Hear how to boldly take control of your own career path
Dr. Vicki Baker’s sixth book in five years solidifies her standing as a nationally recognized expert in the unique issues faced by mid-career faculty in higher education. As she coaches numerous professionals, she has discovered a recurring theme: academicians get their degrees and often their tenure, but then get stuck or stalled in their career advancement. Is it that they need better mentors? Or do institutions need to identify and sponsor their high-performing stars earlier, and coach them along their pathways to career advancement? And this is happening not just in the world of academia. Industry is struggling with the same dilemma. Are you stuck or stalled in an academic position or a corporate career trajectory? Make a point to listen in for Vicki’s solutions.
Watch and listen to our conversation here
Why women academics often get stalled, and what to do about it
On an annual basis, I have conducted workshops for Vicki’s students involved in business development with their French counterparts. We talk about Blue Ocean Strategy, and together with Vicki’s guidance, the students begin to frame approaches to their concepts that can open new markets, not just compete in current ones. The students are mighty impressive, as is Vicki. In this podcast, however, we focus on Vicki’s particular passion: women’s careers in academia.
Vicki L. Baker, Ph.D. is the E. Maynard Aris Endowed Professor in Economics and Management at Albion College, Faculty Director of the Albion College Community Collaborative (AC3), and Co-Chair of Albion’s Economics and Management Department. She is also an instructor for Penn State University’s World Campus. Recognized as a “Top 100 Visionary” in Education by the Global Forum for Education and Learning, Vicki is at the forefront of innovation and strategy in faculty and leadership development. As a faculty member and Fulbright Specialist Alumna (Utrecht Netherlands), her goal is to help faculty members, colleges and universities thrive. She has authored 90 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, invited works and books, and be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on finding your path, here are some suggestions:
- Blog: 5 Ways You Can Find Happiness And Joy In These Turbulent Times
- Blog: How To Thrive In Today’s Crazy World? Make Change Your Friend
- Podcast: Rebecca Morrison—Women, Are You Ready To Find Your Happiness? Is It All Around You?
Additional resources for you
- My two award-winning books: Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business
and On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights
- Our website: Simon Associates Management Consultants
Read the transcript of our podcast here
Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I’m Andi Simon, your host and your guide, and my job is to get you off the brink. I love to do podcasts to bring you interesting and important people to help you see, feel and think in new ways. As you know, your brain hates to change. And so my job is to get you off the brink and begin to see opportunities, ideas, instructional information, inspirational ways to begin to think about yourself differently and to do it as well.
So today, I have an absolutely wonderful woman with me. Vicki Baker has been very kind over the years, she’s invited me to do remote classes for Albion University, Appian College, and she’ll tell you more about the college and what she does there. I’ve talked there several, many times about Blue Ocean Strategy to her students. It reminds me what it was like when I was an academic. I spent 10 years as an academic person, I was an Assistant Professor, head of a department, making all those meetings and doing all kinds of things before I got into business.
But the interesting part is what Vicki is doing to help others, particularly women, perceive it and pursue their careers in a university or academic environment and why that’s so hard. So a little bit about Vicki, and then she’ll tell you about herself. Recognized as a “Top 100 Visionary” in Education by the Global Forum for Education and Learning (20-21), Vicki is at the forefront of innovation and strategy in faculty and leadership development. As a faculty member herself and Fulbright Specialist Alumna (Utrecht Netherlands), her goal is to help faculty members and colleges and universities thrive. She earned her PhD (Higher Education) and MS (Management and Organization) from Penn State University, MBA from Clarion University and BS from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Vicki also holds a certificate in Human Resource Management from Villanova University and is a certified professional in HR from the Society for Human Resource Management.
She earned her PhD in higher ed and her MS and management organization from Penn State and I was an undergraduate there. So who knew that our paths had crossed, because she works in Michigan now and I work in New York. But it’s really important because she also holds a certificate in Human Resource Management from Villanova, and is a certified professional in HR from the Society for Human Resource Management. Vicki is the E. Maynard Aris Endowed Professor in Economics and Management at Albion College, Faculty Director of the Albion College Community Collaborative (AC3), Co-Chair of the Economics and Management Department, and serves as an instructor for Penn State University’s World Campus. Prior to joining the academy as a faculty member, Vicki worked at Harvard Business School (Executive Education) and AK Steel Corporation. Vicki is the author of 90 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, invited works and books, including Charting Your Path to Full: A Guide for Women Associate Professors, Success After Tenure: Supporting Mid-Career Faculty, and Developing Faculty in Liberal Arts Colleges. Her recent book is Managing Your Academic Career: A Guide to Re-envision Mid-Career.
