Lessons in Lead(HER)ship

You have probably heard the term leadership many times throughout your Booth experience, but how about Lead(HER)ship?  In 2019, Booth’s Leadership Development Office launched a brand new leadership program for first-year women designed to equip them with an elevated sense of self, enhanced leadership identity, and strengthened community network in preparation for their summer experiences and beyond.

The genesis of the program began when the Leadership Development Office recognized a gap in programming tailored toward women’s leadership at Booth. Katie O’Malley, Senior Associate Director of Leadership Development, felt empowered to fill that gap so she created a program to address the needs of first-year women. For O’Malley, it was important for the program to address how women connect with one another, and how they can remove power differentials that occur in the workplace; thus, she built out a program in which these first-year women could build a sustained community over these shared experiences, while also supporting their upcoming summer internship experience. The program is comprised of three modules and two small-group coaching sessions. The three venues for each of the modules were mindfully selected, with the intent to meet a female owned and operated businesses or where that was not possible, being thoughtful about the space that was selected.

Booth 1Y Lead(HER)ship participants at evolveHer

Booth 1Y Lead(HER)ship participants at evolveHer

The first session took place at evolveHer, a female owned and operated co-working space, where participants focused on understanding and promoting their own top strengths via the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment. Women were placed into small groups based on complementary strengths in order to foster a sense of admiration in the strengths of others within the community. Furthermore, the first-years participated in hands-on interactions in which they could explore their strengths as a group, and had the opportunity to self-reflect upon these strengths as well. During this session, participants were encouraged to focus on developing and celebrating their strengths in order to become more excellent at those characteristics (rather than focusing on perceived deficiencies). In addition, the women were educated on the differences between self-care and squad-care, learning that the encouragement of a community/squad elevates can provide care without the pressure and burden to be self-reliant as is proposed by the self-care mentality.

The second session took place at the official practice rink of the Chicago Blackhawks, MB Ice Arena, where they discussed the role gender bias plays in the workplace, particularly around hiring, feedback and performance evaluations. Although MB Ice Arena is not women-owned and operated, hockey is considered by many to be a male-dominated sport. Given the venue, it was only appropriate that participants ponder the question of how a male-dominated environment impacts how women give feedback to one another. The women tried their hand at ice skating, played broomball and even got to tour the Blackhawks locker room. The women also reviewed their 360 Feedback results previously received back in the fall to determine whether gender biases crept into any feedback received, discerning whether said feedback was biased or unbiased. In their post-session small group coaching session, the women debriefed on the experience, complimented each other’s strengths and provided bias-free feedback.

The last session will be held at Revolution Brewing, where each small group will showcase a 7-8 minute presentation to share about what it is unique, brilliant and strong about each of the women in the group. This synthesis event is intended to leave the participating first-year women feeling confident and supported going into their summer internships. The Ink Factory, a visual notetaking firm, will be present to capture the presentations in an artistic mural. Participants will receive a tour of the facility by female brewers and will close out the session with a frosty-beverage laden celebration. Participants will enjoy a couple of kegs of one of Revolution Brewing’s Spirit of Revolt, a special-edition beer brewed each year by the female brewers of Revolution Brewing.

Although this is the inaugural year of Lead(HER)ship, O’Malley would love to see the program expand in future years, hoping to have as many participants as the program can accommodate for. For any questions about the program, please reach out to leadership.development@chicagobooth.edu.