal progress while also seeing improvements in their work-family balance satisfaction.
How does a more diverse workforce and consumer base require organizations to adapt? How are businesses innovating around majority-minorities, women, people with disabilities, millennials, and other demographics?
Some companies are not, and their workplace cultures and even financials are seeing the impact of that. Many organizations that are not evolving along with their workforce may cease to exist in 10 to 20 years because of their inability to strategically manage their human resources in a way that captures the diversity of their employees.
For example, in a paper that my coauthors and I recently published, we looked at the hiring process for people with concealable stigmas. Specifically, we examined the relationship between applicants disclosing their hearing disability during the interview process and whether or not they received a job offer. Changing our policies and procedures throughout each human resource function to be inclusive of employees with non-visible disabilities is an example of adapting from systems that, historically, have been focused on accommodating employees with visible physical disabilities.
But those who are thinking about the lived experiences of employees, they create policies and procedures that capture that. They are also being strategic through all of their human resources functions—processes like hiring, training and promotions—and are threading the importance of diversity and inclusion practices through all the ways they do business. Executives are making sure that employees are being heard and taken care of. In order for companies to survive, these considerations will become a requirement.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
2019 has been an extraordinary year for Sudipta Basu.
In July, Basu was appointed the Fox School’s new associate dean of research and doctoral programs. He was also honored to be named the American Accounting Association’s inaugural Yuji Ijiri Lecturer on Foundations of Accounting. The prestigious lectureship, sponsored by five global accounting associations, recognizes thought leadership from around the world. Basu presented his Ijiri Lecture, “How Robust are the Foundations of the Conceptual Frameworks?” at the annual American Accounting Association meeting in August.
Throughout his career, Dean Basu has established himself as a thought leader and now he will help chart the direction of academic research at the Fox School moving forward. To understand his vision, he discussed the past, present and future of research at Fox.
Can you share a bit about your background? Why were you originally interested in accounting?
I grew up in big cities all over India (Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Delhi in that order), earning a BA (Honours) in Economics at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and an MBA in economics, finance and accounting at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. My family members have many PhDs including a grandfather (mathematics), uncles (statistics, history and English) and first cousin (astrophysics), so an academic life was always considered a respectable—and even praiseworthy—choice.
I first studied accounting in grades 9 and 10 and found it quite hard to follow initially. But once I realized how double-entry bookkeeping worked, and that simple algebra revealed the intangible value created by transactions, I was hooked.
What are some of your major goals as dean of research and doctoral programs?
Fox produces lots of high-quality research and one of my main goals is to make our research more visible locally and internationally.
I would also like to collaborate with the Digital Scholarship Center at the Temple library to introduce our students and faculty to new cutting-edge digital tools that could help them stand out in the research world. Most importantly, I want to change our research culture so that we can talk about how our new ideas improve people’s lives and not merely about where they were published. I want to focus on explaining the who, what, when, where, why and how of a particular research project’s impact.
What role has research played in shaping your career?
For me, research is a vocation rather than a career, meaning that I enjoy and value its creativity and life-long learning aspects so much that I largely ignore the future monetary and status rewards. As my wife puts it, I often go to sleep thinking about research and wake up in the morning still thinking about research. I pursue big questions that excite me, such as why accounting exists or what our world would be like if double-entry bookkeeping had not emerged, even if this research cannot be published in our top journals. I am constantly scanning blogs, conferences and journals for questions and tools that I can use in my research, so I am a big consumer of research, not just a producer.
How would you like to see Fox School research evolve in the future?
As its former research director, I strongly support the Translational Research Center’s efforts to make Fox School research more relevant to all our stakeholders—other academics, practitioners, students, policymakers and our local communities. I would like more of our faculty, students, alumni and staff to engage in research and to describe their findings in top academic journals AND in less traditional venues such as op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs, TED talks, undergraduate and practitioner journals, etc. Ultimately, I want Fox School faculty, staff, alumni and students to be more widely regarded as thought leaders in business research.
What role does research play in business schools?
Most business schools promote faculty and student research to increase our shared knowledge. Business schools’ missions usually shape the type of research they support. At research-intensive schools like Fox, rigorous empirical and theoretical research takes pride of place. At teaching-oriented schools, pedagogical and practice-oriented research is valued more than theoretical research.
Where is the largest intersection of research and industry in the future of work?
Researchers dream up the technologies, products, business models and organizational forms of the future. Every technological advance frees people from doing some kinds of routine work, which are delegated to animals, machines, and now computers. The freed-up workers can better use their minds to make higher quality and unique products and services that were too earlier too costly to market.