Remember those meetings I mentioned when I was at the university? She spends her life in meetings, and I did too, but she’s also the author of 90 peer reviewed articles, invited works, chapters and books, all kinds of books. She’s developing faculty and liberal arts colleges’ success after 10 years supporting mid-career faculty. That’s the full professorship and all kinds of interesting stuff. So Vicki, I’m so glad you’re with me today. Thank you.
Vicki Baker: Thank you, Andi. And I’m glad to be able to interact with you in this way. I’ve been so appreciative over the years of you joining us at Albion, and supporting my students on Blue Ocean Strategy and how to carve their own path. So it’s nice to be able to interact with you in this way.
Andi Simon: Tell the listeners about your story. You clearly have wandered on a journey that’s been fulfilling for you. I remember in the academic world, part of the growth is our own personal growth as well as the professional one. Who’s Vicki Baker? And what’s your journey been like?
Vicki Baker: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think that answer probably changes every day. If you asked me that question two years ago, versus two years from now, it would probably look different. But at this very moment, I’m a proud mother of two children. I think that identity is on the forefront. My son is soon to be eight, my daughter is nine. So they’re 19 months apart. And I actually started my life not thinking I would be in education of any kind. My mom was a kindergarten teacher for 35 years. My dad was a teacher. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, was the superintendent of the school district. My mom’s brother was a teacher and became a principal. And I literally vowed I would never be a teacher.
My undergrad degree is actually in engineering. And when I graduated from college, I moved to Ashland, Kentucky and was an engineer in a steel mill. And I really enjoyed doing that. But then I also realized I didn’t want to be a 55-year-old woman wearing steel-toed boots and a hard hat to work. That’s really good, but I learned some critical lessons about relationships and communication and building those that is a core foundation.
And then got my MBA. From there I moved to Boston and worked at Harvard Business School in executive education…talking about a juxtaposition. We’re working with Fortune 500 level executives here and then I was working with generations of families in a steel mill. And again, there were some core lessons about human rights that I could take with it, but it was funny that comparisons in the types of conversations I had in those environments, and I really remember being in awe of watching some of these faculty walk in the room and do their thing. But there’s a reason they have the reputations that they do.
And so I was working on a second master’s degree there. And it was my faculty member there that said, just go get your PhD. I really liked business and I liked higher education and knew I would marry those two areas, I just didn’t know in what form or what ways, and she had recommended I apply for my PhD either at Penn State or Michigan for the program because they were the top two in the country. And I’m from Pennsylvania. So I thought, I’ll try Penn State. If I get in great, if not, then I’ll stay here. And probably not surprisingly, the assistantship that I got put on was looking at learning outcomes for engineering education. So the background, the background came into play.
And a year after being there, I got an email two weeks before the fall semester started from the chair of the management department which said, “Rumor has it you have your MBA and rumor has it you used to work at Harvard Business School in exec ed.” And I said, “Both of those rumors are true.” And he said, “Would you be willing to meet with me?” And I said, “Sure,” and had a meeting. And he said, “Would you be willing to teach for us and the class starts in two weeks, there’s no book, there’s no syllabus, and we just need you to get fives and above on your teaching evaluation, the max is seven, and I don’t need to have a conversation with you.”
That’s where the teaching started. I would mentor anybody now. Don’t say yes to that. There’s no support, and you’re being set up to fail. And so I was young and naive and didn’t know any better and wanted the experience. And I fell in love with teaching. And that’s when I knew I would end up doing it. But it was so funny, because I swore I would never go down that path. And I guess it’s just in my blood. And I’ve just been committed to fundamentally helping people advance in their careers. I like to help people find what they are passionate about and how can I help them find whatever that thing is, and help them work towards it. So that’s how I got to this point in the books in the work that I do.
