Globe and Mail: New strategies to recruit women pay dividends

May 27, 2014

The following is an excerpt from the full article published in the Globe and Mail on May 23, 2014.


Men typically outnumber women in full-time MBA programs – a gender imbalance that has some Canadian business schools rethinking their pitch to top female candidates.

With new strategies, including one-on-one recruitment, partnerships with women leadership organizations and donor-funded awards, schools hope to foster academically strong classrooms with a diversity of gender, culture and employment experience.

Some efforts are paying dividends, though school officials and women’s advocates admit more work lies ahead to achieve gender parity.

Queen’s School of Business in Kingston has adopted several female-friendly initiatives, with women now 42 per cent of the current class compared to 25 per cent in 2012. Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in Burnaby, B.C., with new scholarships and outreach, reports that women, at 52 per cent, outnumber men in the full-time MBA program for the first time this year…

As more women take the graduate management admission test (GMAT) – 42.5 per cent of test takers compared to 38 per cent in 2003-04 – the proportion of them in full-time MBA programs has climbed, typically, to between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the class.

But some hurdles –the MBA degree’s reputation, family obligations, financial concerns and, surprisingly, low self-confidence – are not easily removed.

“The cliché is that an MBA can be quite competitive, cut-throat and appealing to a kind of Gordon Gekko,” says Jeff Nehajowich, manager of graduate programs at Beedie, of the “greed is good” character in Wall Street. “We are so far from that,” he adds, citing a “culture of collaboration” among students and with professors.

In 2011, while MBA candidates at Beedie, Alannah Cervenko and Alice Longhurst founded the Graduate Women’s Business Council, a student-led initiative to provide extracurricular skills training and networking opportunities for female classmates.

“I can’t tell you how supportive they [Beedie officials] were from the top down,” says Ms. Cervenko, now a senior communications specialist at Teck Resources. This year, through a partnership between Beedie and the Women’s Executive Network, she successfully applied to be mentored by a “top 100” female business leader and receive three days of training from the organization.

Leah DiRenzo, senior manager of mentoring programs for the network, says she is encouraged by recent school initiatives. “Just as with board diversity, it is something that should have been looked at a long time ago,” she says. “It is imperative they are doing it now.”

Read the full article on the Globe and Mail website.

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