Gender parity in RBS highlights growth of women in business
Early in their careers, many women start making room for a family, some even before they have a boyfriend, said Sharon Lydon, citing a story from Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.”
Lydon, executive director of the master’s in business administration program at the Rutgers Business School, is one of the many women who felt an impact from Sandberg’s stories, which expose the double standards women face in the corporate world.
This year, RBS admitted a 51 percent female MBA class, surpassing the 37 percent national average and becoming the first business school in the country to achieve gender parity.
With 26 women holding little over five percent of Fortune 500’s chief executive positions, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit research group, female representation is a common issue of debate.
Outranking other top schools, including the Harvard Business School and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers provides multiple avenues for increasing women’s access to a historically male-dominated industry.
Lydon experienced the welcoming atmosphere at Rutgers when she discovered she was pregnant with her second child two months into her first position at the University.
Worried about job security and what her colleagues and bosses would think, Lydon soon realized that her concerns were unnecessary when she received overwhelming support, generosity and help.
Women who strive to move forward in their careers right away can often become leaders in their organizations, which makes having a family much easier later on, Lydon said, stressing a point in Sandberg’s book.
“If someone wants to make a meeting with you, you’re going to adapt to the person with the higher position,” she said.
Rutgers Women in Business, a club that encourages and supports the professional and personal growth of the female MBA candidates according to the RBS website, uses connections with prominent companies to host networking events and expert panels, increasing the exposure female students get to information and culture.
RWIB focuses on business strategy, giving women the same networking and sponsorship opportunities that men have always had, said MBA candidate and co-president of RWIB Radiance Bucknor-Islam.
The group recently invited four professionals from Prudential Financial, Inc. to speak to students.
At this panel, MBA candidate Susan Smith was inspired by a female executive who said women should not be afraid to bring all aspects of themselves to the table, including their experiences as mothers.
“Sometimes I wanted to hide the aspect of being a mom,” Smith said. “But she said we’ve gotten to the point where women are accepted in business, but we really can’t bring all of ourselves to the table, and we have so much to offer.”
Smith, who switched to the business industry for a more challenging experience than her previous job in teaching, noticed the diversity at Rutgers sometimes gave her a skewed perspective of real world demographics.
At the “Summit on Supply Chain Finance” event she attended last week, Smith noticed a significantly less diverse population that was predominantly white and male.
Jyothi Hosamani, an MBA student studying finance, said she went against the norms of her Indian culture when she traveled and worked for seven years in India and Singapore instead of marrying by age 24 or 25.
“I knew that I had to establish a career first,” she said. “I stood by what I believed in and what I thought was right.”
Hosamani was encouraged when a program from Berkshire Hathaway Inc. approached Rutgers offering 20 students the opportunity to meet Warren Buffett. They required seven of the attendees to be women.
She feels that people remember women CEOs more frequently because they are a rare occurrence, which highlights how much female leadership is the exception rather than the norm.
“This notion has to be changed,” Hosamani said.
All four women emphasized the highly collaborative working environment that sets RBS apart. Students critique each other’s resumes, inform each other of job postings and share their successes, even when they’re divided into different teams for projects.
The women of RBS also inspire each other. Lydon recalled a conversation with Smith about studying while caring for her five children and learning that studying at RBS was the best decision Smith felt she ever made.
“I have a lot of hope for the future as more women will come back to school and get their MBAs,” Lydon said.