Andi Simon: But you know, as I look at your classroom, and the folks, I really liked doing it virtually this time, because I could see their faces. They were great. And they were all women this time, which was sort of interesting. But you aren’t pedantic or informative, you’re inspiring and enabling, and I hear your interactions with them. And that teaching you’re doing is encouraging them to life’s experiences and to pulling it together for their own stories to develop.
And my hunch is that you’ve developed your own style that reflects that engineering and Harvard though awareness of humans. I’m an anthropologist, I’m observing a lot of that. And then Harvard, which is a whole other world. And I mean, you think about stepping back and figuring out what I can contribute to this world that we’re in? But now, the topic that we want to talk about today is helping women in their career advancement, because yours is hardly possible for others to easily follow. Could they?
Vicki Baker: I am the probable poster child for a liberal arts experience. Even though I’m not a product of a liberal arts college, maybe where you start is not necessarily where you finish, it’s about the knowledge gained from the experiences, the relationship-building that helped propel you along that path. So I’m a good poster child for that. But yes, it’s not what I thought I would do. Honestly, again, I vowed, I would never be in this space. But now I can’t imagine being anywhere other than this space.
And as you know, it definitely affords you opportunities to engage with the bright young men and women, you get to see that when you join us, and it’s provided me a really unique vantage point where I can do the consulting work with academics, particularly women academics, who are trying to answer that what’s next question, that mid-career in life. I’ve got responsibilities at home and personal considerations that matter, and especially highlighted from the pandemic where people are making clear choices about their values and what matters and what doesn’t. And so, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to have that experience, but to also get, you know, the unique vantage point with everybody. But yes, it’s not a path that somebody would say yes, that there’s a clear-cut direction and I can go that route.
Andi Simon: Or they can say, be open to opportunities, and let the serendipity become part of your life. Enjoy it, embrace it, some work, and some will mean, who would have thought that your course at Penn State would have been the right one. But now that you’re counseling other women, I might look at my book Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business so we can compare a lot of notes, but there isn’t a woman I know who has a simple, easy trip to wherever they’re going. And it’s a different trip than the men.
The men whom I coach have different concerns and issues. But the women also are tackling all kinds of other societal issues. I won’t call them hurdles or glass ceilings or anything else, they are just society and themselves. And I have a hunch my new coach will listen to them and write your stuff on them. There’s some things that keep popping out. So you share with our listeners, you know, three or four major issues that arise when a woman is looking at what’s next.
Vicki Baker: That’s a really important question and a theme that seems to surface consistently with the women academics that I coach. And again, right, these are bright women, they’ve pursued, you know, what it takes to get to that level. There’s a level of grit, determination, discipline, intelligence and sacrifice to get there. So they didn’t get to this point of what’s next, without putting a lot of work into it. And yet, the number one, one of the top one or two issues that always come up is, “I’m not sure if I’m ready.”
They often come to me if they’re thinking about advancing in their career. So the first question is, “Do I have an interest in advancing from associate to full,” and I have found some people opt out of that. Men and women for a variety of very valid reasons, you also know you left academia for various reasons as well. So I don’t make the assumption that everybody wants to advance. I make the assumption people want to feel fulfilled in their career. So how do we make that happen?
But for those who have advancement on the radar, there’s always that question of, “Do I even want to do it? I’ve sacrificed so much as a PhD student, as an early-career faculty member, to get tenure.” Often with women I hear, “I’ve sacrificed so much already. I don’t know if I’m interested in doing that anymore.”
I’ve had one woman tell me, “My marriage took such a hit. I don’t know if it could withstand me going to full professorship.” Some say, “I might consider it once my children are in school. I’ve got to postpone it.” So there’s the first question of, “Do I even have an interest?” And if there is even a remote interest, the next question or issue I hear is, “I don’t know if I’m ready.” And then my response is, “Well, what’s causing you to wonder if you’re ready? Is somebody having an explicit conversation with you? Or is this your own feeling of inadequacy? Or you know, that you just are placing these invisible, unrealistic expectations on you? What are the faculty handbooks at your institution? And if you’re meeting that, why would you still think that you’re not ready?”
