Business dean receives best 50 women award
One of the best businesswomen in New Jersey can be found at Rutgers, according to a list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business for 2015 culled by NJBIZ.
Lei Lei, dean of the Rutgers Business School and title recipient, will be recognized alongside fellow honorees, including leaders from other New Jersey schools.
The awards program has celebrated women in senior management-level positions of nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses for the past 10 years, according to NJBIZ.
Eugene Spiegle, instructor and undergraduate program director at Rutgers Business School, identified some of the work his colleague has done to deserve the recognition.
“Her role initially was that of a professor who really formulated the department of supply chain management and became the chair of the department,” he said.
Lei brought the department from absolutely nothing to third ranked in America over a five year period, according to Gartner Research, and 13th in the world, Spiegle said.
Spiegle said the only trouble in listing some of Lei’s accomplishments is in knowing where to start.
“She’s created a team," he said. "She’s put it all together in such a way that people work harmoniously. She has made us recognized all over the world.”
Lei created a case study program and brought in a large portion of the professorial base that is “business-driven,” Spiegle said.
Lei also started the Center for Supply Chain Management, which is composed of major corporate partners who help guide the department through the executive board, he said.
After being appointed as the business school’s new dean in January, Lei was nominated by a colleague, but was not aware of the nomination until the recipients of the honor were announced, Lei said.
The challenge of leading the business school through change is one that Lei said she looks forward to.
"The dean must be more than a 'chief academic officer',” Lei said. “The dean must be a team builder who mobilizes people, and the dean must be a catalyst in the process of transforming Rutgers Business School into a strong position of leadership among our peers in the coming years.”
The ceremony, which will be held March 23, will also recognize female professionals from medical centers and organizations such as the State Bar Association, and companies such as Fidelity Investments and Public Service Enterprise Group.
The program usually attracts about 200 nominations, said Erika Plateroti, representative for NJBIZ.
Candidates may be self-nominated or nominated by another person, and must hold significant decision-making authority in their position, according to NJBIZ. The judges concentrate on professional accomplishments, community involvement and advocacy for women, with particular emphasis on recent accomplishments.
RBS has committed to supporting women and preparing them to be leaders in the workforce, Lei said. More than 50 percent of the full-time MBA program at RBS is composed of women, a statistic greater than any other business school in the Big Ten.
“I am honored to be among this prominent group of women leaders in business,” Lei said. “And I look forward to seeing many Rutgers graduates on this list in the future.”
Placement among the state’s top businesswomen is not only a stride for women in the field, but for minority women in particular, Spiegle said.
Rutgers Business School first-year student Kealyn Engenhart, said the recognition Lei received makes Rutgers even more valuable as a business school and encourages women who are pursuing a business career.
“(Recognition) is definitely even more motivation to keep going with a business major,” Engenhart said. “Even my dad says it is a highly male-dominated industry, but hearing that (Lei received the award) gives you the inspiration that you can succeed.”
Although the award indicates a personal accomplishment, Spiegle said that is not the way Lei will approach it.
“Knowing her, it has just humbled her," he said. "She does not look at awards –– she is constantly telling everybody else what a great job they do. She would look at it as something that would enhance the school or the department.”
Rutgers Business School sophomore Maya Chacko was proud of Lei’s representation of the business school.
“I think she is serving as a role model,” she said. “I know there is a ‘glass ceiling’ in the world today, but I think we’re coming to a time when we can finally put that past us.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article referred to Eugene Spiegle with the incorrect feminine pronouns "she" and "her."