"Why are you involved in Breaking the Mold?" - by Anita Wu and Lakshmi Kannan

“Why are you involved in Breaking the Mold?”

We are asked this every other day. At the surface, the question explores our interests and priorities. The real question, however, is more subtle; it is: given the high opportunity cost of these two years at MIT Sloan, why are you choosing to spend such a large portion of your time (especially in recruiting-crucial second year) putting together two conferences on unconscious bias.

Ask anyone, and they’ll readily agree: diversity is good for an organization - for its people, for its culture, for its bottom line. And because we are all in agreement, it is an awkward topic to disagree on; therefore, these conversations are avoided, inside and outside the classroom and the workplace.

We have thought about this question a lot. There’s plenty to be involved in at school, so why does Breaking the Mold matter?

Here is our answer: We are involved in Breaking the Mold because we believe that a safe forum should exist for individuals to step outside of their comfort zone and be questioned about their perspective on the “right” thing to do in the world. MIT Sloan is committed to developing and becoming “principled leaders who improve the world.” For us, principled leadership is precisely about challenging others to think about their privilege, and the accountability that come with this privilege.

What our organizations look like is not a ‘gender’ issue or a diversity issue. It’s the collective issue of us -- principled, innovative leaders -- who hold ourselves accountable.

A comic made the rounds on popular internet a few months ago that really left an impression on us. It described a scenario where students were asked to throw a ball of paper into a waste basket at the front of the room. Those at the back of the room complained about the difference in distance between them and the basket, compared to those sitting in the front. The students in the front did not perceive the inequality until the issue was raised. (You can read the whole comic here).

Privilege blinds.

And we are the privileged.

Please join us this Saturday at the MIT Media Lab to explore outside your comfort zone.

Anita Wu, MBA 2016
Lakshmi Kannan, MBA 2016
Co-Chairs, Breaking the Mold, An MIT Sloan Women in Management Initiative

This year, Breaking the Mold is exploring unconscious biases in workplace policies - i.e. systematic institutional biases that may hold back a certain population in the workforce. On December 5th, we hear from companies that are implementing and addressing structural policies to address unconscious bias in their organizations. On February 5th, we learn from our faculty on the latest research on biases and how they impact institutions. Please join us on Saturday 05 December and Friday 05 February at the MIT Media Lab to participate in this conversation. Tickets are on sale now at bit.ly/getmitbtm.