Women in Analytics Panel and Launching the MSA Book Club

Six women in analytics and technology shared their experiences and advice for navigating the workplace for women and men.

Pictured from left to right:

Oct 19, the Institute for Advanced Analytics held a Women in Analytics Panel. We invited 5 alumni: Marina Akushevich, Marina Burke, Salma Ibrahim, Sneha Raghavan, Hiwot Tesfaye, and Reify Media President Sarah Glova to talk about the challenges working women face in the workplace.

After the panel, I announced the start of the MSA Lean In book club, and gave a speech to motivate all my classmates, 47% are female students, to join the book club. The speech was, dare I say, very successful. I received many hugs, compliments, and encouragement, so much that only my wedding day can compete.

This week, we had our first MSA Lean In book discussion with 46 people in attendance, including 17 male students. We covered the first two chapters of Lean In, talked about the complex challenges women face (Chapter 1), the leadership ambition gap, how gender stereotype is internalized by women and becomes the inner obstacles for women’s growth, and impostor syndrome (Chapter 2). We ended up with an open question “What would I do if I was not afraid. ” Every attendee was encouraged to challenge their own fear and share their brave answers. By facing our own fear and talking about it, we did not only encourage ourselves, but also motivated our friends. We felt we were connected deeply with each other. We will have 5 more discussions to cover all the chapters of the book.

The book club earned incredible support from the Institute which has established itself not only as a leader in developing high quality professionals, but also to advancing gender equality in a STEM field.

The following is what I said in the kick off speech for the book club. I hope you would also be inspired, and lean in, towards anyway you believe to be a better you.

Thanks to Sneha, Sarah, Marina Burke and Marina Akushevich, Hiwot, and Salma, for your insights and suggestions.

I read a book a few weeks ago, Lean In. It is written by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. In this book, she talks about the reality of gender discrimination in the workplace and the challenges that working women from all age groups are facing. She gives a lot of insights, suggestions, and tips, based on her own career experience and research data, yes, our favorite word “data.” And some of them echo the topics today and the suggestions our presenters gave us. We want to start a book club about Lean In, and this is the perfect time.

Sheryl received many warnings when she decided to write this book, people told her that it might end her career. She asked herself a question, “what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

To her, writing this book was the thing she would do if she was not afraid, to speak up about gender discrimination issues publicly, to provoke all the women and men to break down the inner and outside obstacles for women’s growth, to build a more equal society that benefits women, men, and children.

To me, what would I do if I was not afraid is to start this book club, to share the insights and inspiration I got from this book, to cultivate a supportive atmosphere, and to stand here giving speech to you, in English. I have thousands of butterflies in my stomach now, yet, I am standing here. So at least you know how powerful this book is.

For the ladies who haven’t had formal work experiences before or are unmarried, this is a call for you. Because you want to know the reality and the challenges you are going to face, you don’t want to pursue career success at the price of your self-happiness, you also don’t want to let the desire to be a good wife and a good mother hold you back from your career. And there is a bonus here. The best dating tip for girls I have ever seen is from this book. To be honest, I don’t have much experience, I met my husband at high school and we fell in love with each other then. But I read many stories thanks to my literature background. So, I think you can trust me on this judgement.

For the ladies who already have family, or have children, this is a call for you, and also for me. I moved to the US with my husband 5 years ago, and have been a full-time mom since then. When your sweet little boy, or girl, clinging on your leg, looking at you with their innocent eyes, asks you “mommy, would you please stay at home and play with me?” What will you do? How will you create life-work balance? This is a typical question for working moms. Can we do it all? How can we make our partners real partners?

For the gentlemen who want to get a better understanding about the challenges your mom, your sisters, your female friends, your girlfriend, or your wife are facing, this is a call for you. What is the reality here? If you have good intentions, how could you help? And guys, you should know the simple truth here, women with jobs, especially satisfying jobs, are usually happy wives. Happy wife means happy family and happy life. And just like women are restricted by the roles of taking care of kids and family, men also live in chains—being bread-winners, being successful in career. What if a man is really good at taking care of kids and cooking, and enjoys doing that instead of pursuing career success? So deep down, this is truly about freedom to be yourself, for all men and women.

A word from Mahatma Gandhi: “be the change you want to see.” So everybody, if you are interested in knowing the reality, if you want to gain some suggestions, if you struggled before, if you have stories to share, if you want to help, please join us. I know we are already crazy busy, but I promise, this is not a burden, it’ll be more like a break and leisure. The book is very easy to read, and the discussions will be very casual, not business casual, real life casual. Emily, Jola, and I walked through this idea together, they gave me a lot of good ideas and encouragement, they also have a word to share.


Columnist: Liping Wu