International Women's Day (IWD) celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is an official holiday in at least 20 countries and grows in recognition each year. This year’s IWD theme is Choose to Challenge because from challenge comes change, and collectively we can create an inclusive world. To celebrate International Women's Day the Women's Student Association is thrilled to feature 13 incredible women from across our Harvard Business School community - faculty, staff and students - who choose to challenge.

For more on International Women’s Day, visit the official site. For more on the Women's Student Association, visit

Taylor Clarkson

Harvard MBA Student, Class of 2022

Being mixed is a experience shared by many, but discussed by few.

My mother is Ukrainian, my father is Grenadian. As a mixed race woman, I know the feeling of being the “other” in a room or “other” on an application background question. Repeatedly being told that you are “not enough of x” or that you don’t “belong to y” becomes exhausting.

I choose to challenge the simplification of racial identity by elevating the voice of those who proudly represent multiple racial/ethnical/cultural backgrounds, yet who feel forced to choose or be bucketed by social perceptions.

I co-founded Mixed Millennial with the purpose of bringing a voice, community, and sense of belonging to a silent group.

Nori Gerardo Lietz

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Prior to coming to HBS I created a company Pension Consulting Alliance, Inc. that advised some of the world’s largest institutional investors concerning their private market investments. I was asked to be their advocate particularly during the Global Financial Crisis. Representing them, which ultimately meant that I was representing people like my mother who is a CalPERS beneficiary, required challenging those firms who managed their money to do the right thing on behalf of their limited partners, not themselves. At times, these conversations were extremely contentious, and we were often severely outmanned by firms with overwhelming resources. Fighting over money and doing the right thing by your clients isn’t easy. However, I was able to sleep at night knowing that I had done everything I could to preserve their investments even if that meant challenging some of the most famous names in the private market investment community.

Kathu Gatobu

Harvard MBA Student, Class of 2022

I choose to challenge the idea that women have to give up their aspirations and identity because of motherhood. Having a successful career, taking up visible leadership roles, and being a mother do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Since my childhood, my mother has been a great source of inspiration. She modeled what working full time, raising three children and being an all-around badass could look like.

Gender equality can only be achieved if women and girls around the world are empowered and supported to pursue opportunities despite their gender.

Attending HBS with my 18-month-old daughter has been a great honor and a remarkable experience. My mother gave me the courage to fearlessly pursue my goals. Women role models matter, women in boardrooms matter, and women representation matters.

Ana Patricia Osorio

Custodial Supervisor

Being where I want to be will always be a reason to overcome some of my challenges in life. Working at Harvard Business School has motivated me during COVID. Seeing what HBS does to make us feel safe while we are at work has encouraged me to do my part and work with my team to help where we can. I have tried to stay motivated and to be thankful, even when things did not look so bright.

I must confess that last year I felt all sort of emotions: I was scared, nervous, worried and even upset at some point. I did not have a clue of what was going to happen, I was worried of losing my job, as many did. Nevertheless, I stayed positive, and prayed for a better and healthier year. I am blessed to be part of such a great community as Harvard Business School.

Shelane Etchison

Harvard MPP/MBA Student, Class of 2021

Men are the dominant purveyors of war, yet they are not the solely affected. Women, children, communities, the environment all bear the toils of warfare. The Islamic State’s war in Syria was no different. Women’s freedom vanished – they were subjected to the strictest of rule and harshest punishment.

Choosing to challenge the precedent that men fight wars and women are victims, were the Syrian Kurdish women. These women knew their tragic fate should the Islamic State succeed, so they created female-led militias and fought in direct battle against the men of ISIS.

I, too, chose to challenge the notion of warfare being a man’s profession, by joining the U.S. Army and deploying to multiple combat zones – including going to Syria to support the women militias fighting ISIS.

Warfare shapes all lives, which is why women must challenge to belong in its highly consequential decision-making and participation. I believe with more women involved, the result will be a world with less war.

Shivangi Goel

Harvard MD/MBA Student, Class of 2022

At the start of the pandemic all medical schools across the country pulled medical students out of the hospitals.

I chose to challenge by starting a movement to safely return students to the clinical setting. My goal was three-fold: to reduce the burden on frontline healthcare workers, to support our patients in this time of need, and to continue our education.

I led a team of over 500 medical students to support clinicians, patients, and the community during this time. Harvard Medical School became the first school to reintegrate students and I personally was the first student on the ground, working in a relief COVID-hospital. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my community and challenge the status quo to improve health outcomes for patients and the medical education system.

Natalia Rigol

Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

In the private sector, in public life or even at HBS, women who look like me or have my background – immigrant, Latina, queer - have not traditionally sat at the head of the table or stood in the front of the classroom. I choose to challenge by being fiercely myself and creating spaces for my students to do so as well. I choose to challenge by encouraging students to engage in radical listening, to question the status quo at every step, to ask the difficult and uncomfortable questions, and to challenge themselves, me and each other to envision and design a more equitable and just version of the future.

