Leaders from four leading business schools in the U.S. and U.K. gathered on April 20, 2022, to discuss demand for female MBA graduates and how current and aspiring female MBAs can prepare for successful careers.
The virtual event was hosted by The MBA Tour, and the session on MBA careers was moderated by Jeneta Hot of MBAchic. It featured discussions about the current corporate climate for women leaders, ways candidates can stand out on their business school applications, as well as resources for female students who want to maximize their MBA experiences.
- Jelena Pejic, Assistant Director of Graduate Recruitment & Admissions at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management
- Anjna Motwani, Career Coach at Columbia Business School
- Tracy Potter, Sr. Associate Director of Career Development at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
- Dr. Janina Steinmetz, Associate Professor of Marketing at Bayes Business School
Diversity Efforts on the Rise
“I would say in 2022, there is no limit to where a female MBA student might set their sights,” says Tracy Potter, Sr. Associate Director of Career Development at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
She’s spent more than 25 years in career development and says in the last decade, she’s seen an uptick in recruiters across every industry seeking out female candidates to diversify their hiring pools. This trend is prevalent in the tech, consulting, corporate finance, and banking industries.
“So, when I work with a student, I definitely don’t have them limit themselves to any particular industry because it’s more female friendly,” she says. “It’s really about helping them to create their path.”
Anjna Motwani, Career Coach at Columbia Business School adds:
“Many firms right now are doing several diversity and women-invite only events where you get to meet with senior women leaders who’ve been in the organization. Those are great ways to really build your brand. And also, to understand what it takes to forge on that path.”
She encourages female candidates to seek out these types of opportunities and learn from other women who are in their industries of choice.
Business School Application Tips
Potential MBA candidates who want to stand out should use their personal statement to define their career objectives and explain what they’ll bring to the program’s community, according to Jelena Pejic, Assistant Director of Graduate Recruitment & Admissions at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.
“When you get to the personal statement of your application, we ask you, ‘Why is it that you’re applying to B.C.?” she says. “We really want to know, what is it about the school that attracts you? And how will B.C.’s MBA assist you with your short-term goals, as well as your long-term goals?
“We really want you to think about it,” Pejic continues. “And within your personal statement, or even when you’re thinking about letters of recommendation, try to be as concise as you can.”
When you’re considering MBA programs, Potter also suggests searching LinkedIn profiles to see where each school’s alumni have landed. And don’t be afraid to reach out to ask how the program prepared them for their careers.
Specific tips for international students
Pejic provided the following tips for international MBA candidates:
- Start the application process early, ideally as soon as the school makes it available. There may still be a delay at some U.S. embassies because of the pandemic, so get a jumpstart on securing documentation.
- Get recommendation letters from supervisors or clients who actually know you and your work, not just one’s with great job titles. “Do not ask your CEO or president of a company to write you a letter of recommendation unless you work with them directly,” Pejic explains. “Because most of the time those letters of recommendation will sound like employment verification forms. They’ll tell us when you started, that you’re still there, that you’re doing a great job -that does not really answer any of the questions that we’re asking.”
- Take the GMAT/GRE. Business schools typically receive a lot of applications from China and India, for example, so competition is fierce. Taking the test(s) instead of asking for a waiver can strengthen your application.
MBA Program Resources for Female Students
“One of the things that we frequently say to our students is that we have an abundance of opportunity and an abundance of resources,” says Potter. “How you engage in them is really up to you, as this is your experience.”
Each school representative shared resources that their school provides to support female MBA students.
All the schools boast women’s student organizations, industry/professional-based clubs, and professional development resources like self-assessments to help you prepare for interviews and job searches. Here are additional efforts at each school:
Columbia Business School
“We have this thing called the ACE model, which is advisors, coaches and CMC fellows,” says Motwani. “Those are second-year students who help first years out, and executives in residence.”
Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
The school pairs full-time students with a designated coach who works with them from admission through graduation and sometimes beyond.
“We work with each student to identify what their goals are, what their hopes and dreams are–sometimes I encourage them to make a mission statement and align all of the things that they will engage in during their MBA program with that mission statement to make certain that they are staying true to themselves and their goals.”
Boston College Carroll School of Management
Boston College hosts a Women in Business panel twice a year and offers fellowships for full-time MBA candidates. The school also has a specific program to support female students from India and Southeast Asia.
Bayes Business School
Bayes provides peer mentoring and coaching resources for women MBA students and awards scholarships to women that cover 50% of their tuition.
Dr. Janina Steinmetz, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Bayes Business School, says it might be tempting to only focus on the program resources that are immediately relevant, such as a women’s coaching program or your industry’s student club.
“But in my experience, it often happens that things pay off later,” she says. “Sometimes you just stumble into an event, or a friend brings you along. And that turns out to be the networking opportunity, or the thing where you learn something that you didn’t think you needed immediately.
“So I know there’s an overwhelming abundance of resources available to students- obviously, you can’t use it all. But I would really encourage everyone to just be open minded and use more of these resources than you think you might immediately.”
How to Position Yourself for Success in the Corporate World
Pejic and Potter both stress the importance of developing relationships with fellow students through activities like, practicing interview skills together, networking at social events, and connecting each other to career opportunities.
“Really forge those friendships, because this is where you’re developing your network and be authentic to yourself, right?,” Pejic says.
Steinmetz’s biggest piece of advice for female MBAs is to be bold and apply for opportunities even if they seem like a longshot.
“At our school, we give scholarships to promising female candidates,” she says. “And more than one of them have told me ‘Oh, when I applied for the scholarship, I thought I wouldn’t stand a chance to get it.’ But they did.
“Because at the end, there’s fewer people applying then you think sometimes because people might not decide to apply or have other things going on,” she continues. “So chances are if you apply for something, your odds of getting them are better than you actually think.”
Similarly, Potter says it might sound cliché but be sure to take on the opportunities that scare you because even if you fail, you’ll grow.
“We have a thing that we frequently say, ‘dare to fail,’ she says. “These two years or more that you’ll be in business school, do things that perhaps you are not going to be 1,000% successful at the first time that you do it. This is a wonderful laboratory for you to do it and stretch yourself.”
Are you applying to business school? Tune in to future events from The MBA Tour and MBAchic and check our latest piece on how to stand out this application cycle. And sign up here to learn more about our BSchool Profiles when you start your school selection process.
Photo by Jason Goodman
About the author
Shernay is a mom, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner who's been fortunate to spend her entire professional career telling stories. She has more than a decade of experience as a TV, print, and radio journalist for local and national news outlets. In 2016, she launched a content firm to help nonprofits and businesses tell their stories more strategically. Her passions: mom empowerment, entrepreneurship, and self-development.
She lives outside of Baltimore with her two sons.