Wearing purple and white and a Women’s Suffrage pin to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, Joan Phillips was happy to acknowledge the symbolic nature of being the first female dean of the College of Business at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
“I’m very, very happy to celebrate this,” Phillips said while speaking during a campus discussion earlier this week. “One of the things we struggle with in business schools across the country is that women aren’t going into and getting business degrees at the same rate as men. This used to be a problem for other professional schools – law schools, medical schools – but they’re now 50-51% women and some even higher. So, what are some of the challenges that women face as they go into business, and what are some of the structural issues that keep them from thriving?”
Phillips discussed that topic and more during a Women’s History Month event titled, “All It Takes is Coffee and a Little Bit of Courage,” held on Zoom and co-sponsored by the College of Business Administration, the Gender Studies Program and the Office of Student Involvement.
“We’re extremely excited to know that Dean Phillips was going to be able to join us during Women’s History Month,” she said. “And obviously she’s just such a groundbreaker – our first ever woman dean at the College of Business Administration. I cannot tell you how choked up I get when I think about that.”
Carla Jordan, interim director of Undergraduate Advising, provided highlights of Phillips’ career achievements and the group of about 60 participants had a chance to learn some personal details about UMSL’s newest dean.
Phillips, who officially started in her new role on Monday, shared that she grew up in upstate New York in a farming family and is a part of fraternal triplets. As a self-taught competitive tennis player, she counts Billie Jean King as one of her heroes. Phillips said that both she and her husband, Carlos Hernandez, who is a CPA, are first-generation college students, which puts her in a special position to relate to UMSL’s nontraditional student body.
“My grandparents came from Eastern Europe and Russia,” she said. “My mother’s first language was not English. Carlos, his parents came from Mexico, the kids were born here, he grew up bilingual. And [college] just transformed our lives.”
Phillips said her first week of duties has involved discussions on a variety of topics, including ways to recruit more women in business. She said her first order of business is to do a lot of listening.
“I like to think I’m a really good listener,” Phillips said. “Getting to know everybody, I think that’s something that has real benefit. Hopefully in the fall, we can be back together and then we can be sitting in each other’s office having a cup of coffee instead of sharing this way.”
To hear the complete conversation, click here.