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Kellogg Dean Sally Blount: Education and Innovation Remain Crucial to America's Future

When students ask Sally Blount how she became the first female dean of an internationally renowned U.S. business school, she warns them not to look at her career for any insight on the well-worn path to success. "A) I was a woman, B) I was a social psychologist rather than an economist, and C) I just spent six years in undergraduate business education. And none of those have tended to be the power alleys," she says in her Big Think interview.

Nevertheless, Blount says the fact that Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management was ready to appoint a woman as Dean shows "the world changed a lot." In addition, she says "there’s a much deeper appreciation of psychology in business school...That’s something I knew was important when I made the choice to study psychology years ago."

Women are still underrepresented in MBA classrooms across the country, comprising just 30-50% of students at graduate schools of business compared to over 50% of the students at graduate schools of law and medicine. Blount suspects this might be a problem of perception and marketing. If business schools did a better job of explaining their true goal of teaching people how to build effective organizations—rather than simply understand finance and the markets—then women may be more likely to pursue MBAs, she says. "I think that more women would be drawn to it because women are naturally organized. In their communities in our families, in our churches, and you know, in all sorts of domains," says Blount.

For the forseeable future, Blount anticipates that the service sector in America has permanently eclipsed the manufacturing sector. In the light of the fact that America has never found itself without a manufacturing base, its unclear how damaging this may be to America's long-term economic health. "But I’m not sure we can fix it right now," says Blount. "Until people are willing to not look for the lowest cost on certain manufactured goods. The developed world will win out."

Despite this trend, Blount says the Internet revolution is a perfect example of why education and innovation will be the most important elements for any human society of the future. In the long run the world's basic manufacturing processes will become increasingly automated and once the developing world becomes the developed world, it will face the same shift America is facing today. "And the question is what is human life then? What is the marketplace then? How do we find meaning and value and get our needs met and feed our families?" asks Blount.

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