In 2015, Northwestern (Kellogg) raised the percentage of women in its class of 2017 to 43%, the highest in the school’s history and one of the top percentages across MBA Programs in the United States. The Kellogg Women’s Business Association (WBA) is a critical organization for women and a driving force behind the increase. We chatted with WBA Vice President of Marketing Amanda McCarthy (Kellogg, ’16) who shared with us how the supportive community at Kellogg has made a difference in her experience and what the WBA is doing to support women throughout their time at Kellogg.
While I was applying to business school, I was aware of the ratios of males to females at the different schools. While I wouldn’t say it was a deciding factor, it was certainly a consideration. Of greater importance to me was learning about what schools are doing to address tough issues like gender equality, and to prepare females for some of the unique business challenges that they might face in the workplace. I knew this was a priority for Kellogg based on the depth of programming organized by the Women’s Business Association and the support from the Dean’s office.
I think there are a number of factors that together are driving the increased number of women applying to and attending top business schools. Firstly, there is specific outreach happening on the part of business schools and organizations such as Forte Foundation to get in front of women early in their careers and give them exposure to business school. These initiatives help to put business school on the radar. Secondly, I think there is a great power in example. The more women attend business school (43% at Kellogg this past year), and achieve great success in post MBA roles, the more other women look to that example and think – people “like me” are doing this, so I can too.
These two years at Kellogg have provided me with a unique opportunity to build a large network of women colleagues. For many of us (depending on our career choices), Kellogg may be one of the last times that this many women will be in such a structured, professional context. Whether it’s through clubs like the WBA, career interest groups, or social groups, we are building an important network that will serve us at many of the future junctures that can be unique to women.
The Kellogg WBA has facilitated a number of events and programs that have provided me with resources to learn from other women. For instance, earlier this year I was inspired after having breakfast with Visa’s head of North America Marketing. We have small group dinners with female alumna from different industries (everything from tech, to banking, to entrepreneurship), panel discussions on topics of professional development, and even a summer mentorship program where Kellogg interns are matched with alumna working in the city in which they are interning over the summer. I also look to my peers as incredible resources and mentors – I already confide in these women for advice and know that I will continue to beyond my time at Kellogg.
This year Kellogg piloted the new Women’s Leadership Seminar, a 5-week capstone experience for second-year women. The program – which started as student initiative led by Rebecca Sholiton, one of the Co-Presidents of the WBA- focuses on preparing current Kellogg female students so that they can achieve quick success, position themselves in the corporate world, and overcome the challenges that sometimes provoke women to leave their corporate roles in their 30s and 40s. Topics for this year’s Seminar included: Negotiating effectively, building networks, managing expectations and taking smart risks, managing dual careers and controlling your narrative. Dean Blount and Professor Victoria Medvec developed the Women’s Leadership Seminar in partnership with the leadership from the WBA with the vision of ensuring that high potential women are equipped to aggressively pursue and successfully navigate careers that have impact as well as personal meaning.
Not once have I felt different at Kellogg because I was a woman. I have the same voice and same opportunities as any of my male classmates. I think the best thing Kellogg is doing is fostering a close knit, inclusive, collaborative community of students. This culture helps to make everyone feel supported and included.
I would love for business schools to continue to do more by way of including men in the conversation about gender equality. We need everyone involved – for example, the pay gap isn’t a “women’s issue,” it’s a workplace issue and a societal issue that impacts everyone. I am incredibly proud of what the WBA has done at Kellogg to get men involved in the conversation. From adding male liaisons to our executive team or hosting candid conversations events around current gender topics, we have really made involving men a priority, but there is still a lot more that can be done.
Lastly, my word of advice to women who are considering an MBA – Go!! Business school, and Kellogg (in my biased view), is an amazing experience. You not only get valuable business training, but you also get two years to really take stock and reflect – what is it that you want out of a career, what’s important to you in life, and how do you want to shape what your future will look like? Not to mention you get to spend every day around a group of talented, interesting, inspirational people that you call your classmates and friends.
Amanda McCarthy, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, WBA
For More Information
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