An interview with Saba Colakoglu, Lecturer at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta-Georgia, USA & The incoming President of the Women in Academy of International Business (WAIB)
T&E SIG: ‘How should we address gender issues in the cross-cultural classroom, when the perspectives and values on the gender identification and gender roles issues are likely to differ?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘I think we should approach gender issues in the cross-cultural classroom the same way we approach any identity category – by committing to creating an inclusive, welcoming, and fair learning environment for everyone. Every student, regardless of personal history, background, gender, or gender-identity should feel valued, heard, and respected in the classroom. I personally include an “Inclusivity Statement” in my syllabus. It is the first paragraph on all my syllabi, before any other information. I also read it out loud on the first day of classes before I do anything else, pledging my commitment to such principles. It is important to set the norm and the tone of inclusivity explicitly from the first day, be a role model to all students, keep them accountable for respecting one another, and continue to create a safe space for all students to thrive in at all times, indside and outside the classroom.’
T&E SIG: ‘When we teach international business, to what extent and in what ways genders’ identifications are represented in our classrooms and teaching materials? To what extent this matters?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘If I understand the question correctly, this is about the language we use in the classrooms and teaching materials, and maybe the preferred pronouns? I am originally from Turkey and Turkish is one of the few genderless languages spoken. If all the languages were genderless, I think it would have been easier to address the issue of pronouns. Of course in English, the default language of IB, representation of genders’ identifications is important in the classrooms and teaching materials. In the classroom, it might be as simple as addressing individuals with their preferred pronouns. I see this as an extension of the inclusivity principle. Another way of showing students that we care about and respect who they are.’
T&E SIG: ‘As the incoming President of the Women in Academy of International Business (WAIB), can you give us a snapshot of the status of women’s careers in academia?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘Thank you for asking this important question. Despite gradual progress in the representation of women in senior positions in academia, underrepresentation in senior and leadership positions is a persistent problem globally. Unfortunately, women remain concentrated in lower faculty ranks and face a leaky pipeline with respect to advancing in their careers. This is especially true in the United States where I work, but also a prevalent pattern across the globe. According to the latest report by the AAUP, while 54% of assistant professors were women in 2021 in the U.S., only about a third (35.8 percent) of full professors were women. The same report also suggests that this pattern is even more significant in elite doctoral research universities that typically pay the highest salaries and in male-dominated disciplines, like economics. So, with respect to achieving gender equity in pay, promotions, and positions and fixing the leaky pipeline for women, we still need to make a lot of progress.’
T&E SIG: ‘For AIB and business schools to incorporate DEI efforts for their own faculty and leadership, what specific measures can be implemented for enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘AIB leadership has been strongly committed to improving DEI within the organization and so have many business schools for some time now. Of course, this is a long journey that requires persistence and intentionality. Genuine commitment to DEI from leadership is the first step. Incorporating DEI-specific goals and timelines into strategic plans is crucial. The practices and processes that will continue to move the needle include increasing the representation of underrepresented groups in recruitment and hiring, providing such groups with mentoring and sponsorship opportunities, employee affinity networks focused on diversity and inclusion, strong endorsement and encouragement for faculty from all backgrounds to volunteer for DEI roles, events, speakers, or training increase awareness around diversity and inclusion, and overall creating a culture that is compassionate, inclusive, and welcoming for all.’
T&E SIG: ‘What do you think are the challenges women face in advancing their careers in academia and reaching senior and leadership positions?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘The challenges women face in advancing their careers are the result of many systemic and structural factors, including biases in hiring and promotion practices, lack of institutional resources and support, and difficulty accessing mentors and powerful networks. There are also teaching evaluations that especially relate to your SIG. As we all know, teaching evaluations are an important element in pay and promotion decisions. Yet, research consistently shows that women faculty systematically receive lower teaching evaluations than their male peers. This bias is even more pronounced for more quantitative courses and courses that are predominantly filled with male students who tend to show greater bias against female faculty.
Finally, there is the brutally competitive and demanding culture of academia in general, where we publish or perish, get great teaching evaluations, and are committed organizational citizens, serving our colleges and disciplines. Surviving in this type of culture is difficult not only for women who historically carry the weight of house chores and caregiving responsibilities, but also anybody who wants to have some level of work-life balance. During a junior faculty consortium many years ago, I was told by a senior male professor that if I ever experienced a reasonable level of work-life balance while on tenure-track, I was probably not going to get tenure. I think this statement well represents the culture in which women have been trying to survive.’
T&E SIG: ‘Have you observed workload inequality among women and men faculty in the academy in general? If so, what is the nature of the inequality?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘Beyond our contractual obligations for which and how many classes we teach, and where and how many publications we need to have for promotion, I think workload inequality typically exists in service. Service is the hardest to quantify and is a lower-ranking priority in any academic career. Yet it is very time-consuming, and it distracts from activities that give us real visibility and a career boost. We tend to be thankful and grateful to those that serve, but our institutional reward systems don’t represent that gratitude.
One of the cited reasons for women’s difficulty in reaching leadership positions in the corporate world is that women tend to volunteer more frequently for non-promotable or “housewife” tasks, they are more likely to be asked to perform those tasks, and they are more likely to say YES when asked. Doing things like organizing a retirement party, serving on a low-ranking committee, filling in for someone missing, taking on routine work that does not require much skill, etc. I think the same pattern holds in academia for who does what kind of service work. The career consequence for women is that such work is not visible, not impactful or important, and thus not rewarded by institutional mechanisms, but extremely time-consuming. Those who are better at protecting their time have more cognitive and psychological energy to spend on more promotable and visible tasks.’
T&E SIG: ‘What changes are needed to overcome this gendered workload inequality?’
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘Both administrators and women faculty themselves need to be cognizant of this pattern. Administrators need to allocate workload in an equitable manner, protecting all their faculty’s time. Women faculty should fight the urge to be nice and nurturing at all times, not overcommit and stretch themselves too thin, and get comfortable with saying no when they need to and protecting their time.’
T&E SIG: Thank you for your answers. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dr. Saba Colakoglu: ‘I’d be remiss if I did not mention that the Women in Academy of International Business (WAIB), since its founding in 2001 by Lorraine Eden, has been a powerful force for increasing DEI within AIB. Our mission has always been and continues to be a platform for support and networking among WAIB members, facilitating academic mentorship, and promoting research on gender and gender-related issues in international business. You can learn more about our mission and our activities, get involved, and donate by going to https://waib.aib.world/. Thank you for this opportunity to speak about these important matters.’
 The America Association of University Professors
 The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2021-22
Lecturer at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta-Georgia, USA
The incoming President of the Women in Academy of International Business (WAIB)