In 2009, a group of female Richmond MBA students formed a book club. Six years and roughly 12 books later, The Richmond MBA Book Club continues to bring women together beyond the classroom to talk the issues faced by women in business today. 

Elizabeth Digges, GB’09, senior manager of buy side finance at McKesson Medical-Surgical, looked back on the beginning. “It all stemmed from a conversation my classmates and I had during one of our regular get-togethers. We were approaching graduation, and we thought a book club would be a great way to stay in touch with each other. Today, we have around 10 regular members, and we meet once per quarter at a member’s home or at local restaurants and cafés.”

Paulina Hidalgo, GB’09, controller at Virginia Capital Partners, added, “Some of the most valuable lessons I learned in The Richmond MBA were those presented by other members during open discussions in the classroom. We thought it would be a great idea to continue these discussions with like-minded individuals as we all moved on to the next chapters of our lives following graduation.” 

The Book Club has covered a broad range of works over the years from Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg and SuperFreakonomics by Stepher J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt to Bossypants by Tina Fey and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. 

Digges explained, “It has been an excellent way to stay connected with my former classmates. We bring differing perspectives from numerous industries as we discuss the various books, and we each contribute to the discussions in unique ways.” 

Members of the Book Club shared their experiences from the Book Club.

Alison Kaufmann, GB’12, communications manager of the strategic underground program at Dominion Virginia Power, joined after meeting several Book Club members at The Richmond MBA Holiday Party in 2012. “What I’ve enjoyed about our time together is the chance to grow closer with my peers outside of the work and school setting. Being a member of the Book Club has been a great way to read some books I might not have read otherwise. It provides a forum to hear others’ perspectives that I may not have considered before. The Book Club may have started as a group of classmates, but it has become a gathering of lifelong friends.” 

Iryna Butler, GB’09, marketing and product manager at Alstom Power, said, “We talk about day-to-day issues we face in the workplace. My classmates are successful in their careers and are leaders in their respective organizations. That said, women are typically a minority among leadership, so we talk about this and other issues during our meetings.”

Butler added, “One of my favorite books that we read was one of the first. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is written from the female perspective and set in Biblical times. The red tent is a gathering place where women discussed their daily issues and developed a community of support. We examined how relationship dynamics have evolved over the centuries and how women today might address the issues raised in the book versus how they were handled in ancient times.”

Digges shared that Lean In has become a mainstay of Book Club discussions after it was assigned last year. “That discussion was incredible because we’d all been through situations where we might have been one of the only women in a predominantly male business environment, and we were challenged to stand out as a leader. There are many sections from the book that have cropped up over the course of the year such as making a habit of being present at work and in life as well as the importance of having a real partner in a spouse. It was the perfect read for me personally at that time as I was getting promoted, and it’s still relevant today.”

Hidalgo added, “We learned a great deal from Lean In. It helped me understand how we as women function in today’s business world and gave me ideas about how to overcome some of my own inherent habits that might have held me back so that I can rise to my own potential. I feel fortunate to be part of this group of incredibly smart, hard-working and successful women who are making great strides in the business world.”

The Book Club is currently reading All the Devils Are Here by Bethany McLean, after Digges and another member attended the Robins Executive Speaker Series with McLean. “It’s a really great read so far, and we’re meeting to discuss it at the end of March. We invite and encourage new members from The Richmond MBA to join us.” 

Photo by Iryna Butler (left to right): Iryna Butler, Kristin Collins, Alice Scott, Elizabeth Digges, Jenny Ching, Samantha Brock