2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Lisa Leslie, New York University (Stern)

Lisa Leslie

Associate Professor of Management & Organizations

New York University, Stern School of Business

Not to be confused with women’s basketball legend and olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie, Professor Lisa Leslie at NYU Stern is a superstar in her own right. She is the youngest tenured professor in the management department and–at 38 years old–is one of the youngest tenured professors in all of Stern. She’s prominently recognized for her 2016 research published in the Academy of Management Journal which revealed that high-potential women earn up to 10 percent more than their male counterparts in organizations that adopt diversity initiatives. This was the first study to document this unexpected pay premium among a (small) subset of women and it has been covered by such mainstream publications as Fast Company, Fortune, and Harvard Business Review.

Inside the classroom, students rave about Professor Leslie’s Leadership in Organizations core MBA course, saying that the “course design is creative, thoughtful, and relevant,” and that Leslie, in the words of one MBA student, is “the best professor I’ve had at Stern.”

Age: 37

At current institution since: 2013

Education: PhD, Organizational Psychology, University of Maryland, 2007; MA, Organizational Psychology, University of Maryland, 2004; AB, Social Psychology, Princeton University, 2001

List of courses you currently teach:

  • Leadership in Organizations (core MBA course)
  • Diversity in Organizations (PhD seminar)

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am interested in understanding what can be done to make diversity initiatives at companies and organizations more effective. The biggest takeaway from my research so far is that it’s complicated. In addition to having their intended impact, diversity initiatives can produce different unintended consequences, many of which reduce their effectiveness. Simply implementing diversity initiatives is therefore unlikely to be sufficient for increasing diversity. Organizations need to take additional steps to counteract undesirable unintended consequences.

Professor you most admire: Michele Gelfand, my PhD advisor, and Susan Fiske, my undergraduate advisor. I never would have discovered, pursued, or been successful in this career without them.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I realized I could study whatever I happen to find interesting and wouldn’t really have a boss.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I hope I’d be an archaeologist or a classicist. I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Greek culture and artifacts. More realistically, I’d probably be a consultant.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Challenging! When I moved to Stern I had to up my teaching game and learn how to connect with MBA students. Although challenging, that initial experience has also been rewarding in the long run. Teaching MBAs has made me a dramatically better teacher and presenter, and I have learned a ton from my colleagues here at Stern.

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: Probably when the first academic article I co-authored was published. My co-author sent me an email saying “The new phonebook is here! The new phonebook is here!” I had no idea what he was talking about until he told me to go watch the movie The Jerk.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The line of research I have done in collaboration with Colleen Manchester (University of Minnesota). Colleen is an economist, and I am a psychologist. In a series of papers we have integrated insights from economics and psychology to better understand the impact of various diversity policies and practices. People thought we were a little crazy when we first started working together due to the difficulties inherent in conducting and publishing interdisciplinary research. We’ve managed to make it work, and I am proud of what we’ve produced.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? The variety in my day-to-day. I’m a closet introvert so I really enjoy spending all day alone in my office working on research. But I also really enjoy getting up in front of a class and engaging with students.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Grading

What is your favorite company and why? Favorite company is hard to answer, but favorite organization is easy – New York University. NYU has a history of reaching out to incredibly bright and talented individuals from traditionally disadvantaged groups and providing them with opportunities. I admire that aspect of their strategy, and the University has benefitted from it in numerous ways.

Fun fact about yourself: I am often confused with the other Lisa Leslie – a former WNBA star. While WNBA star Lisa Leslie is known for being one of the best players in WNBA history, I am known for my achievements in the only slightly less popular sport of collegiate fencing; while at Princeton I was an All-American and the captain of two Ivy League Championship teams.

Bucket list item #1: Visit every continent

Favorite book: Classic: A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens); More recent: The Stand (Stephen King)

Favorite movie: Drama: The Shawshank Redemption; Comedy: Spaceballs; Tear-jerker: Steel Magnolias

Favorite type of music: Bruce Springsteen, of course. (I grew up in NJ.) Pearl Jam and Counting Crows are also up there.

Favorite television show: Stranger Things and Chopped

Favorite vacation spot: Éze, France. I only spent two days there, but I loved every minute of it.

What are your hobbies? Trying out the best bakeries in NYC, running (to compensate for all those pastries), playing cards with my 4-year-old (he’s into Crazy 8s right now), and coloring and reading with my 1-year-old (she loves any type of animal book). I’m also planning to start taking ballet again, which I haven’t done since I was 15.

Twitter handle: Nope!

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…more diversity both in the student body and among faculty.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.