Rachel Drapper

Harvard MBA Student, Class of 2021

I choose to challenge. I challenge language, because it is an easy place to start and so little effort to change. I challenge sectionmates (and professors) who use non-inclusive pronouns. This seems trivial to some, but language is the tip of the iceberg – gender inequity is real, harmful, and pervasive. I challenge ‘old school’ rugby songs – sexism is unnecessary and unwelcome. I challenge places that men seem to enjoy where women aren’t present: why do relatively few women ride e-scooters? Why are women underrepresented among Baker Scholars at HBS? I challenge gender stereotypes – do women prefer being homemakers to careers? Why should men in the UK receive two weeks of parental leave while women get 52? Finally, I challenge sexual harassment – why should I be ‘independently’ appraised by the person who harassed me? Discrimination and gender inequity is damaging to everyone, not just women. I choose to challenge. Over the course of my life, I commit to progressing gender parity: I am currently launching a social enterprise venture to raise awareness of the gender imbalance in unpaid labor and aspire to improve shared parental leave policy.

Vyechi Low

Harvard MS/MBA Student, Class of 2021

Here I am hauling my bike down a mountain. My derailleur had broke, causing me to fall hard, twice, and rendering my bike not rideable. I was learning to use clip-in pedals and did not expect such a mishap that day. I felt dejected and (quite literally) broken. While this photo doesn’t showcase the triumph of my overcoming a challenge, it is my honest representative of what it looks like to be working towards that end.

I came to HBS to challenge two things:

  • The current state of healthcare. Just because it has been deemed too hard or too broken to fix doesn’t mean we fold.
  • What others expect of me. It took a while, but I’ve learned to stop asking, “Who will let you?” and instead, “Who will stop you?”

This picture reminds me that the path of “Choosing to Challenge” is not easy. The only way forward is to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep riding.

Suzy Conway

Director, Support Services, MBA Student and Academic Services

The way that I have chosen to challenge is by not settling, but instead, being all in. I am fortunate to work with an incredible team of dedicated individuals who daily give everything they have. My team and I are committed to attentively listening and responding to each student’s requests and needs in meeting their HBS goals while addressing and assisting them in dealing with fears, uncertainty, loneliness, and constant adaptation inherent during the pandemic. We have worked to innovate, create, and partner with faculty, staff, and students in delivering programs, conversations, and establishing connections that enable students to grow, reflect, and succeed in all facets of their HBS experience. My continued challenge will be to ensure that every student feels heard, respected, and empowered to become their best version of the person and the leader they wish to be to make a difference in the world.

Elina Rodriguez

Harvard MBA Student, Class of 2021

When I reflect about what I’ve chosen to challenge at HBS, I realize how these experiences have been moments of personal growth and impact. I believe that the business community has a responsibility to support communities that were denied their chance of prospering. This is why in the classroom, discussing colonial legacies and power hierarchies matters just as much to me as the bottom line.

Being the SA Co-Chief DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Officer has also given me a platform to challenge the status quo. Together with my Co-Chief (shoutout to Ronnie!) we’ve been focused on building the infrastructure and institutionalizing the resources needed for our community to engage deeper with DEI topics.

This role has allowed me to create and support the inaugural class of Section DEI Reps, provide feedback on the MBA financial aid formula, and grow the DEI Catalyst Fund. It’s been a privilege to work with other student leaders to challenge our school to do better.

Jessica McNeill

Assistant Director, Annual & Reunion Giving

For hundreds of years there was a conscious effort to silence Black Voices in America. Words have energy and power so they kept us from reading and writing for fear that our voices would create change. Those bold enough to speak up and challenge were often met with violence. Silence became a survival mechanism. As a young, Black woman in America I choose to challenge to give a voice to the voiceless. As Malcolm X famously said, "the most neglected person in America is the Black woman." With this in mind, I choose to challenge to hold those in power accountable. I choose to challenge to protect the rights that so many people before me fought for. Most importantly, I choose to challenge to be true to myself.

Megan Murday

Harvard MBA Student, Class of 2021

Climate change is now a systemic risk so large that we have no choice but to challenge the status quo. The private sector must be an active partner in climate mitigation and adaptation – pushing responsibility to the consumer level or expecting the government to act alone is not responsible. There is transition risk, but the scale of change required to decarbonize the economy is a tremendous business opportunity.

We have founded the HBS Sustainability Club in order to prepare MBA students to be good stewards of the environment, because climate action cannot be the concern only of “green teams.” Yet the private sector is missing an actionable dataset that quantifies its climate impact. To address this gap, I am building Metric to provide ESG analytics software that measures corporate ESG performance and quantifies the financial impact. With the right data, business has the scale and speed to challenge climate change.