Darden Professor Melissa Thomas-Hunt Instructs Women Through New Lean in Online Community

25 March 2013

“Teams are often riddled with conflict and difficult personalities,” said University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Melissa Thomas-Hunt. “How can you be more effective in contributing your ideas, in considering the perspectives of others, in making sure the relevant expertise of all the team members gets harnessed for the betterment of the team’s outcomes?” she asked.

Thomas-Hunt has extensively studied team and gender dynamics, which is one reason she was tapped to share her expertise in a video for a new online community geared toward women.

“My goal today is to get you to be a more effective member and leader of a high-performing team,” she said as she began her video lesson.

Hastened by the launch of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, and an imperative to create new momentum to lift the stalled numbers of American women stepping into high-level leadership roles, LeanIn.org was born.

This online community features a team of educators and leaders who share their expert knowledge about a variety of topics and issues related to women and their success in the workplace. Thomas-Hunt shares accessible and easily applicable knowledge on the topic of teams.

“In my video module, women will learn how to recognize expertise, be heard and enlist the support of team members before team meetings,” said Thomas-Hunt. “These are important skills for women to cultivate because, generally speaking, they aren’t expected to be experts.”

According to Thomas-Hunt, this sentiment leads women’s expertise to be discounted, particularly in teams in which all members are considered equal.

Thomas-Hunt’s video module tackles:

  • How Information Is Used Within Teams
  • Women and Team Dynamics
  • How Viewers Can Apply the Teachings

To illustrate how to apply the team-dynamics tools and lessons, LeanIn.org advisers and members from Stanford University weigh in with messages and personal experiences.

“One of my very best friends gave me salient advice when I took on a leadership role,” said neurosurgeon Odette Harris. “It was essentially to be bold, have a thick skin and to appreciate that ultimately everything is your responsibility. This can be quite daunting, and I find the best approach is to build a great team.”

In addition to providing practical tools and education, LeanIn.org also convenes peer group circles for women so that they can meet and support each other in their efforts to define and reach professional success.

Thomas-Hunt is director of the Behavioral Research at Darden (BRAD) Laboratory and an associate professor in Darden’s Leadership and Organizational Behavior area.

She joins LeanIn.org colleagues from Stanford University, McKinsey & Company, Blue Planet Training, Universidad Francisco Marroquín and others to empower women and their professional lives. Professors with The Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford are responsible for the coordination of the online community’s educational content.

Listen to the Darden BusinessCast featuring Melissa Thomas-Hunt.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia