A delegate from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business recently visited the White House for meetings aligned with the school’s 50/50 by 2020 campaign launched in spring 2015.
The White House event, focused on best practices for business schools to expand women’s opportunities, brought together business leaders and representatives from several schools. Other participants came from the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).
“Drawing more women into the pipelines of business schools can change our companies and get more women into higher levels in our firms,” said Smith School Vice Dean Joyce E.A. Russell, who attended the White House event. “With more women in C-level positions and on boards, our firms will truly be representative of the U.S. population.”
In February 2015, the Smith School announced its commitment to close the MBA gender enrollment gap within five years. While women have closed the enrollment gap in higher education overall, they continue to lag at business schools. AACSB statistics show that about one-third of MBA students are women.
“The White House commitment to best practices is perfectly aligned with the Smith School’s 50/50 by 2020 pledge,” Russell said. “Working together, we will deliver results.”
A White House issue brief says women have become more equal players in the U.S. labor market, but they remain less represented in business careers. In 2014 just 5 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies were female, and in 2013 just 17 percent of Fortune 500 board seats were held by women.
“Girls need to take more business classes in high school and see examples of successful women in business,” Russell said. “They need to be encouraged to take math courses and other quantitative courses, which can help them in business careers.”
Russell and business school leaders from the likes of the Wharton School, Booth School of Business and Yale School of Management signed a White House commitment to implement best practices in four key areas:
- Ensuring access to business schools and business careers.
- Building a business school experience that prepares students for the workforce of tomorrow.
- Ensuring career services that go beyond the needs of traditional students.
- Exemplifying how organizations should be run.
As part of Smith’s efforts to close the gender enrollment gap, the school also has partnered with the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit consortium supporting women in their business careers. Other Smith School initiatives involve the annual Women’s Week in March. This year’s events included an executive roundtable, where women students networked and learned about topics such as salary negotiation, work-life balance, and finance careers. The week culminated with the annual Women Leading Women, featuring Smith School alumnus Andrea Brody ’87, senior vice president of global marketing at BravoSolution.
Smith also has expanded its portfolio of MBA programs to include full-time, part-time evening, part-time blended, part-time weekend, online MBA, and Executive MBA. The numerous programming options allows aspiring business leaders to have more flexibility in managing their school and personal lives.
The Smith School further administers programs for prospective women applicants addressing career issues, GMAT test taking and admissions issues. “We want applicants to know that the Smith academic community is challenging, yet also collaborative,” Russell said. “We are family.”
This article first appeared on the Robert H. Smith School of Business news page on August 5, 2015.