Although more women were enrolled in MBA programs this year than ever before, many argue that greater efforts need to be made. In 2016, a woman is more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than a man, but women still only make up around 40% of current MBA cohorts.
Despite the efforts of organizations such as the Forté Foundation, which helps fund women's MBAs, solutions also need to come from the ground-up, starting with the students themselves. And it’s women like Britney Sussman who are doing the legwork in the push for MBA gender parity.
While studying for her MBA at UCLA Anderson School of Management, Britney became actively involved in women’s issues on campus, planning out the Velocity Women’s Summit, an on-campus women's leadership conference which led to her being crowned "MBA of the month."
Britney interned for Hewlett-Packard during her MBA. She's currently working on a short-term human capital consulting project for the Los Angeles Lakers, and she’ll join Deloitte as a human capital consultant next year.
How did you work to drive gender equality during your MBA?
The MBA gender gap is no secret. Anderson and other schools are undertaking significant efforts to try to make their student bodies more equitable, but more can be done. I was focused on attracting high-potential women to the MBA, and enhancing the current female student on-campus experience.
Therefore, I launched our WBC MANbassador Campaign and subsequent programming around unconscious biases. Imagine you’re the client and you’re sitting in a conference room waiting for two consultants to make a presentation. A man and woman walk in, both very similar in age and dress. Without thinking, most assume the man to be the boss.
These unconscious biases are dangerous because people end up misjudging each other, potentially cutting out valuable perspectives. The WBC aimed to increase awareness of unconscious biases on campus.
What can be done to get more women into business school?
While it's vital to have male allies in the workplace fighting against subconscious gender biases and helping women to achieve their high potential, it is equally as important for women to find mentors and coaches at work and in life.
We need to realize that success is not always a c-suite position. I almost didn't apply for business school in 2013 because I felt my non-profit background was too non-traditional, but a frank conversation with a Sloan MBA encouraged me to define success on my own terms and transform my career.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at UCLA Anderson?
A graduate degree was always a personal goal of mine. While working in Washington, I saw the private sector making greater strides than the public sector on the issues I care about. I knew that the private sector was a better fit for me and that business school was my golden ticket.
I wanted to attend a top business school in a major city with a strong tech industry presence. Anderson was the perfect fit, and the vibe among each class of 360 is extremely collaborative. As a testament to that spirit, my current project with the LA Lakers was made possible through a classmate’s recommendation.
What was the best thing about studying at UCLA?
Sunshine would be the easy answer, but I’d have to say that LA’s best quality is its access to executives. I was spoiled in that regard at Anderson. It didn’t matter if the class focus was social entrepreneurship, private equity or real estate, badass CEOs and senior executives would overlay their past experiences onto our frameworks and theories.
What did your MBA internship with Hewlett-Packard involve?
At Hewlett-Packard, I had the opportunity to work on one of the largest divestitures in business history – the split between HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. I led the change management work stream for the Americas, which included working with 15 countries where HP had business operations and creating individualized strategies for change.
It was my first time working for a multinational corporation and it was fascinating to try to solve seemingly-minor problems that were exacerbated by the scale of 270,000 employees worldwide.
What advice would you give to applicants aiming for top schools like UCLA Anderson?
Focus on the GMAT first. Researching schools before you have a solid score under your belt can be distracting. If you need to hire a tutor or take the test again, do it. For a lot of women, the GMAT is also a barrier to entry, so consider the GRE as well. Additionally, lean on outside groups for advice through the process.
What are your plans for the future?
It was only through the MBA that I discovered my professional passion – human capital management. It is a field that I have become deeply involved in through course work, HARRT at UCLA and other on-campus opportunities, and I am excited to make it my career.
It is my goal to redefine how companies think about their people. In the long-term, I envision myself doing that as the Chief Human Resources Officer of a Fortune 50 company. In summary, I plan to be a #Girlboss and inspire other women to do the same.