Debora Spar is the 11th President of Barnard College and a former Harvard Business School professor. She earned her doctorate in government from Harvard University and is a graduate of the Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She is also the author of three books, including the recent Wonder Woman: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. As President of Barnard, Spar has spearheaded many initiatives to promote women and leadership including the Athena Center for Leadership Studies. Spar has become a strong voice in the current discourse on women’s leadership.
What are the three most important characteristics of a woman leader?
Resilience, empathy, and a willingness to lead.
When do you feel at your best?
After finishing a project well, and then heading off for some total relaxation.
What did you do in your first year after College?
Went to graduate school!
What does it mean to be a “successful” woman?
There are as many different answers to this question as there are women in the world. We need to define success for ourselves, rather than all adhering to a single, common definition
What are challenges you think women face in Academia?
Pretty much the basic ones we still face everywhere: tenure clocks are short, and women often have to juggle going for tenure (which means a great focus on their research) with starting and tending to their families. Meanwhile, embedded discrimination still exists – often very subtly – and women have tougher times get hired, mentored, and promoted in some fields and subfields.
What was your biggest mistake?
Taking my first job under circumstances that meant I would almost certainly have to be commuting between two cities
What do you do when you need a moment?
Give yourself a compliment.
Most days, you manage to keep your head above water. That’s a good thing.
If you could give “the college you” one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t try to keep everyone happy. You’ll never succeed.