We asked MBA alumna Caryn Davies five questions about her career and experience at Oxford Saïd. We are grateful that Caryn found the time to answer our questions in between being a three-time Olympic medalist, lawyer, and Vice President of the United States Olympians and Paralympians Association.
How has your gender affected the way you have courted success?
To be honest, it hasn’t. Perhaps I’m lucky in that way. But I also suspect that I should be more aware of how I present myself. I’ve been told at times that I am pushy and even insolent. I doubt I would have received that feedback if I were a man – a man would probably be called forceful and decisive – but there’s no use complaining that it’s unfair. The rules are different for men and women, and to be successful you have to learn the rules and play by them.
What was your biggest career hurdle and how did you overcome it?
My biggest career hurdle is I haven’t yet found a career I’m as passionate about as I was about rowing. I have yet to overcome that!
Has being an athlete impacted your work style? What skills have you carried over from rowing to the workplace?
Coming from a team sport, I know exactly what makes for a good team, and what makes for a good leader. I choose my colleagues carefully. I look for good leaders and surround myself with good teammates.
What unexpected lessons have you taken away from your time at Saïd Business School?
I find myself coming back to one of the lectures from Leadership, in which we talked about the four frame model for organizational structure. Two, in particular, stand out: the symbolic and the political, because to me they represent the US Olympic Committee and a big law firm, respectively, which are the two organizations that I work with regularly. It helps me avoid strife to keep these in mind when interacting with colleagues.
What do you think businesses need to do in order to achieve workplace gender parity?
I learned while listening to a Freakonomics podcast that the wage gap exists not because women get paid less for the same work, but rather because women are more likely to choose jobs or other working arrangements that offer greater flexibility. They do that in order to allow time to care for young children or aging parents or just to have more of a life outside of work. Those jobs also happen to pay less. To achieve parity, businesses need to offer more flexibility. For example, I heard recently about two women who share the job of CEO of a multinational corporation: each has a family and is only willing to spend half the time necessary for success, so they applied for the job together, got hired, and together they are doing a fantastic job.
Caryn Davies represented Team USA in three Summer Games, earning a silver medal in Athens 2004, and gold medal in Beijing 2008, and another gold in London 2012, all in the women’s eight-oared rowing event. Caryn served on US Rowing’s Board of Directors for six years, and she currently serves as a Vice President of the United States Olympians and Paralympians Association. She is passionate about helping athletes transition to “real life” after retiring from Olympic competition and is constantly looking for ways to apply the lessons learned in sport to the workplace.
As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Caryn studied psychology and Germanic languages. She went on to earn a JD from Columbia Law School and an MBA from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. After law school, Caryn clerked for Judge Richard Clifton on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Honolulu. During that time, she took up outrigger canoe paddling and won a Hawaii state championship.
For her day job, Caryn works as a corporate lawyer at a large Boston firm, assisting clients with private equity investments, mergers and acquisitions, early-stage company financings, and institutional debt financings. She is also knowledgeable in areas of sports law and athletes’ rights and has spoken on sports law panels at Syracuse Law School and New York University School of Law.Back to top of article