Women are making strides among top US B-schools According to a P&Q analysis, 15 of the top business schools have 40% or more women in their MBA programs, with 11 of the top 27 schools seeing progress from 2021 to 2022. But what does representation look like at the top of the pyramid?
Bluesky thinking recently highlighted 10 of the most influential women in graduate business education and delved into their stories of how they got to the top, as well as their hopes for the future of women in business education.
ISABELLE BAJEUX-BESNAINOU, DEAN OF THE CARNEGIE MELLON TEPPER BUSINESS SCHOOL
You could describe Bajeux-Besnainou as an accidental dean. A native of Paris, she found him by calling numbers. After earning her PhD in Applied Mathematics in Finance, she moved to the United States to become a professor of finance at George Washington University. Here, she took her turn as department head and discovered she loved strategizing, executing projects, and making an impact.
That path led him to become associate dean for undergraduate programs at the school. Three years later, she was appointed Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. In this role, she led the launch of the acclaimed Bensadoun School of Retail Management. During her tenure, the Desautels community also moved into a new 49,000-square-foot building and launched several master’s programs, including analytics and retail. These achievements prepared Bajeux-Besnainou to take the next step. In 2020, she was named dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. It was a process that involved the school screening 400 candidates and Bajeux-Besnainou herself completing 50 interviews.
In keeping with her background in mathematics, Bajeux-Besnainou launched Intelligent Future after the school conducted 400 interviews with thought leaders and stakeholders. More than a tag line announcing the school’s prowess in analytics and interdisciplinary learning, The Intelligent Future is a commitment to harness change and innovation
“It always feels like business schools are playing with the business world,” says Bajeux-Besnainou. “We don’t want to play catchup. We want to define what the business school of the future should be.”
Her advice for women? Simple: Don’t put limits on yourself – or the world around you. “I dare. Nothing is impossible. Thanks to my generation, there is more and more awareness that women are important to contribute to the economy. The future is yours.”
ERIKA JAMES, DEAN OF THE WHARTON SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
James also made history as the first woman and the first person of color to be named dean at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 2020.
Since being named dean, James has been open about her responsibility to increase diversity.
“This is a tremendous responsibility, not only in terms of the size of the role of being the dean of the Wharton School, but so many eyes are on you and me and the people who are in these positions to really make a difference ,” James. said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning. “So yes, I personally think that while my focus should be primarily and primarily on getting the first, biggest and best business school in the country and making it even better, that’s going to happen only if we ensure we have the right talent in the right positions. And I believe talent exists everywhere and comes in all colors and packages.”
“We often say there isn’t a pipeline of diverse talent,” she laments. “Well, there isn’t a pipeline if you look in a very narrow group of places. One of the things companies can do differently is expand where they go to identify exceptional talent that may be underutilized.”
ANN E. HARRISON, DEAN OF THE BERKELEY HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Originally a professor at Wharton, Harrison was named the 15th Dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and only the second woman to head the top business school.
As dean, Harrison has focused her priorities on three key initiatives: innovation, inclusion and sustainability. She was instrumental in navigating the B-school through the COVID-19 pandemic — just a year after joining as dean — and transitioned Haas to all distance learning within 48 hours in March 2020.
“We had been talking about virtual programming for years and realized that we had the ability to implement it – if we put our will to it,” said Harrison. P&Q. “For most faculty and staff, summer 2020 involved re-imagining courses and implementing technology upgrades to prepare for the fall. The challenges of COVID-19 led us to invest in significant technology upgrades, new virtual classrooms and faculty training for an enhanced remote experience.”
To learn about these leaders, click on the Bluesky Thinking link below.
Sources: Bluesky Thinking, P&Q, P&Q, P&Q, P&Q
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