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Using her voice to create systemic change

Maital Guttman (MBA ’13) has always had an activist spirit.

After finishing her undergraduate degree at Duke University, she founded her documentary film company, producing awareness and fundraising videos for nonprofits. Based in Los Angeles, she managed global distribution and financing and produced more than 30 videos, that took her to Israel, Moldova, Poland and Ethiopia. In South Africa, she worked on a documentary about how art therapy was being used to help children impacted by HIV.

“I stumbled into film as an incredibly powerful tool on the individual level, but I was trying to envision what it looks like to make change on a bigger scale,” she says.

“After talking with a couple of mentors, it became clear to me that business school would be a great place to go and expand my toolkit for making an impact.”

Now, Guttman heads diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for Europe at McKinsey & Co. She joined the firm in Atlanta, after she graduated from Carolina, and in 2021 relocated to Tel Aviv with her wife and two sons.

She’s making change on a scale she never would have expected, and she credits her MBA experience at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

A business school with values

Guttman was born in Israel – her first name means dew drops – and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her love for the area drew her back for graduate school.

“Chapel Hill is such a wonderful town,” she says. “It’s fun, it’s affordable, it’s beautiful – there are great people and great food.”

But a beautiful setting wasn’t enough: Guttman wanted a business school with strong core values, and this was what drew her to UNC Kenan-Flagler.

“I felt there was a real emphasis on leadership and teamwork,” she says.

Indeed, the MBA program offers extensive opportunities for students to sharpen their inclusive leadership skills.

“That was what I wanted out of a business school,” Guttman says. “To become a better leader, a better team player, and those are UNC Kenan-Flagler values.”

Add to this the fact that the School selected her as a Dean’s Fellow and awarded her a premier fellowship, the Peter G.C. Mallinson MBA Fellowship, and the choice was a no-brainer. She also was a Forté Fellow.

Equipped to have business conversations

Coming from a non-traditional background, Guttman wasn’t sure what to expect when she arrived on campus.

“I had an image of what business school would look and feel like,” she says, “but I was surprised by how well I clicked with people.

A Global Immersion Elective with fellow MBA Dan Zamansky

“There was just such an emphasis on collaboration, and I really appreciated how it equipped me to have business-level conversations even though I came from a non-traditional background.”

Guttman cites the Analytical Skills Workshop as a particular highlight, giving her the analytical grounding and confidence to thrive in the MBA program. She soon found that far from holding her back from connecting with her peers, her non-traditional background was an advantage. In fact, she had more in common with her classmates than she anticipated.

“Absolutely a highlight of my time was a capstone course on sustainability,” Guttman says. “I got to spend time with people who had very similar passions to me.” The class went to Ethiopia for two weeks to apply the consulting skills they’d been working on.

“It was such a wonderful way of experiencing making sustainable impact and change on a bigger level,” she says. “I remember learning a ton but also laughing every day – it was probably one of my favorite experiences of my life.”

Lessons in using your voice

“One thing I really value about UNC Kenan-Flagler is that they encourage you to pursue your interests and give you a platform to build leadership within the things that you’re passionate about,” says Guttman.

In her case, this was the Pride Club. She served as its president during a turbulent time for the LGBTQ+ community in North Carolina.

“It was during an election that was dominated by debate around defining marriage only as between a man and a woman,” she recalls. “And we organized students to march to the polls together against it.”

Guttman was moved not only by the support she received from administration and faculty, but by the number of students who were open to having conversations around this topic – and the support was not limited to Pride Club activities.

She remembers vividly when, at a sports game with another school, she witnessed a fan say something offensive. She was very upset by it, but it wasn’t until she got home that she realized she had to speak up.

“I wrote an email and I sent it to the whole class,” she recalls. “I was initially unsure what my voice should be and when it was right to use it.”

However, the response she got from her fellow students was heartening. The experience led to the Pride Club setting up events in partnership with another school.

“That was an incredibly important lesson in using your voice, even when it’s a little scary or uncomfortable,” she says.

“This was part of the reason I came to UNC Kenan-Flagler – to build my own leadership skills and have a chance to flex those in an area I was passionate about.”

Her leadership at the School didn’t go unnoticed: She received the Integrity Award, selected by her classmates.

As a graduate, Guttman continues to share her voice at UNC Kenan-Flagler. She has returned to speak at the Carolina Women in Business conference and is a member of the School’s Corporate Advisory Board on Diversity and Inclusion.

Leading the DEI charge at McKinsey

The courage to use her voice and apply her skills to create change was something that Guttman always had potential for, but she honed it at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Not only that, but it gave her the hard skills she needed to then take these skills to a big company, where this change could be amplified.

“I don’t think I ever would have gotten an interview at McKinsey or a place like it without going to business school,” she says.

From interview preparation to networking to the sheer number of new skills she learned, Guttman says UNC Kenan-Flagler made her career pivot possible, and that her experience gave her more confidence to succeed in business.

“I do think that the sustainability capstone and Pride Club pushed me to think about how to make an impact in the business world in a way that still feels very personally meaningful,” she says.

Just as she was surprised when she arrived at business school, so too has working at McKinsey exceeded Guttman’s expectations.

“Coming from an activist film background, I was amazed at how business schools like UNC Kenan-Flagler and companies like McKinsey are oftentimes at the forefront of diversity and inclusion,” she says.

“McKinsey recognized my marriage before the state of Georgia did,” she says. “It was never a question for me of being out, of being myself, of bringing my wife to our events – when we started our family I had no question that I would be supported by the firm. I don’t take that for granted.”

Guttman now believes that businesses have a big role in pushing the public policy agenda, and she’s proud to be part of that push at McKinsey, using tools and skills she learned at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Guttman developed the firm’s North America’s DEI strategy, using data-driven analysis to design initiatives across recruitment, retention, advancement, satisfaction, and reach and relevance. She supports business unit senior stakeholders in their DEI strategies, including creating scorecards with key performance metrics and benchmarks, sharing best practices, and problem solving on how to embed DEI.

Internal and external stakeholders turn to Guttman to develop and implement DEI best practices. She also has co-authored research articles on inclusion on LGBTQ+ leaders, and co-founded of The Alliance, a global LGBTQ+ network of global senior executives.

This past July, she took on a new role on the global DEI team helping McKinsey’s European region with their DEI strategy.  For her new role, she moved back to Israel where she’s particularly excited to be doing DEI work, a place with its own unique DEI challenges.

“To be doing this kind of work in a place that’s such a big part of my identity is really meaningful,” she says. “I hope to grow in my career here and continue to publish research and speak up and use the platform of business to make positive systemic change.”

Editor’s note: Guttman shares her journey during Pride Shabbat with Temple Emanuel Greensboro in this video. In this podcast, she discusses her research on how companies can make meaningful progress for LGBTQ+ employees.

 

1.7.2022