How can companies work with Fox School researchers?
Companies can learn from the new ideas developed by Fox School researchers and conversely inform them about changing realities in the marketplace. Ideally, we would develop a virtuous cycle wherein firms identify emerging problems, researchers propose alternative solutions, firms try these out in practice and observe how well they work and provide feedback, which in turn lets researchers refine their prescriptions.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
As the way we do business evolves faster than ever, leaders need to be prepared. Employees look to their senior executives for confidence, guidance and direction—especially in times of change. But being a leader means nothing unless people choose to follow, and people generally choose to follow those in whom they believe. “It all hinges on the leader’s credibility,” says Lynne Andersson, associate professor of human resource management at the Fox School.
The Power of Perception
Andersson’s previous research started by identifying behaviors that make employees cynical towards their leaders. She identified two key factors in credibility: perceived competence and perceived trustworthiness. Both elements are dependent upon outsiders’ viewpoints—whether or not they believe in the leader’s skills, knowledge, values and dependability.
“These perceptions are extremely important in the digital age,” explains Andersson. With so much information available to be collected and scrutinized, from social networks to artificial intelligence, people may have concerns about who is in control. “Employees want to know that those who are managing them and assessing their performance are competent and trustworthy.”
After having started the research around the question of cynicism, Andersson reversed the point of view. She and her colleagues conducted research studies, gathering feedback from blue- and white-collar workers located all over the country over the course of three years, to identify specific actions that leaders can take to improve credibility with their employees.
Building Credibility, Projecting Competence
Leaders who emphasize the future were seen as the most competent by their employees. “Creating clear plans for future success is different than simply stating a strategic vision or setting performance targets,” Andersson notes. “It involves mapping out, in detail, how the organization will achieve its goals.” Keeping on top of industry trends, predicting upcoming changes and having clear ideas of how to respond to both are other ways for leaders to demonstrate their visions for the future.
Employees value leaders who demonstrate a focus on organizational outcomes but who also attach those outcomes to an individual’s job. “It’s important to convey that an employee’s work affects the whole organization,” Andersson advises. “Employees attribute competence to leaders who can make those connections.”
Competent leaders also look for ways to improve their organization’s operations. “You can consider eliminating unnecessary reporting structures, reducing spending waste, establishing new roles or investing in technology that improves business effectiveness,” Andersson says.
She also advised against putting too much emphasis on credentials. “In our meritocratic world, we love credentials—but people in our study did not equate credentials with competence. Leaders had to prove it through their actions or behaviors, not their resume.”
The most important step to take when trying to project trustworthiness is speaking and acting consistently. “To begin, it means making decisions that aren’t contradictory,” says Andersson. “But it also means behaving in a way that aligns with promises, explicit or unspoken.” Leaders should deeply understand all of their stakeholders’ needs in order to prevent potential conflicts.
Leaders that embody the organization’s vision and values are also regarded as highly trustworthy, according to the research. “Employees want to see consistency between the walk and talk.” Andersson encourages senior executives to be mindful of both their professional and personal values, as employees are watching closely to verify authenticity.
According to the research, employees were more trusting of leaders who valued them. “While you may prioritize your employees in your words, make sure that employees are recognized,” says Andersson. “Show how important your employees through things like rewards and plum assignments.”
Insights for Better Leaders
How can senior executives apply this research on the job? Andersson notes that leaders should be cognizant to two main points. First, the good outweighs the bad—sometimes. “When regarding competence,” says Andersson, “people tend to weigh positive information more heavily than negative information.” This means that one competent action may be a good signal of reliability to a leader’s employees. However, the opposite is true for trustworthiness; one dishonest statement or unethical action can make employees lose faith.
Second, restoring credibility is difficult, but not impossible. “To regain lost credibility, leaders must reestablish positive expectations,” Andersson advises. “This means they must repeatedly engage in trustworthy acts since a single act won’t mean much.” By focusing on the actions outlined by Andersson and her colleagues, leaders can slowly build back that relationship.
Credibility in Action
Actions speak louder than words, and according to Andersson, these are the most important things leaders should do to increase their credibility amongst employees.
What Do Competent Leaders Do?
- Emphasize the future
- Prioritize employees
- Take action and initiative
- Communicate effectively
- Gain knowledge and experience
What Do Trustworthy Leaders Do?
