Faculty spotlight: Diana Bilimoria, associate professor, organizational behavior
Weatherheadlines recently sat down with Diana Bilimoria, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior to learn about her work with ACES, her new book, and her positive outlook on life.
Q: From where do you originally hail? Please describe your educational and work background.
I grew up in Mumbai, India. I came to the U.S. to do my Ph.D. in business management at the University of Michigan. Previously, in India, I had received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, and a master’s degree in management. I also worked for a while in the hotel industry in India, doing mostly recruitment, training and organizational development.
Q: How long have you been a professor at Weatherhead?
I’m in my seventeenth year here.
Q: What brought you to Weatherhead?
I came here because we have a world-renowned department of organizational behavior, and because the Weatherhead School focuses on the things that matter the most in the education of students for the betterment of business and society: self-awareness and systematic development as a leader, responsible management, team skills, inclusion of diverse cultures and perspectives, and business knowledge fundamentals.
Q: I noticed that you are a co-investigator on a five-year, $3.5 million award from the National Science Foundation to Advance Women faculty in the Engineering and Sciences (ACES) at Case. What is your role in the project? Any updates you would like to share with us regarding ACES at Case?
I am a co-pincipal ivestigator on Case’s National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE award, called ACES which stands for Academic Careers in Engineering and Science. The NSF's goal through ADVANCE is to transform the culture of the academy to become more inclusive of the contributions and success of women faculty in underrepresented science and engineering (S&E) fields. Several aspects of Case's overall project build on my work in the areas of gender, diversity and leadership development, particularly our innovative executive coaching and hotline coaching programs, career enhancement initiatives for women faculty, leadership development initiatives for senior administrators, deans and department chairs, and departmental transformation initiatives to catalyze grassroots change. Basically, we are utilizing organizational behavior concepts and methods, frequently used in business and industry, to bring about faculty empowerment, leadership development, and institutional transformation at our own university.
Our ACES initiatives focus on improving the workplace environment at Case through creation of new structures and policies that benefit all faculty members, and promoting a campus-wide culture characterized by equality, participation, openness, and accountability. Since ACES started three years ago, we are beginning to see results in the improved recruitment, advancement, leadership and retention of women S&E faculty. Our next steps as a university are to institutionalize early gains, maintain momentum, and develop new initiatives to address the development of others on campus, including students and staff.
Q: I understand you teach MBA, EMBA, doctoral, and Executive Education courses. Have you noticed any large similarities or differences between the groups?
Over the years, I have taught in a variety of educational programs at the Weatherhead School (including the undergraduate program when I first arrived here), as well as in required and elective courses, and there are indeed differences in career stages, aspirations, and work experiences among these groups. But more importantly, I have found underlying similarities, regardless of program, among many of the Weatherhead students I’ve met, such as a strong learning-orientation, the importance of family, seeking to make meaningful contributions through one's work and career, resilience and optimism about the future, and a desire to improve not just one's own life situation but also the situations of others. I've always felt that it is a privilege to work with our students.
Q: You have a new book coming out soon. Would you tell us a little bit about it?
The Handbook on Women in Business and Management is a volume co-edited by my colleague, professor Sandy Piderit, and me. It will be published in February 2007. The Handbook presents the current state of research knowledge about a variety of topics relevant to women in business and management, informing both scholars as well as those with a general interest in the subject. Topics covered include how the media portrays women in the workplace, the glass ceiling and women's advancement, women's career development and paths to success, mentoring, work-life integration, effective human resource management practices, and women's leadership and governance. The chapters, written by prominent scholars from our discipline, provide ideas for organizational practice and future scholarly research that would advance the participation, treatment, quality of life, and success of women in business and management fields.
Q: Is your new book tied to your current research?
Yes, these are very much tied. My research focuses on gender and diversity in leadership and governance, and organizational transformation. Working in collaboration with other faculty colleagues and doctoral students, I study the issues surrounding the representation, careers, quality of life, leadership development, and success of individuals in organizations, especially women and underrepresented minorities. I am particularly interested in their advancement to and participation in senior organizational ranks such as in top executive teams and on boards of directors. I also study the organizational structures and conditions (e.g., corporate board and top management team composition, or policies utilized in universities) that best facilitate career progression and leadership development.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy going to yard sales, planning home improvement projects, and being with family and friends.
Q: What book are you reading currently?
Currently I'm reading Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us, Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, and Gregory Robert's Shantaram.
Q: Do you have a tagline or motto by which you live your life?
Actually I can think of two: Always look for the best in people or a situation, and Give forward!