Recently, we sat down with Professor Michele Duguid to discuss how, if at all, social campaigns like MentorHer and the #metoo movement are changing organizations’ hiring processes and helping to redefine their internal cultures. We got so much great information from her that we’ve decided to create a 3-part series on the changing corporate culture.

Michelle Duguid is the associate professor of management and organizations at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. She received her MS and her PhD in organizational behavior from Cornell University. Her primary area of research is the interplay of social status, power, politics, influence, and diversity in organizations, with a particular focus on the effect of social status, power, and inter- and intra-group relations on perceptions and interactions. She also does research which examines individual and group processes that affect creativity and the quality of decision-making. She also serves on the editorial board of Organization Science and the Academy of Management Journal.

The biggest topic we wanted to discuss with Professor Duguid is how current social movements like MentorHer and #metoo are influencing the way corporations develop their internal culture. With 2018 being called The Year of the Woman, we were interested in hearing if Professor Duguid had seen any data or trends to indicate that these movements were translating into change in the corporate world.


Is Anything Changing?

According to Professor Duguid, it’s still too early to see any real data on the subject, and, unfortunately, it’s hard to see these changes because they can take a long time to appear. She’s still hearing the same complaints from her students and the women she talks to as she always has. There hasn’t been an immediate change so that women suddenly feel like everything is suddenly fair, there’s no bias, and they’re getting promoted at the same rate as men. In fact, the 2018 Women in the Workplace study, the 4th annual study conducted by McKinsey in partnership with confirmed that the movement to increase gender diversity has stalled in corporate America


What Will Work?

What can we do that we aren’t already doing to change the culture we work in? According to Professor Duguid, one of the biggest changes we can make, and one with the most positive impact is more men getting involved. Her studies have shown that women with strong networks – mentors, sponsors, supportive leadership – do much better in the workplace than women without those networks. They’re more confident and tend to be more comfortable reporting any bias issues they encounter. But as a result of the very issues we’re discussing, there are so few women in top spots to be those mentors and sponsors, so we really need men to step up and be our allies.

This network is also important because as a woman trying to go further in her career, she can use this network to get the word out about accomplishments and achievements. It’s unfortunate that we, all of us, men and women, tend to have negative impressions of women who self-promote. But utilizing this network, which Professor Duguid called her posse, women can get the word out about their accomplishments without being seen as bragging or blowing their own horn. And, whether you think it’s right or wrong, we need men to take some of this work up and help women spread the word.

On an organizational level, it’s important that companies do more than just develop a great mission statement saying that they’re actively trying to be inclusive. We need these companies to pu those statements into real, actual action. Most of them do a great job of recruiting women into their organizations, but their responsibilities don’t end there. Companies need to be sure that once they’ve hired the women they need to, they actively work to keep them. And that goes to the culture of the organization. If the culture is “We just need to check these inclusion boxes”, then checking the box is all they’re going to do. And that attitude will trickle down from the top into the culture all throughout the organization. But if a company is genuinely interested in equality and removing their own biases, then they’ll focus on finding the best of the best for the positions they need to fill, which will result in more equal representation.


How Can Coaching Help?

Executive coaching helps women develop these connections and helps them to develop their strengths and neutralize their weaknesses. Especially if coaching is undertaken before a woman reaches the C-suite, or before a problem develops. Women are better able to develop their networks able to sidestep some of these bigger issues that can develop.

The only person in charge of your career is you. Proactively hiring a coach, and learning to be more strategic in your career planning, can only help to move you along your path. A coach will help you really think through what you want and where you want to be, and together you’ll be able to craft what you do around those goals.



Even though the situation is currently discouraging, Professor Duguid has hope. She’s hopeful that these movements, MentorHer, #metoo, and others like them, are not going to lose steam when something else pulls our attention. Even though it feels like this situation is one step forward, two steps back, it’s important that we focus on those forward steps.