The need for women leaders

The increased presence of women in business is a slow process but a necessary one. Having more women leaders isn't only a step towards gender equality. It also brings a series of advantages to the corporate world. According to the CEO of Zen Media, Shama Hyder, the benefits of having women in the workplace include increased productivity and collaboration, better organizational dedication, and decreased employee burnout.

She also brings attention to the importance of soft skills in the work environment. These skills, such as self-motivation, resilience, networking, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration, have proved to be as important as the traditional "hard" skills. "While technical skill, experience, and knowledge are fundamental to success," she says, "organizations are now holding soft skills in much higher regard."

The ability to better implement such skills in the workplace has made women a necessary presence in the corporate world. As well as breaking down male dominance in the field, women are more effective in negotiations and problem-solving in high-pressure circumstances. They are also more open to mentoring other women in their areas, helping prepare the future generations of female leaders, and helping them achieve their full potential.

The post-pandemic effect

Virtually no business sector went unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and people across the world saw themselves suddenly unemployed or had their hours cut significantly. However, a study by the Center for American Progress concluded that four times as many women as men lost their jobs in September 2020. But despite the setback, or arguably because of it, women came back motivated to pursue MBAs and reroute their careers.

Elissa Sangster, CEO of the Forté Foundation, suggests what brought on such change: "I think that the stall caused women to rethink whether they wanted to go back [to their careers]. If they did have to step away, they may be thinking, 'Do I really want to go back to what I was doing before, or is it the chance for me to make a pivot?'"

Empowering women in business with an MBA

Of course, women know better than anyone that breaking into the industry isn't easy. Securing a distinguished position in a respectable company, where they are treated equally to their male colleagues, is even less so. The path to the top is arduous, even for the most qualified women. 

Businesswoman Atefeh Khodadi recalls her own struggles: "I've worked in companies where I didn't receive equal training to help me progress in my career. I was put down by my male peers when I said I wanted to become CEO of my own company, simply because I was a woman."

But when a woman joins an MBA program, she isn't only benefitting herself -- she is opening doors for countless other women to follow in her path. Many MBA schools have initiatives designed to lift women up, such as women in business societies, mentorship programs, and conferences featuring prominent female leaders.

The benefits of attending a business school

MBA schools play a primary role in giving women the necessary tools and skills to succeed in business and the confidence to do so. When everything in a woman's life has led her to believe that she has no place in the corporate world, thinking otherwise doesn't always come easily.

For Dianne Bevelander, professor at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), MBAs can give women the push they need to see themselves as leaders. As she told BusinessBecause, "It will push women to move outside their comfort zone and give them the confidence to be less modest and allow their talent to shine. They will learn to push boundaries in innovation, accept risk, and welcome leadership roles."

How to succeed in your MBA

Luckily, many business schools are taking it upon themselves to recruit more women every year, balancing the ratio of male to female enrollment. For women starting their MBAs, it's essential to keep in mind what it takes to thrive.

Learning to operate outside your comfort zone and embracing networking are two of the most important habits for aspiring businesswomen. But perhaps one of the most difficult bad habit to break is being afraid to speak up. "Females are always trying to make sure they're 100% correct before speaking," says HHL Leipzig alumna Sravya Maturu. "But it's up to us to make ourselves heard and speak confidently."

Recognizing your worth as a woman in business and knowing what you bring to the table is another essential habit. For Bihn, "If we want to build truly disruptive business, then we need more women and diverse people making venture capital decisions", and choosing business schools that supports women is the first step to make sure all the others will be accomplished.

How business schools recruit and retain women

Implementing special recruitment efforts is the foremost strategy responsible for increasing the number of female applicants. But securing more applications isn't a guarantee that women will stay in the program. Promoting successful women in business and providing a supportive environment is fundamental in retaining female students in business schools. Offering networking opportunities and ensuring women succeed beyond the MBA program generates a cycle of empowerment and encouragement between successful female alumni and prospective students that motivates women to pursue careers in business.

Upcoming Event: The MBA Tour Spotlight on Women in Business

Promoting business schools committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion is precisely The MBA Tour's purpose. With a history of over 25 years of bringing prospective students and renowned institutions together, The MBA Tour hosts over 60 business education events worldwide every year, connecting candidates and schools across the six continents.

This year, The MBA Tour is holding a special event geared towards women who wish to pursue a career in business. On November 16th, The MBA Tour Spotlight on Women in Business will showcase the best resources available to women in business education and promote recruiting programs, scholarships, and job opportunities for its attendees. The event will feature topic-driven panel discussions in which top business schools will discuss strategies for women to succeed in the MBA application process, how MBAs are supporting “womenpreneurs,” and the corporate demand for women in MBAs. 

By partnering up with other leaders in the field, such as the Forté Foundation and the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAT), The MBA Tour can host the top MBA programs in the world at the event. For a former attendee, the variety of programs available was a highlight of the event: "It was incredibly helpful that I could gather the information I needed about various programs all from one place."

The participants will have the chance to connect and engage with students, alumni, and admission representatives from 20 business schools, including the Asia School of Business, Cornell University, University of California Berkeley, University of Notre Dame, and Yale University.

The MBA Tour has already helped countless students chase their dream careers and inspired women worldwide to secure their place in the business world. For Gayle, a former MBA Tour attendee, the event can benefit people from every field: "I definitely would recommend The MBA Tour to anyone who's interested in getting their MBA, and I'm telling everyone to get their MBA because I don't care what field you're in - you should always be in charge of it."

Article written in association with The MBA Tour.