- Communicate and act in a consistent manner
- Protect the organization and employees
- Embody the organization’s vision and values
- Consult with and listen to key stakeholders
- Communicate openly with others
- Value employees
“If you see something, say something.” As intuitive as it may seem, speaking your mind is hard—especially within the boundaries of an office environment. Most employees face the fear of retaliation and the social costs that come with speaking up to management in difficult situations.
Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of Legal Studies, and Deanna Geddes, professor of Human Resource Management at the Fox School, delve deeper into these emotional situations in their interdisciplinary studies. The researchers discuss the implications of expressing anger at the workplace and highlight two problematic legal doctrines that disincentivize employees from making any complaints—thus costing companies.
A Cycle of Discontentment
When employees suppress anger at work, it not only affects their mental well-being but also their attitudes—often resulting in lowered productivity. “When employees fear the consequences of retaliation by management,” says Geddes, “they tend to either suppress it by keeping silent, or express their frustration to their peers, who usually have no power to respond or effect change.” These negative discussions often spiral into increasing discontentment among employees that impact the overall health of the workplace.
Reactions vs. Retaliation
In the face of perceived discrimination, employees may turn to the courts for help in resolving disputes. However, Eisenstadt argues that current legal frameworks may negatively affect employees’ willingness to speak up in the judicial system. Currently, judges use the following two legal doctrines in an effort to promote consistency across similar cases but frequently end up disenfranchising employees.
- The “Objectively Reasonable Belief” doctrine protects only those employees who complain about behavior that the courts would regard as unlawful. Given that employees do not typically understand the nuances of court decisions, this may make employees hesitant to come forward because they are unsure if their complaint will be protected by the law.
- The “Manner of the Complaint” doctrine supports employers who claim the reason for firing an employee was the ‘inappropriate’ way in which the complaint was raised, without serious consideration to the details of the complaint itself.
Eisenstadt argues that the consequences of these court-created approaches are clear. “Employees, upon seeing how these doctrines play out for their co-workers, choose to keep silent,” she says. This not only hinders the goals of the law, which is meant to protect employees from workplace discrimination but the culture and worker productivity at the workplace also suffer.
A Call For Change
Not all emotions at work lead to discord, says Geddes. “Psychological research demonstrates that expressions of anger to management in any form—whether it be in respectful complaints or in emotional outbursts—is healthier and more productive for both the worker and the workplace overall.”
So what happens next? The researchers advise that companies build a culture of open dialogue within their organizations to promote expression up and down management lines. Nonhierarchical, team-based structures, leadership’s encouragement of meaningful debate and clear channels for expressing opinions all help employers address emotions while the employee is still in the workplace.
Eisenstadt and Geddes also suggest that the court system rethink its implementation of the existing retaliation doctrines. They propose that the judiciary take an approach that considers the circumstances that led to retaliation and view the scenario from all relevant perspectives, not just the employers. “This more global approach would undoubtedly create a greater sense of security in employees,” says Eisenstadt.
Will robots replace humans at work?
As technology evolves, this question has been on the minds of many. For repetitive jobs, some are already automated. But managers and supervisors, whose jobs require higher levels of cognitive ability, should be safe—right?
Xue Guo and Zhi Cheng, two doctoral students in the Fox School’s Department of Management Information Systems, studied how the new technologies like TaskRabbit, a leading online platform to find immediate help for everyday tasks, have affected managerial-level jobs.
In analyzing data from the housekeeping industry, Guo and Cheng found a 2.9 percent decrease in the total number of offline full-time workers after the platform’s introduction—a drop mainly driven by a decrease in the number of frontline supervisors and managers.
Effects of Digital Management
The evolution of the gig economy—and the subsequent digital platforms—has created new opportunities for those searching for work. ‘Gigs’ allow people to be more selective about the employers they want to work for, receive relatively higher pay and choose from a field of work options. Even employers enjoy the flexibility of recruiting extra help as needed, reducing fixed labor costs and presenting them with options for specialized skills.
So how do these platforms change the rules of the workplace, especially for management?
To answer that question, the researchers integrated data from TaskRabbit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, aiming to better understand the impact of the gig economy for routine cognitive workers versus manual workers.
“After the entry of TaskRabbit,” says Guo, “we observed a 5.5 percent decrease in first-line managerial jobs.” Manual workers, such as cleaners and janitors, were not as affected. This suggests that the platform mostly affected middle-skill management, whose primary tasks were to arrange and schedule service in the housekeeping industry.
Managers Moving to TaskRabbit
TaskRabbit reduced the demand for offline managers in the industry by directly connecting some of the tech-savvy cleaners to their clients. According to Guo, the detailed information about clients’ requirements and workers’ qualifications “allows them to connect with each other at lower search costs.”
