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How Are You Supported As A Woman In Business School?

We spoke to a female student and faculty member from American University’s Kogod School of Business about how the school is supporting its female MBAs

report from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) last year showed that applications to graduate business programs are growing among women—in fact, 45% of applicants to US business schools are women, more than for programs in Europe and Asia.

With business schools training the next generation of business leaders, it’s important that women are well-supported.

In The Princeton Review’s 2018 business school ranking, American University’s Kogod School of Business placed fourth in resources for women, and third in opportunities for minorities.

Caroline Bruckner is managing director of the Kogod Tax Policy Centre at the business school and has experienced first-hand how Kogod actively seeks to help both female student and faculty.

“Particularly with respect to entrepreneurship and business research, Kogod is a school that uniquely prioritizes research about how women can succeed in business,” states Caroline.

“We have some of the top researchers in the country looking at novel areas of business, and because we’re in Washington, DC, we can communicate the findings of our research to the government immediately and, where possible, look for policy solutions,” she adds.


Opportunities for women MBAs

Before joining Kogod as an executive-in-residence and managing director of the Tax Policy Center, Caroline worked in the private sector as an attorney in private practice—“almost entirely surrounded by men in authority roles,” she recalls—before transitioning to the public sector and working for US Senator Mary Landrieu.

“This was an incredibly formative experience,” Caroline says, “because I learned a lot about how tough it is to be a woman in power, navigating male-dominated industries and ecosystems.”

Now, Caroline is one of only a few women in the entire country who runs a Tax Policy Center, and her research is focused specifically on women business owners in the US and how tax policy unfairly favors male entrepreneurs.

She says she’s grateful for the opportunities Kogod School of Business has given her to pursue this “under-considered” area of tax policy.

“Having a platform is crucial to be able to consider ideas that impact underrepresented groups in terms of business research—Kogod has given me the platform to raise these issues,” she explains.

Ultimately, Caroline says, business schools should be focusing on how to do as much as possible for the women in their MBA communities.

“Bringing together successful women alumni for students is one thing, and hiring and promoting more women educators is another,” Caroline muses.

“Business schools should also be funding research into women in business, and supporting faculty who do this kind of work—and those are all things that Kogod is committed to doing in my experience.”


Women supporting women

Nav Sandhu (pictured) is a student currently in the full-time MBA program at Kogod, and has been overwhelmed by the help and opportunities afforded to her.

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“I got to speak to some of Kogod’s professors before starting the program, and they were very helpful. When I started the MBA, I got that same response from the professors,” she explains.

Nav is also the co-president of Kogod’s Women in Business Club, an organization dedicated to promoting networking and mentorship opportunities for women in the MBA community at Kogod—something that Nav thinks is crucial for women to boost their careers in the male-dominated business industry.

“Being co-president of the club, I’ve seen first-hand how Kogod is very supportive of women overall, and especially promoting women in leadership,” Nav says.

“Kogod specifically put me in touch with a female alum of the school who is now a manager at Goldman Sachs, and I think that’s really valuable,” she adds. “If you don’t have any contacts in the business world, it’s helpful to have a mentor and learn from another woman who’s been through it.”

Taking one of Caroline’s classes in her first year of her MBA at Kogod School of Business, Nav learned about the importance of female mentorship and supporting other women in business.

“I realized that the opportunities that women can extend to each other once we’re in those roles are huge,” Nav recalls. “For women to get loans for small businesses, it’s way tougher than for male business owners. The only way to eliminate that is if we’ve got women in positions to make business decisions.

“As a woman, you can understand how hard it is to be in the male-dominated business sphere, and consequently prioritize helping other women. It matters for promotion, and it matters for building a professional network. You can’t succeed or get promoted if you don’t have someone who is supporting you and championing you.”

This is a feeling Nav asserts she has experienced at Kogod. The university as a whole, Nav explains, goes out of its way to make sure there’s inclusion in all aspects, especially in terms of opportunities for women.

"At Kogod, we've got lots of opportunities for women, and even for other minorities, to take advantage of—for example, they invite employers in who are also really engaged with women," she asserts.

"Kogod does a really good job at engaging with their female students, and it's the school's duty to do that. If you've got these students, you’ve got to support them."