April 14, 2017
The presence of women in a traditionally male-dominated business world is more important than ever as we face more diverse challenges. Rather than trying to block each other out of potential leadership roles, it is crucial that women band together — both with each other and with men — to overcome the inequality they still face in the field of business and in the working world as a whole.
A recent GMAC study found that women make up only 37 percent of MBA students globally, but the Darla Moore School of Business’ incoming MBA class is 52 percent women — the second largest in the world. However, according to Jennifer Ninh, director of recruitment and enrollment management for the Moore School’s full-time MBA programs, there’s still work to be done.
“Even now, girls are being socialized at a young age to be more agreeable, that it’s not necessarily best to be ‘pushy,’” she said. “I can see how boys are treated just slightly differently.”
As the adviser for the Moore School’s Graduate Women in Business (GWIB) group, Ninh is pushing to partner with local schools to encourage interest in business among girls at an early age. She is also developing partnerships with businesses that have women-centered initiatives to raise awareness about the impact women can have in the business world.
“You can just envision this powerful female CEO that can manage relationships and also go toe to toe with the top executives with those hard skills,” she said. “That is why bringing more women in and getting them the education, skills and confidence is key.”
GWIB President Rebecca McDonald agrees, arguing that a business degree isn’t needed for someone to be successful in the MBA program, despite what some might think.
“I think a lot of women are intimidated by the fact that they haven’t necessarily had a traditional business background and think business is only for those who have always known that this is what they want to do,” she said. “A lot of times, as women, we downplay our talents.”
She herself comes from a history background, but she leveraged her skills to teach English in China for a year before coming to the Moore School. Here, through the high-caliber course work and extracurricular activities such as international MBA case competitions, she has found a passion for marketing strategy and project management.
Her vision for business schools is to not only see more women pursuing MBA degrees but also taking part in other master’s programs. She and the GWIB members have modeled that by opening the group up to men and women from all business master’s programs.
“Having women from each of these programs provides a greater scope of business insight,” she said. “They each bring something to the table that help us fulfill our mission to encourage and empower Moore School women to work toward their professional and personal goals.”
One-year MBA student and GWIB secretary Kaelyn Kenner worked in the “male-dominated field” of engineering before coming back to school and hopes that GWIB will “unite women in different master’s areas.”
“I met people from across the school who I never would have connected with otherwise,” she said. “You never know when you might need those networks.”
Ultimately, the goal of GWIB is, as its mission statement puts it, “to encourage and empower Moore School women to fulfill their professional and personal goals and foster collaborations that engage with and motivate others in the local and global communities.” Through the efforts of these and other women, the organization has accomplished much and will continue to work toward the goal of equality in the business sphere.
“Being able to assert yourself at the table, having the confidence to speak up, to know your worth, to continue to be yourself in business without having to feel like you have to acquire more masculine traits to be successful,” McDonald said, “it’s important, because it’s true.”
By Madeleine Vath