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Carolina Women in Business: Career development and networking for MBAs

CWIB Tech Panel

Carolina Women in Business (CWIB) provides the women of UNC Kenan-Flagler with opportunities for career and community development and networking opportunities in preparation for their post-MBA journeys.

MBASchooled spoke with Meghan Marie McDonnell (MBA ’16) and Caitlin Fross (MBA ’16) about the supportive community at UNC and what CWIB is doing to encourage more women to come to business school.

MBASchooled: Are there specific factors that you think are creating momentum for more females to apply to top business schools in the United States?

Caitlin FrossCaitlin: I’m not sure there is momentum for more females to apply to business schools. Not enough. Not yet. Last spring the Wall Street Journal published an article indicating that the number of female business school applicants is actually declining. As a result, business schools are becoming increasingly competitive over a smaller and smaller number of female candidates.

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I think, instead, that we might be at the beginning of a movement. Several initiatives in the private sector are creating demand for female leadership in top organizations. Members of the 30% Club, for example, are working towards having 30 percent female representation on their boards. In addition, research from McKinsey & Company indicates that increased gender diversity in a company is correlated with greater financial success.

“Ask yourself what your dream job would be. If an MBA can set you on the trajectory to attain it, then absolutely go for it.”

From the opposite end of the pipeline, organizations such as the Forté Foundation are working to increase the number of female applicants to business school. In addition, schools such as UNC Kenan-Flagler are increasingly hosting events focused on college and high school women. I’m hopeful that the combination of these factors will lead to greater female representation in top business schools.

MBASchooled: Was the ratio of males to females in business school something you considered before apply and attending?

Meghan MarieMeghan Marie: The male/female ratio was something I looked at, but it was not a big deciding factor for me. I came from a male-dominated industry and I’m returning to a male-dominated industry, so I’m comfortable being surrounded by more men than women. I do think, however, that there is a special bond between all the women at UNC Kenan-Flagler, and that to me is more important than how many women there are.

MBASchooled: As a female MBA student, how is UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Carolina Women in Business (CWIB) club valuable to you?

Meghan Marie: CWIB has been incredibly valuable to my experience at UNC Kenan-Flagler. As the president of CWIB I have had incredible leadership opportunities, including partnering with our admissions and student activities offices, liaising with executives recruiting on campus, collaborating with other clubs and meeting with prospective students. This position has afforded me the opportunity to make a difference and leave an impact on the UNC Kenan-Flagler community in a greater way than I thought possible, and I’m so grateful for this experience.

Caitlin: My relationships with my classmates – both male and female – have been the highlight of my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler. We’re a smaller school, and as such are incredibly close knit. I’ve found my classmates to be not only driven and determined, but also creative and collaborative. The supportive nature of our study body has allowed me to stretch myself and take risks, both academically and professionally.

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MBASchooled: What opportunities have you had in business school to meet other women who serve as resources or mentors on career and life?

Meghan Marie: There is a very strong second-year – first-year mentorship program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Through official career mentors and unofficial mentors, I found plenty of mentorship and guidance through the women (and men) above me.

As a second year, I’m paying this forward by serving as official and unofficial mentors to the first-year women (and men) and to the undergraduate women in the Business School. Through CWIB and career club opportunities and just independent relationships, there have been plenty of opportunities to meet other women who serve as resources or mentors.

MBASchooled: As a Board member for Carolina Women in Business, are there any initiatives you have or are working on to provide a support network for female students at UNC Kenan-Flagler?

Meghan Marie: We’ve working on quite a few initiatives to provide support for the female students at UNC Kenan-Flagler. In addition to hosting our annual Carolina Women in Business Conference that fosters incredible dialogue and networking, we have organized a few personal development sessions on negotiation tactics and ways to stick up for yourself. We host regular women-only coffee chats and recruiting events with executives and companies visiting campus, and we also put on fun social events like spin classes and cocktails to make sure we have time to connect with the other women in our class. I think being able to support the women from social, professional and personal aspects is very important.

Caitlin: As co-VP of external outreach for Carolina Women in Business (CWIB), I’ve been largely focused on the prospective student experience. We tried to give every prospective female student who visited UNC Kenan-Flagler the opportunity to meet with a current female Business School student while they were on campus. We matched current and prospective students based on professional interests. The goal was to answer any questions the visiting students might have about the Business School application process and experience.

Last year the incoming UNC Kenan-Flagler student body was 26% women. This year we reached 30%. I don’t think that’s enough. Our hope is that by reaching out and connecting with female applicants, we can increase female representation even more.

MBASchooled: How have your relationships with female classmates impacted your time at UNC Kenan-Flagler?

Meghan Marie: My relationships with my female classmates have made my experience at UNC Kenan-Flagler incredible. I have made some great, life-long friends here and it has been a blast living with them and traveling the world with them. I pursued an internship in banking, which is a male-dominated career trek at UNC Kenan-Flagler, so it was nice to have a few other women to go through recruitment with and to mock interview with.

MBASchooled: Do you have any advice for women who are or are not thinking about business school?

Meghan Marie: Do it. Going to business school also gave me the chance to live in another part of the country, meet individuals from other parts of the world and gave me access to different industries. I’ve been able to broaden my horizons more than I thought possible. Life is short, and in my opinion, it’s never a bad idea to go back to school.

Caitlin: I’d suggest asking yourself, if you were absolutely honest, what would your dream job be? If an MBA would help prepare you for that job or set you on the career trajectory to one day attain it, then absolutely go for it. Once you’ve decided that business school is right for you, reach out to current students to ask about their experience. Visit schools to find the best cultural and academic fit for yourself. An MBA is a big investment, both of time and money, but the payoff can be extremely rewarding.

By Cindy Tsai (MBA ’16)

This article has been republished with permission. View the original article on MBASchooled.