So I do think back to your point, Andi, those societal cultural cues that are either very explicit, where we do see those systemic barriers in business and in higher education, but also those kinds of invisible ones that are those societal expectations about, Wait your turn, maybe you’re not ready to go up yet. And so oftentimes, it’s not an explicit conversation that this woman has had. But there’s enough of those societal or institutional cues that are just causing them to hesitate.
And some of it is also a lack of self-confidence or feelings of self-worth, that they’re not worthy or ready yet. So I spend a lot of my time trying to tease that out with them and then also help them overcome it and put some solid strategies in place that help them feel more ready and comfortable moving forward.
Andi Simon: What’s interesting Vicki is, as I’m listening to you, I’m writing my next book, 100 Trailblazing Women and Their Wisdom. One woman whom I interviewed said, very explicitly, that you ought to surround yourself with teams who support you because when you have that doubt, they will help you see your future. And the second thing is, Raise your hand. You know why, and this is for women in business, it’s equally for women in any field, the resistance or reluctance to feel they are ready or they are appropriate, to “If they want me, they’ll come and find me.”
We’re making it difficult because what they’re looking for is someone who wants to lead and a leader doesn’t wait to be called upon. Now, it may be the wrong time, you may not get it, it may hurt a little bit, because you put yourself out there and it didn’t happen to people, all kinds of things. You know, on the other hand, if not you then who? And if not now, then when? And how will you ever get past the hurdles that are keeping you back? Some of the other things that you advise these women on, because I have a hunch our listeners might all be asking themselves as they come out of a pandemic, “What is next?” Some things?
Vicki Baker: Yeah, so we do some just activities. And I’m a big fan of, and I did this myself with the pandemic, just what matters to me, and why do I want my contribution to be right? And so that serves as a really good litmus test with me. So whenever I’m sitting down with clients, and I say, “Let’s remove that ‘We’re going up for full’ or ‘I’m going to be department chair,’ whether I want to be or I’m next up in the rotation. We all know how that works. Put that stuff aside, but right now when all is said and done, at the end of the day, what do you want to be known for? What do you want to contribute? Where do you find the most joy?
Oh, yeah, life is too short. And so we start trying to kind of tease that out. And then we kind of put that contribution statement together. Again, I’ve worked on mine for about five years. And I tell clients individually or in a workshop, “This looks really clean and neat. But it took me five years to get there, so don’t hold yourself to that standard.” But for me, when I think about what I find the most pleasure in, where I think I have the greatest value to add and where I feel the most joyful, is when I get to work one on one, whether it’s my students, whether it’s clients, whether it’s in workshops, helping people advance in their career. Whatever advancement looks like for them, not me putting a “you should want to go up for full” thing on them. It’s “What does advancement look like to you?”
That advancement could be personal advancement, professional advancement, just life in general. But for me, it’s really distilled down to helping people advance in their careers. That’s my contribution. And that’s where I think I can provide value. So helping people take a step back, recalibrate, let’s reassess those values and priorities and really, at the end of the day, what do we want our contribution to be? And that helps guide us and we always hear that advice of learning to say no, and I think that’s important. But at mid-career, I think it’s much more about being strategic about what we say yes to, but how do we know what we want to say yes to if we aren’t clear what we want our contribution to be, and your yeses should be in service to that contribution.
And then once your dance card is full with the yeses, then it becomes easier to say no, but saying no just for the sake of saying no isn’t advancing you personally or professionally. So I really think in mid-career, it’s much more important to really get clear on what are those values, those priorities? What do I want my contribution to be? And how can I use that contribution to guide me towards what I want to say yes to?
And you highlighted a really important point: mentors. How can you leverage your mentors, if you don’t know what support you’re seeking from those mentors. And so, I tell women all the time, once you have a better clarity on that contribution, have conversations with your mentors, have conversations with the department chair, dean, a supervisor at work. How can they advocate for you if they don’t know the direction you want to be heading? They cannot read your mind. And so getting clarity around those things, and having those critical conversations with people who can advocate for you and help support you is really important.
Andi Simon: The things that you were talking about are important for the listener or the viewer to reflect on for themselves. And I urge you to get a piece of paper and write down one of the exercises we did over the last year: 10 things that really matter to you in a positive way and 10 things that don’t, and then shrink those down to five or two, three, and one and begin to focus on what really matters. My daughter gave me a great quote a couple of years ago: Keep an eye focused on, in the course of a lifetime, what really matters. And at the time, when you’ve been in different roles in different places, and those moments, those times mattered. But then, in the course of a lifetime, where is it going? And you could say, “I’m not going anywhere,” or “I’m not sure where I want to go,” or “I really know where I want to go.”
