Taking a step further in the conversation about women in business education for admissions teams means going beyond “what is in it for you.”
Focusing on recruiting women for the MBA is not a new topic for those of us in graduate admissions. For those of us tasked with recruiting students to the MBA, the fact remains that we continue to seek talented and experienced women to join our programs in a competitive market. And like I always remind our staff and faculty—we are not only competing with other MBA programs. Our competitors are a prospective student’s time—time away from their children, their partners, their parents, and their careers.
We have found that when recruiting our female candidates, one-on-one connections with our female alumni and students are usually what get them to sign on the dotted line. But, the challenge goes beyond just having our female students and alumni reach out to our prospects and tell them, “trust us, you can do this!” Our obligation is to know our prospects, students, and alumni at a level that is deeper than what is covered on their resumes, and knowing that this encompasses their families as well. We need to embrace the people who will get our prospects through the journey we are asking them to embark on.
Dig deeper to align the right student with the right prospect
A true connection is born from sharing an actual similarity, and besides having women connect with other women, it’s important that they share similar interests or challenges. Building trust lays the groundwork for open questions, which lead to honesty and transparency, which then create connections between networks of women that last far beyond recruitment. It is important to note that similarities are not just pairing the engineer with the engineer or the working mother with another working mother. On average, female GMAT® test takers are 25 years old, almost two years younger than male examinees. Depending on their current life-stage, and the busy schedules of our students and alumni, and all of the obstacles that we can face with scheduling and logistics, a ‘perfect matching’ may not happen. So we need to go further and identify motivators, barriers and deal-breakers for the women in our programs and those seeking.
Celebrate the students, and their cheerleaders
Lola Soyebo Harris is one of our current Professional MBA students at Bauer. I distinctly remember her admissions interview, where she indicated her goal was to become as involved as she could, and make the most of her MBA. To date, this means she is a working mother of two young boys, a wife, an active member of our student body, an MBA Ambassador, and the current president of our National Association of Women MBA (NAWMBA) student chapter at Bauer. Lola had to consider many factors when she began her MBA, and she is well aware that it took sacrifices, and what that word means to women.
“As a wife and working mother of two, I have had to be efficient with my time to get the most of the program’s various enriching opportunities, and it has been well-worth the experience and personal growth.” Her words of encouragement to a prospective female student were simple—“Just go.”
Lola’s biggest cheerleader? Her husband, Seyi, who shares the understanding of sacrifice and the potential that the MBA will bring. "Having a spouse that is attending business school places certain demands on the family as whole. It is a commitment of time and effort to make sure that everything is going well with the family especially when kids are involved. The key concepts to a successful outcome are team work and communication as well as a commitment to the idea that you sacrifice now in order to reap great gains in the future.”
Understanding the actual investment of a partner is important as well. Said Seyi, “Your spouse will be gone several nights a week and sometimes on weekends for class or other related activities. You just have to step up and try your best to not allow the perception of a void to creep up. Bottom line, you support your spouse in this endeavor because you love them and want them to be fulfilled.”
Taking a step further in the conversation about women in graduate business education for admissions teams means just that—take a step further and go beyond “what is in it for you.” Get to know the motivators, the barriers, the cheerleaders, and connect that with your student body and alumni. The rewards will be well worth it.