The Women’s Business Connection (WBC) at UCLA Anderson provides resources to support women in all of their MBA programs. We chatted with WBC Co-President Britney Sussman, who talked to us about the supportive community at Anderson as well as a key differentiator with their school’s leadership that has made a significant impact.
On the driving force behind women entering MBA programs
I think the increased awareness of the MBA is a big factor, along with knowing the power of the MBA. As more and more women arrive at the upper echelons of corporations, younger women are inspired. It creates a domino effect.
For me, the male/female ratio was never a consideration as I was applying. The skewed ratio of more men to women in the broader business environment is apparent, so it’s not shocking that business school is a microcosm of this.
On how the Anderson Community supports the WBC
One of the best things about Anderson is the people – both male and female. However, the women at Anderson are absolutely outstanding. They inspire me everyday with how smart, accomplished, and driven they are. These women have now become great friends, and it’s really nice to hang out with people who understand your path and life ambitions. Additionally, I love learning about the diversity of interests among the women at Anderson. Everyone seems to be headed in a unique direction.
Each year the WBC organizes a mentorship program with Anderson alumni. My mentor helped to guide me through the recruiting process with great tips, advice, and insight. We also organize D48s (Dinners for 8) throughout the year to provide an intimate setting to get to know successful women from the Anderson community better. Finally, we host an annual Anderson Women’s Leadership Summit that highlights amazing women doing great things. This year’s theme is “velocity”, and the day will explore how women create it and maintain in their lives and careers. The program will include keynotes from Jane Wurwand, the Founder of Dermalogica, and Cynthia Marshall, the Chief Diversity Officer of AT&T, plus we just confirmed Bellamy Young (best known for her role as First Lady of the United States Melody “Mellie” Grant in the ABC drama series Scandal). It will take place this year on Friday, February 5, 2016.
The Role of Men:
My philosophy is you can’t have a conversation about women without including men. Therefore, this year, we launched the MANbassador Campaign – The purpose of the campaign is to engage men in the conversation about women. Additionally, we hope to bring attention to the subconscious biases that occur anytime you have a group with a gender supermajority. At the beginning of the quarter, current male students were invited to sign up. The process to become a MANbassador was free of charge, but included three important steps:
- Stop and reflect. They needed to take a moment to think about how gender has played a role in their professional/personal life. Positive or negative; to them personally or to someone they know. Then they had to write the reflection down anonymously on a piece of construction paper.
- Sign the MANbassador MANifesto hanging on the wall: “I will champion women publicly. I will champion women professionally. I will respect my female colleagues. I will celebrate their accomplishments. I will mentor and network with women as much as I do men. I understand the value of tapping all the best talent, regardless of gender. I acknowledge that there is still progress to be made. I recognize that, while women make up half the sky, there is more work to do to make them half the board room. I will do my part to support my female colleagues advance in their career. I will honor my role as a WBC Manbassador.”
- Give us their name/email address to be engaged in future WBC/MANbassador events: We want to make sure that men are part of some of these critical conversations. Subsequent events have included a Food For Thought Dinner Series where WBC board members host small groups of members and MANbassadors. Before each dinner, guests receive a couple of articles (like this one) and dinner discussion is driven from there.
One factor that differentiate Anderson from other top MBA programs is that our school is led by a woman. Dean Judy Olian challenges all students to think fearlessly, drive change, and share success. Most of the top administration officials are women, and many of the student center executive directors are also women. With so many of Anderson’s key decision makers women, the environment is one of awareness and inclusion. It is very special and collaborative, where all students are encouraged to lead.
Looking forward, I think schools need to reach further up the pipeline and plant the MBA seed earlier in women’s minds. There should be a push during the senior year of undergraduate programs to take the GMAT and learn more about what the MBA could mean for your career long term.
In terms of advice, I would say don’t let the GMAT intimidate you. Stay focused on it and don’t get distracted by what ifs. After you have tried multiple times and scored as high as possible, then decide which program is right for you.
Also, “business” has many different forms today. It includes social impact, tech, entertainment, finance, energy, healthcare, and everything in between. You can literally do ANYTHING with an MBA. Business school has been a transformational experience for me. If you want an incredible return on your investment, this is the grad program women should be applying to.
Brittney Sussman (Anderson, ’16) and Allison Simeone (Anderson, ’16)
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