But it’s a good time to see what makes you high and what makes you low. What you want to do more of and less of, but there are processes to help you think about that. You and I both have tools that we use. When I do these exercises with someone, the only way they can sort out those things will take a year and see what makes you high and low. In the absence of that, you’re going to shotgun it, and you’re going to land someplace or not. You may not go anywhere, but now with the intentionality that you really need to carve your own life. And the other thing I would say is, Don’t let people define you. You have to take charge of who you are. People may say, It is your brand, but who are you? And do you find the women come in with a clarity of their brand and who they are? And the answer to the question: why me? Or are they struggling to figure out that question?
Vicki Baker: They’re struggling because sometimes the notion of brand makes sense for us because we’re in business. We get it, right? But I recognize when I use that language in some disciplines, in settings like brand, that sounds a little too, you know, capitalistic, or we’re putting some business terms on it that you know, this is about education. I go, “Yeah, but it’s still, again, what is your contribution? What is your value add? What do you bring to the table of brand?”
But at the end of the day, don’t you want to be known for something in your discipline, at your institution, among your students? You want to be known as the person who knows X or does X or is really exemplary in A, B and C areas. So I said, “A brand feels too much of a business term for you, fine, but you still are thinking thoughtfully about who am I in the context of my field, in my discipline? What are you known for? What is your subject matter expertise?” And so helping them to really clarify that and again, at mid-career we’re triggered. Because it’s an evolution and we now also have tenure, we are allowed to take some risks now that we are able to maybe step outside of what we have been known for from a disciplinary perspective to get to tenure, but now maybe we do want to pursue more interdisciplinary work or community engaged scholarship, or things that take us down different pathways and that can be overwhelming and freeing at the same time.
And so you feel like you’ve got this great opportunity, and you don’t know what to do with it. And so trying to think about what are those fundamental building blocks that help us to be able to advance from that, but I definitely see them think about that all the time. I don’t even or I don’t know who I am right now. Or I know I’m this person to this person, and I’m this role to this person.
And I go, “Are those the ones that you want them to be? Do you want to change them? Do you want them to evolve, or align? I always repeat, as we evolve over time,”Make sure your actions are honoring that evolution.” That’s really important. Leave the space and grace to allow that evolution to happen. And to honor it via your engagements or how you craft your own narrative. If you don’t own it, somebody else will craft that narrative for you and that’s likely not going to be in your favor. You need to own your narrative and craft it the way you want it to appear.
Andi Simon: And I emphasize that both in business and for others. I was a visiting professor for a semester at Washington University teaching entrepreneurship. I see you live your story. So what is your story?, your mind wants to know, because it will do exactly what it thinks you want it to do. And once you understand some of the neuroscience behind it, you see that your mind is really looking for what it is you want to do. Because it will wander around doing whatever it thinks you want to do. It’ll make you happy or sad, but your mind wants to know. And until you craft that movie set in there or that storyline, that narrative becomes difficult for you to live every day. And because you live your story, and until you land on it and see it coming, every day becomes another challenge, where it’s just going in the right direction and you become happy with the tasks to be done as opposed to the path that you’re on.
Vicki Baker: And I appreciate the deliberate intentionality being strategic. And again, not that that’s not important at all career stages, but I particularly work with mid-career women and I know a lot of women that you’ve worked with in business or mid-career, it’s such a long stage of career in life. And so many ebbs and flows. And you could have childcare as well as elder care. I mean, there’s so many different hats that we have.
And again, societal expectations connected to those make it challenging for women to navigate. But I think if we can focus less on those external expectations, and think about taking control of that narrative, and how we want to chart our path and craft that story, that becomes much more empowering, and again leads to putting your hand up again. Have those critical conversations about, here’s the five things I narrow down on my list, or here’s what I want my contribution to be. Unless you’re communicating that regularly with key people, how are they expected to advocate for you or to highlight those opportunities that might be aligned with your strengths if they don’t know that’s on the table either?
