Building Strong Women Leaders with Sangeeta Rao


Sangeeta Rao Post (1)


Women’s Wealth: The Middle Way® Presents 

Building Strong Women Leaders with Sangeeta Rao

Sangeeta Rao, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Student Mentoring Programs at Rutgers University, is passionate about empowering women. Sangeeta oversees Women BUILD, a leadership program designed to give high achieving, talented women undergraduates at Rutgers Business School the opportunity to reach their full leadership potential as business students. She also co-leads a new Women’s Initiative at Rutgers Business School that seeks to build stronger connections between students, faculty, alumni, and corporations with a goal of addressing systemic gender biases in business.  Join us as Sangeeta shares what mentorship means to her and the personal effect that Women BUILD has had on her life and career. 

Join us every other week on Women’s Wealth: The Middle Way®, a radio show aimed at helping women navigate questions about work, money, and family. You can find us on your favorite podcast app, including Libsyn, Soundcloud, Podbean, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts. See you in two weeks!

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Show Transcript: 

Susan Michel: Welcome back to Women’s Wealth: The Middle Way®, the show that answers your questions about work, money and family. My name is Susan McGlory Michel and I am the CEO and founder of Glen Eagle, a wealth management firm in New Jersey. Today, I’m joined by Sangeeta Rao, Assistant Dean of Student Mentoring Programs at Rutgers University. Sangeeta oversees the Women’s Business Undergraduate and Leadership Development, or Women BUILD program, which is a leadership program designed to provide high-achieving, motivated and talented women undergraduates the opportunity to reach their full leadership potential as business students. She is now co-leading a new women’s initiative at breakfast business school that seeks to build strong connections between students, faculty, alumni and corporations. with the goal of addressing systemic gender biases and business, she has conducted a training program on mentoring for women officials in Vietnam as part of the United Nations Development Program initiative. Sangeeta has a PhD in communication studies from the University of Massachusetts. Welcome.

Sangeeta Rao: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Susan Michel: You know, when I was looking and reading so much about you, you have accomplished so much, the one thing that struck me was that you actually went to the White House in 2015 to participate in the national conversation about business schools and women business leaders and future policies and US workforce. Can you give us a summary of Women BUILD and what it hopes to provide to young females? And in this particular case, Rutgers students?

Sangeeta Rao: Yes. Absolutely. To reference back to the White House meeting, this was under the previous administration, which convened through the Council of Economic Advisors and the White House Council on Women and Girls, a meeting of old business school deans, because there’s such a concern on a national level about providing access and opportunities to women to access higher education in business, as well as the pathways that lead to successful careers in business. So obviously, this was a concern for the Council of Economic Advisers as well as the Council on Women and Girls. And it’s a very valid one. Increasingly and continuously we’ve seen the lack of representation of women at higher levels within organizations when it comes to leadership, we’ve also seen the persistence of pay inequity at all levels, especially for women of color. These are systemic issues that need systemic changes, which is why policy was important. But also policy changes can’t be achieved without the partnership with higher education institutions. So I was very proud to be a part of that conversation. And I think what came out of that really was best practices, what we should be doing within our universities, within our colleges, in order to empower young women to be on the pathway to success in business. That informed some of the work that I do through the Women BUILD program. So as you mentioned earlier, it is a program that is a leadership development program, it’s a multi-year program with several components that builds the confidence and the skills necessary for our young women to be successful. And it does that in a variety of ways. We have the support of many companies and corporations that sponsor the program and they come in, mainly senior women in those industries come in for roundtable discussions with our Women BUILD cohorts so that they learn firsthand from successful women in business, about topics that are relevant to succeeding as women in business. So that’s just one example of a component within the Women BUILD program. In addition to that, what makes this program unique is that we also have a strong curricular component. Our students take a three-credit course called Women Leading In Business, which is taught by senior faculty members within the business school, and then it gives them the curricular grounding in the research, as well as the strategies and the tools that women need to understand gender dynamics in the workplace, to understand how to navigate their path within gender workplaces. So there’s that component as well.

