25 HBS Alumnae Respond: Why do you do what you do?

“Because it feeds my soul… I’m turning 60, and while my peers are retiring, I continue to do what I do because I still love doing it.”

~ Jocelyn Goldberg (HBS ’77)

The fiftieth anniversary of women at HBS gives us an opportunity to not only celebrate what women have accomplished since graduating but also to look deeper into what has and continues to drive them.

Women’s Student Association (“WSA”) VPs of Alumnae, Danielle Slutzky (OF) and Annie Wheeler (OD), along with four RCs, Jackie Burgos (NH), Tara Hagan (NI), Jessica Kramer (NE), and June Odongo (NA), spent the last several months asking over 200 alumnae, “Why do you do what you do?”

This WSA-led project resembles HBS’s traditional Portrait Project (which profiles graduating ECs), highlighting the stories and images of 25 alumnae. These alumnae portraits and essays capture their essence and are aimed to inspire readers to reflect on their own history and motivations. As students, we are often wow-ed by our predecessors’ accomplishments. However, we are only occasionally able to access a more intimate view into these alumnae journeys, whether through a speaker or from the Class of 1976 profiles. This rare look at what women students faced after graduating from HBS offers a vivid glimpse into the choices and trade-offs that all graduates must make when transitioning from analyzing protagonists to being protagonists in their workplaces and communities.

Many of the women featured are pioneers in their respective industries and have paved the way for women who have come after them. They forged a path when not a single female mentor existed – whether at an academic institution, sports team or company.

The project features alumnae from as early as 1967 to last year’s graduating class.  “It’s been amazing to see how the women’s messages evolve by decade,” Danielle Slutzky (OF) said. “The earliest graduates – truly trailblazers – joined HBS as the ‘first women’ and were ‘first’ at everything they pursued thereafter. Later graduates focus their responses on work vs. family tradeoffs; most recent graduates are forward looking, with a number purposefully refusing to make a work verses family choice at all.”

As I read a few of the profiles, I was moved by the commitment these women had to living their lives to the fullest and to taking the path less traveled. Marlene Krauss (HBS ’67) said she has done what she did, “because everyone said it couldn’t be done.”

In sharing their stories, many alumnae leave us with perspectives they have developed over the course of many years. Amy Reinhard (HBS ’02) wanted to play little league when she was eight years old. Fortunately, her parents supported her dreams and signed her up, motivating her to play to win:

“I believe it’s important to show other women there are no limits to our capabilities.  We can be successful teammates and we can be influential captains.  And it’s OK to want to win. We just have to put ourselves in the game.”

“I hope both male and female students are able to apply some of what these alumnae learned during their lives – that said, if we current students take away nothing but gratitude for those who blazed the trail for us, it will have been a success”, Annie Wheeler (OD) said.

Starting on February 11th and continuing through the days leading up to the Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference on February 24th, profiles of a first batch of fifteen female alumnae will be on display in Spangler Lounge.  An additional installment will be featured on International Women’s Day on March 8th.  Check out the profiles, be inspired, and, if you are looking for more, attend the conference to hear and meet some of these amazing women.

January 31, 2013
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