Andi Simon: Well, and it is interesting, because you made a good point. It isn’t just academics. I have no idea how many women I coach. I’m an executive coach, who has the kind of story that makes you wonder, something like, “Well, I’ve made it as far as I’m going at XYZ, Morgan Stanley, wherever it was. I’m pretty good at what I do, but I have no idea where I’m going.”
They’re making good income so that the income level isn’t bad and they don’t see that they don’t really know who they are at this point. And that lack of knowing who I am and what I want to do troubles me as I work with them because there’s nobody holding you back. But that mirror is looking back at you and saying, who are you? And what do you want to do?
And then I have somebody whom I love to coach, and she’s learning that her after-work activities have become more fulfilling than her workflows. And I said, “That’s okay, you can have a side hustle of some kind or not-for-profit or whatever gives you pleasure, without necessarily returning to that as your income stream. There are ways of balancing your life, but you have to decide nobody’s going to decide for you.” And if you let them, you’re going to have some real painful moments.
Vicki Baker: Absolutely. And even for me, right, my home base is Albion College, and I’m a professor here, but I have the great opportunity to do the consulting work I do and the coaching and that allows me, because nobody loves their job 100% of the time and there’s challenges. There are challenges with leadership, challenges with direction and vision, and all of those things, and it can get overwhelming and exhausting at times. And so when I find myself maybe being in a space where I feel less energized by my work at Albion, I’ve got these opportunities to meet and support these other women and work with these other Institute’s leaders. And then it also helps you, and you probably experience too, to realize the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.
And sometimes you’re hearing of other institutional policies and practices that are even more prohibitive to women advancing in their career. So then I can come back and go, Hey, it is way worse. So let us not complain anymore about this issue. Yes, there’s room to improve. But it can always be worse. And it can always be better. So I’m very appreciative that I am in this position that I have the benefit, and the stability of a home base, but also having this great opportunity to engage across the academy and with such diverse faculty that it really does keep you grounded and centered on what matters. And these are all humans. These are all humans at the end of the day, who just want to feel fulfilled and want to feel like they matter and want to feel like they’re making a difference. And that’s really fundamentally what it comes down to.
Andi Simon: I have one question for you and then we’ll probably go to a wrap-up. But I’m watching and working with companies where the words diversity, equity, inclusion have become top of mind. As you’re thinking about the universities and colleges and the academic world, are there efforts going on to change the attitude toward making it easier, because one of the things I saw in the university world was that the leadership were all men and the women were all the worker bees. And I have a friend who’s in the staffing industry, and he’s lamenting the fact that all the managers and all the officers are men and all the women are doing the recruiting. So we’ve just moved ourselves into another blue collar worker place and we’re not running the sewing machines. But we’re doing all the teaching, but not the leadership. Are you seeing universities beginning to rise to the occasion, or run away from it or anything?
Vicki Baker: We are seeing more conversations and efforts, and something that I’m noticing that is at least becoming highlighted in this, is the HR background. And I’ve had these conversations. There’s obviously that disparate treatment, that very obvious over-systemic racism against women, against faculty of color. And so institutions are doing a better job. To say that it’s eliminated would be a disservice. That’s not accurate. But we’re moving the needle. Are we still lagging behind, is that disparate treatment, the well-intentioned policies that we put in place, that we think are moving the needle for populations when we really ask the right questions and collect the right data?
Maybe we’re not moving the needle, like we thought, like during COVID, giving women faculty an opportunity to delay tenure clocks. Well, on the surface that seemed really good intentioned, well-meaning, but you’re only causing longer periods for women to be at that rank. And we found that it’s benefiting men more because they were able to use that time to advance scholarship versus women who used that time for childcare and eldercare.
So again, on the surface, well-intentioned. In reality, it created even more of a disparate impact of these policies. So I think we see that in industry too. But that, again, we’re working hard to try to minimize those very overt, this disparate treatment. But we’re not asking all the right questions on that disparate impact when we’re really looking at which are the populations we care most about, and how can we better support them and the supports in place. Are they really doing what we intended them to do?
Andi Simon: Yep. And we’re taking us back to our beginning, but we’re going to talk about career advancement for mid-level folks of any kind everywhere. This has become a passion of yours. And you write about it, you’re deeply involved in coaching. What do you see coming next for you?