Susan Michel: I couldn’t agree with you more. And I love the idea of the roundtable discussions and women helping women, but also blending the academic with tools and peer role modeling. I think that those are for me when you’re talking, those top three just popped out, that is so powerful, and I think so in need of higher education. And in so many ways lacking. I think that often we want to go out and help but we don’t realize that women are really powerful leaders and we have to help develop that so that when they go out, they’re prepared. When we talk about those three things that like roundtable discussions and women helping women and blending the academics have the tools, what does it mean, though, to lead such a unique program that you’ve developed? And why do you think the mentoring matters so much with what I always call women leaning down to help other women? But in my case, I often have grown just as much as my mentees as their mentor. I feel like I’ve grown.

Sangeeta Rao: Mentoring is a really powerful and very unique in that there’s both subjective as well as objective indicators of success when mentoring takes place. So there’s all the intangibles because it’s not something that’s very visible, it’s a relationship between a couple of people, but it is infused with all the dynamics that are necessary for a person to really live up to their full potential. So when it comes to mentoring, let’s speak, subjectively speaking first, you feel supported, right? You’re part of a dynamic where you have the support of someone else who is more established, and more, quote-unquote, powerful, so you feel supported but There’s also objective indicators of success. We know that by being mentored, it leads to real differences when it comes to the kind of salary someone makes, whether or not they receive a promotion, whether or not they have work-life balance, as well as career satisfaction. The research has proven that people that are mentored tend to do better in all of these areas than people who are not. We actually conducted this study even within our program at Rutgers Business School, and we found that the students who participated in our mentoring program on average, earned a starting salary that was $5,000 more than someone who did not. So that’s a very, very tangible so yeah, so it really bears fruit. And like you mentioned, it’s also rewarding for the person who is mentoring, not just the mentee, When I took on this position, I thought it’s going to be really, really hard to find busy professionals to take time out of the day to do something, you know, like, like work with an undergraduate student. But I found that that has not been very hard at all. Both men and women, but women generally tend to carry more of the load when it comes to not only working outside of the home, but also the amount of work that they carry within the household. I find it inspiring and amazing that these women still want to make time to mentor young women. That has not been as challenging as I thought it would be because the rewards they get in exchange, I think really are worth it to them. They learn from their mentees. Another interesting statistic I’ll share with you is that we found in our mentoring relationship, 85% of our mentees and mentors continue the relationship after the formal one-semester program has ended. So that should again tell you that they find it really valuable to participate in that relationship because they’re not willing to give up on it and the relationship even after the program has ended.

Susan Michel: It says a lot for the Rutgers program in that and I think it’s a great role model for others in higher institutions to see that giving back your alumni often and those that are in the industry, then they involve the industry. So it really is a very lucrative endeavor. But now let’s transition a little bit. Sangeeta, you have been involved in Women BUILD and have impacted, I think, how has it impacted you as a woman? And what other factors have influenced the path of your career that has taken. We’ve listened to all your accomplishments and so much you have done and how that Rutgers has empowered you to be able to do this but personally, how have Women BUILD impacted you as a woman and what was your career journey?  We’d love to hear that because you seem so interesting.

Sangeeta Rao: Thanks. It has been a pretty straight career path for me. I’ve always been in higher education. I grew up here as a child, but moved back to India when I was very young for my schooling because my mom studied to be a doctor here, but then she went back, she wanted to practice in India where I’m from. So we did the reverse migration. And then I came back only for graduate school. So graduate school was interesting because I was an international student and it’s a different model of schooling. So it took me a while to really find my voice and occupy, you know, space within the classroom. But that whole experience was really transformational for me. It led me on the path you know, once I found my voice, into student politics. I served in the graduate employee union. I held a leadership position there. I then served as an officer on the Graduate Student Senate. So these were very impactful experiences for me because I was an advocate for students. And I’ve really opened that into my career because I identified and understand the challenges and opportunities and needs, I guess, of students. My whole graduate school experience was a very, very immersive and transformational experience for me. I did not veer too far away from that then I went straight into higher education administration from there. I’ve always been within the field of student engagement and student development. My first real role out of school was at Pace University where I managed university-community partnerships. They had a curricular requirement for community-based learning. And again, still influenced by my at that time activist background, working with community organizations and NGOs seemed really interesting to me and up my alley, so that’s what I did. Making a transition to a business school was very, very different. But in the same way, my role as an advocate for students as well as an advocate for students is something that has remained consistent. Here, the only difference is that I partner with companies and corporations rather than nonprofits and NGOs, but I found that there are good people everywhere. And very strangely, I feel my work is more impactful in a way now because there are more resources within a business school rather than in the nonprofit space sometimes to effect change. And the trend, as you might have seen recently, through the Forbes article about the new commitment that corporations and companies have to make is not just to their shareholders, but to see what impact and influence they can have on society and the public good. So it’s very interesting that I am where I am right now within the business school at this point in time, where corporate social responsibility, ethics, and social innovation is at the forefront of the business. And so it seems like the right space and place to be making a change. And my young women students and all the students here at Rutgers are going to be at the forefront of that change.

