Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior
Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
Ashley Martin is an award-winning Organizational Behavior professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. We were impressed by Martin’s early impact both in the classroom among business students at Stanford as well as her impact in academia and the research community. Many current students nominated Martin based on her empathy, passion, and ability to make Zoom classes engaging.
Currently, Martin’s research is focused on gender.
“I’m interested in gender: what it is, how it shapes our cognition, and how it is different from other social categories, like race and age,” Martin says. “I find that the same diversity strategies used to promote racial inclusion can backfire when applied to gender. In contrast to best practices for promoting racial equality, where acknowledging differences often reduces racial bias and improves race relations, I show that in many cases, the opposite is true for gender. Instead of highlighting gender differences, focusing on the similarities between men and women can reduce gender stereotyping and improve women’s outcomes.”
Between her early influence in academia and the nominations we received, it was an easy decision to include Martin in this year’s 40 Under 40 Best Professors recognition.
Current age: 32
At current institution since what year?: 2018
- Com and MSc. in Management, Queen’s University
- Ph.D. in Management, Columbia Business School
List of MBA courses you currently teach:
- OB205: Managing Groups and Teams
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was working at a small investment firm and realized that I was far more interested in the behavior of the people around me than I was in the job itself. I decided to do a masters in organizational behavior to learn more about research and I fell in love with it. The rest is history.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
I’m interested in gender: what it is, how it shapes our cognition, and how it is different from other social categories, like race and age.
I find that the same diversity strategies used to promote racial inclusion can backfire when applied to gender. In contrast to best practices for promoting racial equality, where acknowledging differences often reduces racial bias and improves race relations, I show that in many cases, the opposite is true for gender. Instead of highlighting gender differences, focusing on the similarities between men and women can reduce gender stereotyping and improve women’s outcomes.
In another project, with my collaborator Michael North, I find that the same people who are likely to reject sexism (and racism) are actually more likely to endorse ageism, as they see the goals of gender (and race) equality as incompatible with those that promote age equality.
To me, these findings have exposed some of the challenges in creating interventions and strategies to navigate inequality. The same solutions that might be effective for gender, might not be effective for race, and the same people who advocate for one disadvantaged group, might be more biased against another. I’ve learned that there needs to be more nuance in understanding inequality and in creating diversity interventions to address it.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I would probably still be doing research in some capacity. Maybe at a think tank working on social problems or at Spotify trying to maximize people’s music experience. I like thinking about people and their experiences, so I imagine it would still be related to that.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I am a performer! I go to great lengths to keep students engaged. From curating my best personal anecdotes to dressing up for the exercises, I try to optimize for both learning and fun.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Exhilarating
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You have to wear many hats. I went into this profession being focused on research, but I’m not just a researcher: I teach MBAs, design class content, sit on committees, and mentor Ph.D. students. There are many different roles you play as a business school professor, which makes the job interesting. It also makes it hard to get bored.
Professor I most admire and why: There are so many professors I draw inspiration from, but certainly, my advisor, Katherine Phillips, is the professor I admire most. She was a powerful force in the classroom, an ardent mentor to her students, and a thoughtful, creative researcher. She passed away last year and I still channel her energy and draw inspiration from her almost every day. I also admire my teaching mentors, Deb Gruenfeld and Maggie Neale, from whom I’ve learned everything I know about navigating an MBA classroom. I admire the way Brian Lowery approaches research and the way Modupe Akinola uses her voice to create change. There are many, many more, but I must also mention one of my all-time research heroes, Sandra Bem, who was a big and creative thinker and who paved the way for much of my work.
TEACHING MBA STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
They are eager, engaged, and willing to try anything, so class is always lively and interesting. I also learn a lot from them. I tend to think about organizations as collectives of groups and people, but the students bring in personal examples and interesting experiences, which gives me a different perspective.
What is most challenging?
Energy management. Whether you’re standing in front of a classroom or being on zoom all day, teaching an intensive course can be exhausting.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Eager
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Close-minded
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Thoughtful
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
Running, concerts, and more recently, wine-tasting… which is more of a “pandemic hobby”.
How will you spend your summer?