Vicki Baker: You know, that’s a great question. I think I’ll still focus on mid-career if you were to look at my scholarly agenda. That trajectory follows my career pathway, right? As a doc student, I studied doctoral student experiences. Then as an early-career faculty member, I studied that, and then once I hit tenure and mid-career and became a full professor, even though I’m still very much mid-career, I wanted to understand what we need. I needed support, and I thought, I’m not alone.
So the next thing for me that I think I want to look at are, and it’s focused again in academia, but I think we also see this in industry. There’s a huge population of contingent faculty, non-tenure track, and there’s an increase in reliance. Those faculty, there’s a significant portion we’re also mid-career, so right at that intersectionality of appointment type and career stage, coupled with gender. We see more women in contingent positions. We see more faculty of color and women faculty of color in those contingent positions. And so they’re important. They’re important pieces to institutions, and yet I think they’re being underserved and undervalued.
So I really want to look at the intersectional lens to those two issues because they’re the two largest populations in academia, contingent faculty and mid-career. You have mid-career faculty who are contingent faculty, and right in industry, there is temporary work, maybe not full time fast track, but they are critical. And they provide critical leadership services to organizations, and how are we supporting them so that we are building that bench strength that we are putting them in a position to be the fulfilled contributors that they want to be, even if they’re not seeking to be a C-suite person. So I think to your point, we have work to do.
Andi Simon: The way our society has enabled industry, as well as the academy, to grow is not necessarily with equity and inclusion, as opposed to the gig economy, which was a third of all workforce before the pandemic. I have no idea what it is now. But I’m watching as people are making choices, they’re putting the responsibility on themselves. But the institutions have to wake up to the fact that they have to change, to begin to give and provide a better place or even not going to the institutions.
I mean, college enrollments are struggling because the number of kids graduating from high school is not on the rise, but in many places is declining. So what’s our purpose? And how do we help that mid-level, diverse workforce expand and use us? What’s our rule? Questions? One or two things you want our listeners not to forget. It’s about time to wrap up.
Vicki Baker: Yep, absolutely. So I think, really take that step back and think about those values, priorities and that contribution. I think that becomes the foundation that we build on. And number two: control your narrative. This is your opportunity to really craft that and what you want to be known for, and you take control of that. I think that’s so important for any listener, male or female, but particularly women who are at that mid-career stage and trying to grapple with the What’s next. Don’t overcomplicate it, put those building blocks in place and work through it. So that’s what I would want the listeners and the watchers to watch.
Andi Simon: You know, your mind wants to know exactly what you want it to do, understand that, and begin to craft a story, that narrative, that helps you live every day going someplace. And don’t forget about our small wins, steps at a time because you can’t move a battleship without it, but make sure you know where you are going. Or will you just wander around and you’ll wonder how I go forward? Or how did I get through the day?
And I know people love to live in the moment, but when you’re in a career, life is a career, how do you move it? I’ve been so fortunate to know Vicki Baker, and the Michigan College Alliance, I thank for the introduction. And it’s just been fun working with those classes, even remotely. It’s great! One day we may do it in person, and I don’t know what will happen, will it be good or not good. But for my listeners and my viewers, thank you for coming. I remember I told you, you’ve accelerated us into the top 5% of global podcasts. It’s truly an honor, you send me great ideas for people who we should have.
And I think that the more we engage to co-create the podcast experience, the more you’re going to find it worthwhile. I have people who contact us from across the world. “Just love your podcast with…fill in the name.” And who knew! But I do know that our job is to help you see, feel and think in new ways. And that’s what we do. We do that as a consultant. Our business is over 20 years old now. And that’s how we help our clients see things through a fresh lens.
My two books, On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights and Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, are both at Amazon and waiting for you. And both have won awards. It’s interesting, book writing. My third one’s coming. And it should be out by the fall of 2023. I’m very excited about it. And then who knows what’s next on my career path? Will I be mid-career? I don’t think I’ve ever been at my peak. When am I going to retire? I’ve yet to figure out what that all means, other than life’s a journey and let’s enjoy the trip. Thanks Vicki. Thanks for talking today.
Vicki Baker: Thanks, Andi. I appreciate it.