It would be a lie for me to say that I had never once questioned my ability to succeed in business, particularly in the fast-driven and competitive field of management consulting. In my three years consulting prior to business school, I hit a few road bumps, pulled a few too many late nights, and re-did quite a few PowerPoint presentations. But as my dependency on caffeine continued to increase, so did my passion and enthusiasm for the job, and I knew that business school was the next step in my career.
It’s easy for me to name reasons why I wanted to come to Wharton – the excellent marketing program, the emphasis on Big Data and statistical analyses, the social student body, and the prestige of the Wharton brand. While all of these are important and were definitely drivers in my decision-making process, there is one that fundamentally differentiated Wharton for me – the female student body.
In the often male-dominated field of business, Wharton stood out as the preeminent institution focused on decreasing the gender gap in MBA programs and driving forward the conversation about women in business. I am ecstatic to say that Wharton has lived up to that reputation during my time here. As a member of the Class of 2015, I am proud to say that I am part of a class that is comprised of 42% female students and that I am helping to continue the conversation around women in business as the Vice President of Thought Leadership for Wharton Women in Business (WWIB).
That conversation continued to be pushed forward last week when Julie Coffman, a partner at Bain & Co. and chair of the firm’s Global Women’s Leadership Council, came to speak to female and male students about her recent article “Everyday Moments of Truth–frontline managers are key to women’s career aspirations.” During her conversation, Julie highlighted her research around the lack of women in top management, a dearth that can be attributed to the decline in women’s confidence and aspirations for management roles. The main finding that Julie shared was that most women were losing confidence and their aspiration for top roles because they were not seeing an attractive path for themselves when looking at the senior management of the companies that they were a part of. Furthermore, women didn’t feel supported by people within their organizations to reach senior management! Julie went on to discuss the critical activities in which managers need to be engaged in order to avoid this decline in women’s aspirations and to instead encourage women to continue to seek executive-level roles within companies.
As a woman at Wharton I feel lucky to be able to engage in these critical dialogues with business leaders, so that I can not only understand the current challenges in business today, but to consider how we as future business leaders can reform our organizations in order to eliminate the gender gap for women. Reflecting upon Julie’s research, I hope that going forward, the occasional doubts that I had at the outset of my career will only be attributable to my periodic late night working sessions, rather than a systemic issue with how we encourage our future female managers.