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6 Female Role Models With MBAs

From holding executive positions at firms like Facebook and YouTube to breaking sporting world records, these successful female role models used their MBAs to take the world by storm

Thu Oct 28 2021

Women are still underrepresented across the corporate pipeline, according to McKinsey’s recent Women in the Workplace report. Though progress has been made, more work needs to be done. 

Strong female role models can go some way to driving that change. The best female role models can show women MBA students that business school can be your ticket to breaking the glass ceiling. 

An MBA can improve your business acumen, leadership potential, and confidence—skills that can be crucial in helping women MBA grads to break into executive leadership positions.

Here are six female role models with MBAs:

1. Sheryl Sandberg

MBA Class of 1995, Harvard Business School

Chief Operating Officer at Facebook

Facebook COO and Harvard MBA grad Sheryl Sandberg is renowned for her role in leading big tech giant Facebook to worldwide success and helping to boost Facebook’s user base to 2.38 billion, having met with Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg at a party in 2007.

She also sits on, and was the first woman elected to, Facebook’s Board of Directors.

She’s not just notorious for her strategic genius, though—Sheryl also founded LeanIn.org, a nonprofit that aims to support women in achieving their goals, by offering educational resources and programming dedicated to female leadership. 

2. Melinda Gates

Daytime MBA Class of 1987, Duke Fuqua School of Business

Co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


©Chatham House, used under this licence

US philanthropist Melinda Gates began her foray into the world of big tech when she started at Microsoft as a marketing manager, following a Daytime MBA at the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

After marrying Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, she co-founded one of the world’s biggest charities, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with her then partner. 

She’s a passionate advocate for women’s rights and the value of female leaders, using her platform to regularly speak on these issues.

3. Roslyn M Brock

MBA Class of 1989, Kellogg School of Management

Chairman Emeritus of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 2c2cb94a3aadfc541391d64e5ce4472b99bf8938.jpg

©W.K. Kellogg Foundation, used under this licence

With a MBA under her belt, Roslyn Brock worked in healthcare management for ten years, before becoming a leading civil rights activist in the US. 

She’s currently the chairperson emeritus of the NAACP, an organization working to eradicate inequalities faced by African Americans—whether social, financial, or legal—rallying for policy change around areas such as the criminal justice system, health care, and climate change.

4. Vanessa O’Brien

MBA Class of 1997, New York University’s Stern School of Business

Mountaineer and author 

There are few MBAs and female role models who have reached the impressive heights that NYU Stern alumna Vanessa O'Brien has.

The mountaineer, bestselling author, and former banker is the first woman to reach the earth’s highest point—Mount Everest—and the earth’s lowest sea depths—Challenger Deep. 

Not only does Vanessa boast five Guinness World Records for her mountaineering and diving efforts, but she also uses her MBA skills in a more traditional way when she hosts speaker events about the value of leadership and teamwork. 

5. Lisa Leslie

MBA Class of 2009, University of Phoenix

Former professional basketball player 661a81dd8f8368ab724dfa91b64af83db514afd3.jpg

©Gage Skidmore, used under this licence

This star-studded MBA from the University of Phoenix played professional basketball for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), earning an array of impressive accolades in her time, including four Olympic gold medals.

Since retiring from the court, Lisa now dedicates her time to coaching other female basketball players and using the managerial skills from her MBA to co-own the Los Angeles Sparks, her former basketball team. 

6. Susan Wojcicki

MBA Class of 1998, UCLA Anderson School of Management

CEO of YouTube

a5ef9f04bbe292e7a50e512bc55569e721b3c1e4.jpg ©Fortune Live Media, used under this licence

Female role model Susan Wojcicki has had an impressive career path—starting out as a marketer for Intel in California, she was soon making waves within the tech industry. Susan leveraged her technical prowess and managerial skills acquired from her MBA to become the first marketing manager for Google.

At Google, she spearheaded their advertising efforts, helping to develop Google’s AdSense, AdWords, and Google Analytics units. With this expert industry knowledge at hand, she helped Google to acquire YouTube in 2006, and then became CEO of the leading content streaming platform in 2014.

*Featured image used under this licence. No changes were made to the image.

Student Reviews

Duke University Fuqua School of Business




On Campus

Supportive atmosphere

The professors at Duke university exhibit exceptional commitment to the success and well-being of their students by ensuring their academic growth and fostering a supportive social atmosphere. Moreover, the entire community is recognized for its amicability and inclusiveness.




On Campus


The people or the students are without a doubt Duke's greatest asset. While all students are driven to succeed, they are also enthusiastic about a variety of hobbies. You run across a huge lot of diversity. It is the ideal example of a school with well-rounded students and the ideal balance of campus life in a metropolis.




On Campus

Happy to school

All I could ever hope for is Duke University. That really epitomizes the "work hard, play hard" philosophy that elite colleges frequently pursue. Even though you'll have a lot of schooling to complete over the week, it's simple to keep focused because all of your friends are putting in similar amounts of effort. Many events taking place on and around campus on the weekends provide a great way to unwind. The combination of demanding academics and traditional college fun strikes the perfect balance.




On Campus

Good schooling

Living, eating, learning, and developing who you want to be as an adult are all fantastic at Duke. I participated in student athletics, and I couldn't have asked for a better interaction with the faculty and other students. I appreciate all of the help I get from the Duke community more than anything. Furthermore, the teachers take the time to get to know you, and the lectures are diverse and demanding (if you do the same). I'd give it a 10 out of 10.




On Campus

Beautiful School, Nice Classes

DU remains one the greatest and best universities that I have ever stepped in. The school is beautiful and neat. The classes are spacious and also very nice. I enjoyed attending my Lectures in those lecture halls. I also loved the Lecturers because of the good work they did. The university also has very good dorms that are given to students on first come first serve basis and they are affordable





Amazing experience

I received my B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Global Health with a minor in Chemistry from Duke University. I was able to grow as a student, scientist, and global health advocate with the help of my friends, professors, and other mentors I met along the way. A lot to learn if you look and ask, a great place to learn for those who want to learn.





whirlwind of growth and change

An amazing 2 years, with covid and everything else happening Duke has been a place of growth for me. The courses , classes were one of a kind, online and on campus. But the valuable lessons learned in the classes are irreplicable. The students are amazing here, so much diversity , I had no problem fitting in. The teachers are down right brilliant and so helpful. Don't be afraid to ask them anything. Graduated with my MBA with Duke and now my future awaits.




On Campus

One of the best for Business students

Graduated with an MBA. The classes were very insightful and engaging. The staff are very easy to deal with. The teachers and students, are truly amazing people. Grateful to all the people I've met along the way at Duke. I've learnt a great deal that will help me in my future endeavors. The campus itself is a marvel, it is beautiful.




On Campus

The university campus is awesome

I graduated with a masters degree in Religious Studies from Duke University. One thing I really liked about the university is its huge campus. It is spread in a large area with a lot of greenery and also have the facilities of reading rooms for single person also. My department building was very well taken care of. The library is immensely populated with books for all your needs. The faculty is very nice to students. The classes are equipped with latest technology to cater the needs of students. The University also provides room rentals for international students. They are very well maintained and priority is given to the International students for a comfortable stay there. There are weekly events conducted by the University as well as Student clubs for the entertainment of students. Anybody can take part in them and show their talents. I enjoyed my degree and I graduated in 2021 and was very happy that I had graduated from a reputed University.