Susan Michel: I agree with you and I also read that Forbes article and I can’t emphasize enough the one thing that kept coming to my mind is how higher education and institutions have to take the lead as Rutgers has. They’re really cutting edge in what they’ve done and that’s very admirable. And also for you, I you know, when you were talking, I think I believe that we’re each and this is my own personal belief born with a spiritual gift, and sometimes it takes some of us longer than others to find it and when you found that in graduate school, you have been able to become such a leader, as an advocate for students and what a gift that is because you are doing what you love, but you are also empowering other. You don’t have as they say, some people have an elevator speech, you don’t need one you live and breathe it. It’s so refreshing to hear that someone at such a young age graduate school new and new back here in this country, trying to figure it all out not only figured it out but then became passionate about something that was such a need. As we conclude, I ask each of my guests at the end, what advice you would give a young woman who is out there ready to pursue her career, but you were there at one time and here you are. What would you suggest that a young woman who’s trying to navigate and figure out how she can contribute back to society or where she fits.

Sangeeta Rao: I really learned this from my students. I can say it took me a really, really long time to be able to do that, I think, but I see undergraduate students now that are open to new experiences and challenges and that’s what I would say that they should do is not wait till they’re perfect of something but really raise your hand and make your voice heard and put yourself in uncomfortable situations as often as you can because that’s the only way to stretch yourself and the only way to grow. Do something that makes you uncomfortable every single day. 

Susan Michel: Yeah, yeah. Before you know it, what do they say, to uncomfortableness comes growth. Sangeeta, I cannot thank you enough for joining us today, you have just been a wealth of knowledge. And I can just imagine moms, grandmoms and young women who are listening to this saying, you know, there are so many opportunities that I need to explore. And thank you for what you do. I know not only for Rutgers Business School, but for all that you’ve been involved in. So thank you for joining us today.

Sangeeta Rao: Thank you so much.

Susan Michel: Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of Women’s Wealth: The Middle Way®! Make sure to subscribe to us and leave a review on iTunes, Spotify,  Soundcloud, or on your favorite podcast app. Join us for new episodes every other Wednesday. See you in two weeks!


About Susan Michel


Susan Michel, CEO & Founder – Glen Eagle

Susan Michel is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Glen Eagle, a full-service Registered Investment Advisor and Broker-Dealer. Susan founded Glen Eagle in 2002.  Glen Eagle is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise.

What differentiates Glen Eagle is the culture Susan has created.  Her approach is summarized in the firm’s vision statement, “Faith, Family, Firm, in that order.”  Everyone at Glen Eagle internalizes this statement in their day-to-day interactions with each other and with the firm’s clients.

Today, under Susan’s principled guidance, Glen Eagle has grown to become a national financial services firm providing corporations, family offices, business owners and multigenerational families with trusted stewardship and transparent access to their wealth. Glen Eagle serves clients in 32 states and manages over $4 billion dollars in assets.

Susan’s business leadership has been recognized by numerous awards, including the Brava Award by Smart CEO and the National Enterprising Woman of the Year Award.  She has also been named one of NJBIZ’s Best 50 Women in Business and one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners of New Jersey.

Susan has a national presence as a speaker and writer.  Susan has spoken to a wide variety of audiences, including FINRA’s National Annual Conference, Financial Advisor’s Invest in Women Conference and the Enterprising Women Conference. Susan also hosts a national podcast, Women’s Wealth: The Middle Way®.  She has been featured in Fortune, Forbes and Newsweek.

Susan believes it is important to give back to others through service.  She currently serves as Vice-Chair of Board of Trustees of The Hun School of Princeton, as a Trustee on the Board of the College of St. Elizabeth and as a board member of the New Jersey Chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO).