Written by Heather Burke Wednesday, January 25 2012Snapshot: Dr. Paula King, Dean of the School of Business and Leadership, St. Catherine University
Dr. Paula King is the founding dean of the School of Business and Leadership at St. Catherine University, which maintains campuses in St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN. She is now spearheading new program and curriculum development, a creative act and an area of expertise for King. King holds a Ph.D. in corporate strategy and organizations from the University of Minnesota-Curtis L. Carlson School of Management and has a deep background in both the corporate and academic worlds. King is known for her intellectual curiosity, passion for women’s issues and leadership and commitment to environmental sustainability. Last July, King was awarded the title Global Changemaker by the Minnesota Women’s Press for her work to promote “greater self-determination, equality and justice for women and girls.”
Womenetics: Tell us about your vision for the School of Business and Leadership at St. Catherine University.
Dr. Paula King: The vision for the School of Business and Leadership at St. Catherine University is grounded in the vision of the University: “To be a leading Catholic university distinguished by its innovative spirit and premier baccalaureate College for women.” Our four pillars of the School of Business and Leadership inform all that we do. We are developing an MBA based on these pillars. The global justice pillar is a clear point of differentiation for our school. The pillars are the following:
- Sustainability, broadly defined as sustainable practices, sustainable planet and sustainable profits. We develop leaders who “challenge the assumptions that others take for granted.”
- Innovative spirit, fostering within our graduates an approach toward problem solving and decision-making built on both critical and creative thinking.
- Global justice grounded in understanding of the meaning of global inter-connections and global responsibility.
- Practice-ready graduates prepared to contribute in meaningful ways to organizational effectiveness and systems change.
King: The research emerging from neuroscience and leadership interests me.
Womenetics: What do you find is left out of contemporary conversations on women and leadership that should be addressed?
King: [There are] articles abound with prescriptions telling women what we need to do to succeed, how we can perfect ourselves and what education and competencies we need to develop to break through the glass ceiling. I am tired of these prescriptions. In truth, it is corporate norms, structures, tightly held beliefs and culture that need to wake up.
With 14-15 percent of board seats held by women and slow growth into the c-suite, men should be asking themselves if corporations can: a) afford the brain drain of talented women opting out because the price one pays is too high to go for the top and b) how will corporations respond to the Millennial mindset, which is much “smarter” than the boomer approach to work.
So the conversation needs to be reframed: It is not what do women need to do to be more ready but rather, what bold moves and changes do corporations need to make the workplace sane for all. Now is the time to rethink policies, practices, unspoken assumptions and beliefs. If we don't do that, the Millennial Generation will force us corporate leaders to change. To remain vital and innovative, corporations need to rethink work, rethink the role of women at work and design organizations that are balanced to acquire the best talent and provide an environment where women don't have to "perfect" themselves to have the meaningful and significant careers that they want.
Womenetics: Last July, women leaders from Jordan, Israel and Minnesota convened to partake in St. Kate’s first Global Women’s Leadership Convening: Women in Public Life. What was the impetus for this program?
King: St. Catherine University is recognized as a place to convene and a place where women lead and influence. Minnesota Senator Sandy Pappas came to me with the idea of bringing women from Jordan and Israel together, as she had ties with leaders in both countries, and wanted to convene around the bold questions of how to prepare and propel women into positions of influence and leadership in public life.
Womenetics: How does Global Women’s Leadership Convening: Women in Public Life differentiate itself from other women’s leadership forums?
King: You ask an interesting question. I am a business strategist by both profession and training and differentiation is a key business concept. The Convening was and is a labor of love and purpose. As such, differentiation from others was not our focus. Our focus was to create the conditions for understanding among women and to share our stories in a way that we could learn from one another. A commitment to continue to talk and work together led to discussions on UN resolution 1325. Sandy Pappas, Rina Bar Tal and Rula Quawas met on December 29th in Jordan [to continue discussions]. I could not make it because of family commitments. We are also branching out to Tunisia to bring women from this country into the Convening group and have applied for a State Department grant to further our work.
Womenetics: What are some of the key insights and outcomes of this gathering?
King: Women hold the future in our hands.
Womenetics: What has your career taught you about being a leader?
King: To innovate and lead change, to look for ideas at the margins. Curiosity is essential. Read and experience across many areas of knowledge. Listen and know one’s self. I am a person brimming with ideas that could make a difference if implemented. However, systems and organizations can handle only so much change at one time. To be effective, I need to keep this in mind.
Womenetics: What strategies have you found most successful to foster creativity and spur innovation within an organization?
King: Innovation is the two-fold process that combines creativity with the ability to proto-type and get to market. Organizations need to harness ideas and test them with their customers, refine and retest. I believe in design thinking and the importance of product, service, and process design that is elegant. Combining design thinking with testing and implementing creative ideas can lead to innovation.
Womenetics: What advice would you give to a young woman entering the workforce?
- Develop your point of view and expertise in an area and speak up.
- Learn to negotiate.
- Worrying about being liked is time wasted. Focus on integrity and respect.
- Discipline and focus.
- Develop authentic relationships that help you form a network characterized by reciprocity.
- Don’t hesitate to give before you get.
- Take time to be alone and to reflect.
- Find your flow and don’t be afraid of mid-course corrections.
King: Read the New York Times and subscribe to Fast Company’s daily missives, Brain Pickings, Open Culture, Nature, Science, Harvard Business Review and Wired. Check out the current work on brain theory and leadership.
Womenetics: What do you do to recharge and find inspiration?
King: I hike in the mountains with my daughter Libby; go to Indie movies and live concerts in little venues; listen to Van Morrison, Adele, The Avett Brothers; be in nature, in the sunshine and spend time with my husband Steve and our two doggies, BB King and Joey Tribiani—both girls. I love to travel and my bag is always packed.
Heather Burke has more than eight years experience working with partners in the public and private sectors to promote women’s empowerment and develop innovative investment strategies for community development. She has worked in 12 countries on initiatives spanning women's and girls’ leadership, education, income generation, social entrepreneurship, public health, food security, political participation, and environmental conservation. She is a social venture consultant based outside of Washington, D.C.