Following a 21-year tenure at George Washington University, Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou has joined McGill University as the new dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management.
Bajeux-Besnainou, a native of France, began her career in academia in at the University of Paris where she obtained her Bachelors of Business Administration and doctorate in Mathematics Applied to Finance. She sought out the position at McGill after being contacted by a consultant who expressed the University's interest in her as a candidate.
“Montreal is just an amazing city,” she said. “Being bilingual—French, English—it is a great fit. It is a very international city; it’s a very exciting place. McGill has an impeccable reputation and I was just really excited by the opportunity.”
Bajeux-Besnainou enters her position at Desautels as the first female dean in the history of the Faculty. This experience, however, is not a new one for her. As a finance professor, she has worked and gained experience in very male dominated environments, such as serving as the only woman in the Finance Department at George Washington University.
Bajeux-Besnainou expresses an interest in working on the challenges that the field can pose to women who want to work as leaders in management.
“As you progress in the business world you see less and less women, and we need to find a way to encourage women to take leadership positions,” she said.
Her advice to young women or students pursuing a degree or career in management is to believe in yourself.
“I’m really trying always to address women in business, finance being one area where we always see less women trying to go [into the field],” she said. “And I’m always trying to tell them there is no limitation on what you can do.”
Bajeux-Besnainou’s prior experiences in a university setting provided her with an intimate understanding of the complex structure of a university and its dynamics, as well as how students can be inspired to succeed.
“I think that my past experience is helping me every minute of the job,” she said. “Having the experience of academia in general and understanding how universities work is probably the most important part.”
Hoping for many improvements for the Faculty of Management during her time at McGill, Bajeux-Besnainou has a vision for the Faculty from an administrative standpoint that will be developed by working alongside existing faculty members.
“I want to build that [vision for the faculty] with Faculty members here,” she said. “And my first priorities are really to listen and to learn, and this is what I’m doing every minute.”
Peter Todd, the former dean of Management, stepped down in April, 2013. Professor Morty Yalovsky, Associate Dean (Academic), stepped in as the interim dean of Desautels. According to Stephen Strople, secretary-general of McGill University, an advisory committee specific to the task of appointing a new dean to the Faculty of Management conducted its search from Fall 2013 to Winter 2015. Strople explained how a McGill advisory committee begins the hiring process.
“One of the first things the committee would have done is develop the candidate brief, which is a summary of what really the committee is looking for,” Strople explained. “It would include a section on the university, and a section on the faculty. So the candidate brief is really used to try and interest individuals in becoming candidates.”
The committee considered applicants from various backgrounds, vetting potential qualified candidates to determine how equipped they were to fill the vacancy.
“Committees [look] for a diversity of candidates,” Strople said. “So for example, in this process, the committee did consider a large number of prospects—over 100, so there would be a very wide spectrum of people”
After securing her nomination through an extensive review conducted by the advisory committee, Bajeux-Besnainou was appointed as the new dean based on the final recommendation by Principal Suzanne Fortier to the Board of Governors.