Daria Rubets (MBA’16) interned at Barclays in New York during the summer after her first year in the MBA program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. After graduation, she started a fully-fledged career at Barclays on Wall Street, working 12-hour days, from 9am to 9pm.
Women in business, women in finance, women in tech—these buzzwords highlight the problem of gender imparity in industries where top-level, CEO roles are occupied mostly by men.
As a woman on Wall Street, Daria is in the minority. According to Thomson Reuters’ latest Diversity and Inclusion index, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs have less than 22% representation of women at board level.
Just over 5% of Fortune 500 firms have female CEOs. The proportion of women sitting on the boards of Fortune 500 companies has reached around 20%.
There is progress, but progress is slow—that’s even with studies showing that gender diverse companies actually perform better financially. According to a 2015 report by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry averages.
The business case has been made. And the business school community is doing its bit to drive change, support its female students, and fight gender inequality in the workplace. At McDonough, Daria—who worked as a paralegal before business school—is one of an increasing number of women MBAs pursuing careers in industries traditionally dominated by men.
“Immediately, once you get on campus at McDonough, you get an enormous amount of support and all the resources you need to get that summer internship and then a job,” Daria explains.
“Finance is a pretty competitive industry,” she continues. “I would say most people, including myself, didn’t think they could get their foot in the door.
“I networked. I went to different events where I could meet senior-level women and alumni from my school. I told them my story, and why I wanted to work on Wall Street. Then, step by step, I realized that you can get in there and be successful, you just have to network and present yourself in the right way.”
With Daria’s admission letter from McDonough came the offer of a fellowship from the Forté Foundation, a non-profit consortium of business schools and companies promoting women in business. Business schools have given almost $110 million in Forté Fellowships since the organization was founded in 2001.
Georgetown's Graduate Women In Business (GWiB), a chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA), hosts development seminars targeting women’s issues, and works to connect female students with executive mentors.
With such a support infrastructure in place, as well as access to Georgetown’s 178,000-strong global alumni network, and confidence instilled by a senior female mentor at Barclays, Daria is positive about the future of women in finance.
“I am in a minority. However, I honestly view that as an advantage,” she says. “There’s a huge initiative among Wall Street banks and other finance firms to recruit women—last year 50% of summer interns at Barclays were women—and you have all these events tailored to you.
“It has to change and we’re already seeing change—it’s definitely not going to be like in the 1980s and 90s.”
Still, would Daria have got the job on Wall Street without the McDonough MBA? She doesn’t think so. For many women, and men, the MBA is an enabler; opening access to new industries they’d struggle to enter without it.
Of McDonough's graduating class of 2018, 99% of MBA students seeking an internship received one. 81% of internships were facilitated by the school. In 2017, 92% of McDonough MBAs accepted job offers within three months of graduation.
Heather Kelly (MBA’17) worked in the non-profit space before transitioning into a strategy consulting role at IBM after earning an MBA at McDonough. She was offered the job in the last week of her MBA summer internship, nine months before graduation.
She entered IBM’s industry arm, focused on automotive companies and oil and gas—industries still dominated by men.
“I definitely don’t think I could’ve entered a tech consulting role without an MBA,” she says.
“Before I decided to get an MBA, I started looking into how to transition out of the nonprofit sector—I saw you could make little jumps, but not big jumps. With an MBA, I could completely jump into a new functional world and a different industry—it was crucial in giving me new career options.”
On her McDonough Global Business Experience in Barcelona, Heather worked on a supply chain project helping a niche 3D printing company make better use of new technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Her team placed third in a McDonough MBA Tech Innovation Competition conducted in partnership with IBM. The competition asked students to design a digital HR strategy for a US Department of Defense client, with students pitching their solutions to a panel of five IBM consultants.
Originally, Heather was considering entering public sector consulting. But with the varied opportunities on offer at McDonough, she decided to pursue a future in the commercial tech side instead.
“In terms of women in tech, progress is slow, but I think we’re moving in the right direction,” she continued. “Recent MBA hires for the industrial sector at IBM are around a 50-50 gender split.
“My advice would be don’t be intimidated—just go for it. Ask questions, be confident in yourself and your abilities, don’t let your own fears hold you back.”