5 Ways MBA Women Support One Another
Women in MBA programs can increase their earning potential by as much as three million dollars over their lifetime, according to research from the Forté Foundation. It’s no wonder that more women are applying to business school than ever before.
Although female representation at business school—as well as in Fortune 500 CEO roles—has reached an all-time high, there is still work to be done in leveling the playing field for professional men and women.
Overcoming these issues requires women to support each other. Fortunately, the MBA classroom provides an environment for women to form the supportive professional relationships which will pay off long after graduation.
Here are five ways that female MBA students and alumni support one another throughout their careers.
1. Women in business societies
Via women in business societies, women in MBA programs network, attend useful seminars, and hear from inspiring role models. Some schools also have industry specific clubs for women to join, and annual events.
At the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) in Beijing, for example, female MBA students can take part in the annual Women in Leadership Forum. The event is organized in collaboration with the United National Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and consists of seminars and talks from prominent businesswomen including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
For Beth Guo, a CKGSB MBA alum, events like these were extremely powerful. “Education is crucial to women,” she reflects. “And at CKGSB there were plenty of seminars and events to support women in the community—to encourage, and empower.”
Enrolling in an MBA gives women the chance to find one-on-one support from female mentors. Mentoring can help you navigate the unique challenges faced by women in business, grow your confidence, and develop as a leader.
3. Friendship and advice
MBA students often form lifelong friendships, which can be especially powerful for women in business. Working in a realm that is often male-dominated can be tricky, and having a group of like-minded friends to fall back on for support and advice is always helpful.
Female friendship has been especially valuable for Katherine Li, an MBA graduate from Oxford Saïd Business School. When raising funds for her education startup, Butterfly FX, she drew on women’s networks to find safe spaces to discuss issues like the continued funding gap between startups founded by men and women.
“I know that when we pitch, gender still matters,” she reflects. “Connections with other women in business helps funnel you toward potential investors that are more supportive, that maybe understand more of the challenges you’re facing.”
4. Offering intersectional support
As well as joining a global network of like-minded women, pursuing an MBA helps you tap into more specific networks, such as societies dedicated to supporting women of color, or LGBTQ+ women MBA graduates.
This is crucial in the fight for diverse and inclusive workspaces, as women of color systemically receive less support at work than white or male employees. Although broader changes in attitude are needed to resolve this problem for good, having a network of successful women of color to advise and support you is a powerful asset.
5. Sharing job opportunities
Being an MBA student will also help you access career opportunities you might not have otherwise discovered.
Many exciting roles aren’t publicly advertised, but filled through personal connections. Having an MBA lets you tap into some of these networks—connecting with alumnae from your own school, other MBAs in the area, and even women MBAs around the globe.
Finding job opportunities through networking also gives you the chance to hear an insider’s take on the organization’s culture and challenges. This way, you’re better prepared for interviews and more able to tell if the opportunity is a good fit right off the bat.
For women climbing the professional ladder, mutually supportive relationships with similarly ambitious peers can clearly make a huge difference—and MBA programs are the ideal place to build these lifelong connections.
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