Fitting In and Standing Out Pecking Order Games
Michelle Clayman, Founder and Managing Partner, New Amsterdam Partners

Teaching Guide for Women Inspired Program


In today’s world, highly talented women continue to face challenges that limit their success, career potential and general life satisfaction.  In partnership with the GSB Women's Task Force, the GSB Alumni Relations Office makes these resources available to spark thinking and discussion on important topics of career navigation, leadership through awkward dynamics in the work place, work-life balance, and diversity. 

These resources are designed to challenge you to grapple with the forces driving your own internal compass and gut reactions as you watch, discuss, and share a combination of both the Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes.

Women Inspired Program Vignettes

This content is designed from real stories and perspectives of diverse women with the simple assumption that career satisfaction and life success are driven by the ability of a woman to make consistent value judgments and decisions that are driven by an inspired perspective of oneself and ones life vision.  The vignettes and cases are structured to spark personal reflection around one's own values and decision-making process, which will lead to transformative learning of practical ways to address challenges.  The video case resources are made available to all alumni and the content is designed to be experienced individually, in a group discussion or with a professional coach.

The collection includes two different types of videos: Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes.  The Capstone Perspectives feature a woman’s perspective, experience or advice on a particular topic or theme.  The Video Case Vignettes focus on a particular challenge a woman faced, decisions she made, and what she learned from the experience.

Video Case Vignette Format

These case vignettes feature leaders who share their experiences and insights to help you understand the opportunities you have to hone your own thinking and career design.  The case vignettes are broken into 3 clips: the background and challenge; the decision or action taken by the leader and the results of the case with lessons learned.  At the end of each clip, take time to consider or discuss how you might handle the dilemma, whether or not you agree with the action that was taken, or what you might do differently and why.  Take heed of the lessons learned and see what advice you can take from leaders who have gleaned important insights from their experiences.

How to Make the Most from the Video Vignettes

Try to watch a combination of Capstone Perspectives and Video Case Vignettes from different leaders.  In many cases, you will see that leaders may handle the same question or challenge very differently.  Consider which approach or perspective works for you.

As you watch the videos, reference the scrolling notes next to the video, which includes a brief background on the leader, a summary of the vignette, take-aways, and questions to consider.  For every vignette, ask yourself whether or not you agree with the leader.  Try to understand what values or frameworks are driving your reactions.  If you have not yet faced a similar challenge, consider how you might use the challenge to prepare for what may lie ahead.  You may also recall a very different challenge you have faced that brings you to a similar conclusion as the challenge in the video.

As the leader shares her challenge, imagine yourself in her shoes and how you would handle the situation.  Pause the video to consider and/or discuss the challenge, how it is handled, and the lessons learned.  Think about what you might do differently or what was done well.  Use these stories and insights to consider the values and decision making processes that drive your own internal compass.

Take time to reflect on your own situation, goals, values, plans and future.

After you watch the video, ask yourself the simple question:

What will you continue doing? Start doing? Stop doing?

Additional Readings and Resources


Video Vignette: Pecking Order Games

Featuring: Michelle Clayman

Summary: A pioneer investor in Wall Street deals with a colleague who challenges her place and fit based on her gender.

Background on Leader: Michelle is founder and managing partner of New Amsterdam Partners, an institutional money management firm in New York.  She is the Chair of the Advisory Council of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, a member of the Dean’s Council at Harvard Divinity School and the Board President of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.  She has her undergraduate degree from Oxford and MBA from Stanford GSB.

Takeaway: Challenges come in many forms and be sure to signal your legitimacy and credibility by not backing down.

Considerations and Questions (Segment 1):

  1. What is your interpretation of the behavior of the trader?
  2. How would you establish respect and credibility in her shoes?
  3. What risks should you consider?

Considerations and Questions (Segment 2):

  1. What is your reaction to the response of Ms. Clayman?
  2. What advantages would you leverage in a situation like this to establish yourself as an equal?
  3. What risks come with using shock with colleagues?

Considerations and Questions (Segment 3):

  1. Do you agree that using vulgar language is a, “useful shortcut” to making people realize what they are doing?
  2. In competitive environments, have you been “tested” and how?
  3. Do you agree that “testing” often happens to establish power and save face?
  4. How do you signal to people that you are in the right place and in equal footing?
  5. Do you agree that women cannot use the same techniques as men to signal you are an equal?  Why or why not?
  6. How do you establish your credibility and establish yourself as an equal?

Key Take-Aways

Realize your status in the hierarchy will be challenged, especially in traditional, male-dominated industries.

Learn to recognize when you are being tested in the hierarchy and how you can signal you are on equal footing.

Balance gender and cultural dynamics by creatively reacting to “testing” situations differently than men, to establish credibility.

Rather than just keeping “your head down” in your work, speak up especially in meetings, to establish your credibility and be recognized.

Be mindful of the image you are building in your workplace through your actions, reactions, and communications.