Doing research, most likely. I would love to visit my friends and family in Toronto if the situation allows. I haven’t been able to go back since the pandemic started and I would love to see them.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: I try to go somewhere different each time I travel, but I have a soft spot for Singapore. I also enjoy canoeing in Algonquin Park in the summer and hiking the Adirondack mountains in the winter.
Favorite book(s): Easy! Lenses of Gender by Sandra Bem. I take every opportunity I can to gush about this book. Sandra Bem’s perspective on gender changed the way I see the world.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
I tend to like murder mysteries. I’m not sure why. I think it’s something about the intrigue and uncertainty that grabs my attention.
I’ve been binging: I actually don’t like to binge… I like to savor. When I do, it tends to be a new HBO show that I watch with my colleague and friend Rachel Ruttan.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
This is a very tough question for me. I listen to music for multiple hours a day, so what I’m listening to totally depends on my mood and what I’m doing. I like shiny pop anthems for running, chillwave for working, indie rock or folk for when I’m bopping around, and I listen to divas (e.g., Celine, Cher, Whitney) right before teaching. That’s when I try to channel my own diva energy.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Diversity and inclusion. Ideally, they would have fewer classes on individual leadership and personal development and more education around the social systems that produce inequality.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Diversity interventions. Many organizations tend to focus on individual solutions to combat biases and change behavior, but inequality is a system-level problem that is unlikely to be solved with individual-level solutions.
I’m grateful for… There’s so much to be grateful for! I’m especially thankful for my community of friends, mentors, collaborators, and students.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Prof. Martin taught my very first class at Stanford. In an environment where students had not yet formed strong bonds, she managed to not only teach us a great deal about the formation of groups and teams, but also to create the incredible class dynamic that followed us for 2 years. Each of her lectures started with an experiential activity meant to illustrate concepts related to team formation and group decision-making. These out-of-the box class sessions ensured that over 2 years after completing the course, those lessons are still vivid in my mind. Moreover, she took special care to always underline the impact of gender or race on the concepts she was teaching us, therefore setting the tone for an inclusive class environment. For those reasons, I think Ashley Martin would be an exemplary recipient of the P&Q Top 40 Under 40 Award.”
“Ashley Martin is such an engaging professor at Stanford. She makes classes entertaining (even, if they are on Zoom) and is so clearly passionate about the topics she teaches to students. Her research on gender equality and inclusion is centered on building a more equitable future for women in business.”
“Words cannot do justice to just how incredible Professor Martin is. She is the quintessential business school professor “triple threat” – a compelling teacher in the MBA classroom, a prolific scholar tirelessly building her own theory, and an abundantly generous community member. Her MBA students rave about her, even in her Zoom-based classes due to COVID-19 (just look at her teacher evaluations!) She is immensely respected by scholars in her field of all career levels, and adored by the PhD students she mentors at the GSB. And while community-building efforts often go unnoticed, everyone is keenly aware that the GSB would not be the same without Professor Martin’s energetic and effervescent presence. Ask anyone at Stanford and in the field more broadly and I’m sure you will get the same answer: Ashley Martin is so very deserving of this award.”
“Ashley Martin is an all-star, tour-de-force professor with endless enthusiasm for her subject matter, genuine compassion and interest in her students, and one of the kindest souls I’ve encountered in many years. She’s too humble to ever acknowledge it herself but she is so deserving of this and so many other recognitions.”
“Ashley is an incredibly thoughtful and compassionate professor that pushes her students to grow as managers and leaders. She is both empathetic and effective in her teaching, combining theory, lecture, in-class exercises, role play, and reflection to introduce, reinforce, and bring to life important concepts.”
“Professor Martin’s Managing Groups and Teams is by far the best class I’ve taken at the GSB. Despite the challenges of Zoom for what is normally a very interactive, team-based class, Professor Martin made the class incredibly engaging. She is clearly an expert in the field of organizational behavior, and her enthusiasm was obvious to everyone. The highlight of the class for me was our Desert Survival exercise, where Professor Martin somehow managed to find a prop for every single item on the list despite being in the middle of a global pandemic. Her passion for her research and her students is second to none.”