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What inspired you to become a professor?

I went to college to study engineering and along the way I had a wonderful professor who got me interested in finance. It led me to switch from engineering to business, and inspired me to become a professor. If it weren’t for him, I would still be a miserable engineer. I consider being a professor to be a privilege, we can have considerable influence in shaping the future lives of our students.

International Women’s Day is a tribute to the brave women who campaigned for women’s rights in the past. Which women have most inspired you in your life?

This is an easy one for me to answer – my mother. My mother didn’t even complete elementary school and became a widow at a young age. Even as a single parent, she was determined that all her children including me, get the best education. She worked hard and instilled the same discipline in us. I will never forget her words when one day I said to her that I need to make time to do more volunteer work, her response was: you are giving the gift of education and positively impacting so many lives, you are already making a difference.

Why are there still so few female scholars conducting corporate governance research?

In economics and finance, there is underrepresentation of women faculty, especially at senior ranks, this is a major challenge. However, I am optimistic for the future. Now we are seeing more women enter our profession, many of them are excellent scholars.  I am confident many of them will move on to leadership roles. There are several senior female scholars already making substantial contributions to research in corporate governance, they are exemplary role models.

Why is there an underrepresentation of women in corporate leadership roles? (are they the same reasons?)

Women still face obstacles and often have to prove themselves more than their male colleagues. We need more women leaders in the C-suite and in boardrooms. Again, I am optimistic, times have changed, corporations are being flexible and trying new ways to grow a diverse talent pool.

What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders looking to break into traditionally male-dominated industries in the fields related to corporate governance?

Don’t just work hard but also work smart; raise your hand to do critical value-added projects; be confident and speak up; surround yourself with smart people; find mentors who will advocate for you; get as much help as you can afford at home so that you are not trying to do everything.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

There is no work-life balance. You are always juggling work and other responsibilities this is especially true for parents with young children. Sometimes work takes precedent and at other times it is the home front that needs full attention. For me, family is really important. I work hard but I appreciate the flexibility of an academic career that allows me to take care of home-related issues when needed.


Reena Aggarwal is the Robert E. McDonough Professor of Finance at Georgetown University and a research and board member of ECGI. She serves on the boards of Dimensional Funds, Cohen and Steers, and Nuveen Churchill Direct Lending. She specialises in corporate governance, institutional investors, global financial markets, market regulation, investment banking, initial public offerings and private equity. She is a prolific scholar and has received several research awards.

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