Not all managers who left the industry were replaced by robots, however. Supervisors who were skilled in using technology could move to these digital platforms, giving them more freedom in an online role. “On TaskRabbit, managers could recruit and supervise regular cleaners more efficiently,” reasons Guo. “The platform also provided more flexibility and autonomy, incentivizing them to move online.”
Laborers Grapple with Technology
The researchers found that TaskRabbit increased the productivity of manual workers by efficiently planning schedules, monitoring their performance and solving disputes, subsequently driving market demand. The platform also attracted workers of different skills and backgrounds while increasing labor supply and accessibility by reducing the barriers of entry to get a job.
Laborers could also take advantage of the options for flexibility and mobility. “We observed that, even though the number of jobs has reduced, we could see an increase in self-employed workers,” says Guo. “Later studies may look at the actual wage differences, but TaskRabbit can support the option of self-employment of both managers and laborers.”
Learning To Keep Up
Thanks to technological changes like these, the dynamics of the traditional workplace are continuing to shift. Generalizing to other industries, Guo mentions that these platforms increase productivity and allow for more efficient business models, but may come at a cost to the less computer literate.
The researchers, however, are positive about this emerging economy in the future of work. “The barrier to entry of TaskRabbit is not very high,” says Guo. While this skills-biased technology change is happening in the workplace, it can create new opportunities—particularly for those entrepreneurial workers willing to learn.
For Dr. Leila Bouamatou, DBA ’17, women’s leadership in business is deeply personal
As the daughter of the founder of a family-owned bank in the West African country of Mauritania, Bouamatou studied the challenges that women in francophone Africa face when seeking to take over the family business during her time in the Fox Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) program.
Bouamatou found that women’s biggest struggles included the institutionalized stigma of working outside the home; resistance from both older male and female members of the family, who were often unwilling to break with tradition; and the convention of women taking their husband’s last names, thus having a different last name than the family company.
To succeed in leading a family business in this environment, Bouamatou identified several key factors—such as modern-thinking fathers, supportive husbands, access to educational opportunities, and personality traits like determination and ability.
As the general manager at the Mauritanian General Bank, Bouamatou hopes to inspire young African girls and women to become leaders in business. She wants others to receive the encouragement that she felt at home from her parents and siblings. “I am particularly lucky to be the daughter of a modern-thinking father who has great respect towards women,” said Bouamatou, “and who believes in the potential of his daughters.” She recalls her mother teaching her from an early age about the importance of education and ambition.
Despite the barriers that remain, she sees hope for the future. “Africa is changing, and so is the mentality,” Bouamatou said. “Women are getting more and more educated and becoming more and more ambitious. Fathers are more and more supportive of their daughters and more open-minded, compared to previous generations.”
“I am fully aware that it would be hard for one single African woman to change the world,” said Bouamatou. “But I know that this African woman can shape her world and destiny.”
Nirmala Menon, MS ’91, International Change Agent
Nirmala Menon, MS ’91, worked in the Global Diversity and Multicultural Team at IBM before becoming the founder and CEO of Interweave Consulting, a diversity and inclusiveness solutions company. At IBM, she experienced the diversity and inclusion challenges across various countries. The experience prepared her to found Interweave and lead it to be a pioneer in India, where the arena was a non-existent market when the company began operations.
Through Interweave, Menon works with companies to implement progressive policies to support diverse groups. The company has touched the minds and hearts of over 150,000 people, including senior leaders and managers through its workshops and initiatives. Others receive these messages through e-modules and webinars.
“Diversity and inclusion is still a new area of work in India and it is hard to provide a direct ROI on the efforts,” said Menon, addressing the impact of her efforts. “However, there are several anecdotes that show that the efforts have translated into positive behaviors at work. A better understanding of respectful behaviors at work and more conscious efforts at gender, disability, and LGBT inclusion are all, we believe, influenced by our efforts.”
When asked how she is making the world a better place, Menon said, “In my mind, everything we do dovetails into building a better world! The work we do has a tremendous positive impact as it is directly focused on building inclusion. From helping organizations understand the value of diversity and inclusion and helping to build enabling workplace policies to support the same, it has a direct impact for the nation.”
She believes organizations are powerful vehicles of change and teach people to become influencers. “A mind expanded or enriched with knowledge and sensitivity is bound to be applied not just at work but equally in their behaviors at home and in society.”
As a result, Interweave is building the foundations for social change in India and beyond.