This is especially true in typically male-dominated industries such as finance and tech.
Despite the challenges, both Priyanshi Pallan and Hue Hong Pham have been soaring up the finance career ladder.
Priyanshi earned her Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification and has worked as a financial analyst at top multinational banks in India such as Nomura and NatWest.
Similarly, Hue has gained over eight years experience as a strategic analyst at Vietnam's top five commercial banks.
For both women in business, enrolling on an MBA degree was the career move they needed to push themselves out of their comfort zone, empowering them to take risks and open doors to new opportunities.
Receiving guidance from female role models in industry
For women, entering a male-dominated sphere in the business world can be daunting. Forging connections with a female leader or colleague can be invaluable for gaining insights into company culture, understanding the skills needed for success, and being a force of inspiration.
“The lessons and experiences that resonate with men may not always be directly applicable to women so having access to female role models for guidance and support is vital for our growth professionally,” says Hue.
For both Priyanshi and Hue, gaining this support was a huge benefit of studying for the MBA program at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, especially as international students in a new business environment in Germany.
During the HHL MBA, students can apply to the New Leipzig Talent program to be partnered with an industry mentor. For up to six months, their mentor provides career guidance and leadership coaching.
Hue was paired with a successful female leader in the finance industry.
“Her insight, encouragement, and practical advice have empowered me to navigate challenges, enhance my professional capabilities and build my confidence,” she says.
Priyanshi also took part in the program. It helped her understand her own strengths and weaknesses and how to play to them in interviews and group work, she says.
“I got to understand my working and management style and build my acumen to better deal with different situations,” she adds.
Building a diverse network
The importance of building a strong network, especially as a woman in business, cannot be understated. However, for many women in the working world, these opportunities can be quite limited.
“I have found that traditional events and conferences in finance have always been quite male centric. As women, we often must be more proactive to make strong connections,” says Hue.
When studying an MBA however, networking with other women in business is a lot easier. This is certainly the case at business schools that boast gender parity among their MBA cohort, such as HHL Leipzig which had 50% female students in its most recent MBA class.
HHL also facilitates female networking for its Women in Business scholarship awardees.
After receiving this scholarship, Priyanshi took part in a case study session to get to know the other scholars and interact with women in senior leadership positions.
“It was extremely inspiring to be surrounded by so many other experienced female professionals and hear about their different fields,” says Priyanshi.
Learning the skills to strive for leadership positions
According to a McKinsey report, for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color. As a result, the disparity between men and women in more senior leadership positions widens even further.
“I think a huge hurdle for women in finance is building trust and overcoming bias such as whether women can take on leadership positions or endure pressure,” says Hue.
However, Hue intends to break this bias by becoming a financial director in the tech or e-commerce industry.
During a six-month consulting project acting as lead analyst for a merger and acquisition deal sourcing project with German brewing company Warsteiner, Hue was able to grow her leadership capabilities.
“I learned a lot of valuable lessons on how to foster collaboration and motivate teams to work towards a shared goal,” she says.
Broadening her skills across different finance functions and developing as a well-rounded business professional during the MBA has transformed Hue’s mindset.
“I feel like even in just one year of the MBA I have become someone who is confident to take risks for my career development and strive for leadership,” says Hue.
Opening doors to new career opportunities
An MBA is a catalyst towards a wealth of exciting, new career opportunities—whether advancing to a more senior level, switching industry, or joining a new company.
Through attending recruitment fairs or taking part in company projects and case studies, you never know when doors might open.
During Priyanshi’s time in the HHL MBA, Big Four accounting and professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY) visited campus for a case study session. After being impressed by her innovative solutions and problem-solving skills, EY reached out to Priyanshi to invite her to intern for its strategy and transactions team in Berlin.
Delving into financial and business strategy inspired Priyanshi to pursue a new career path.
“Having always worked in multinationals, I started to recognize that I could be a much larger part of a business’ strategy if I was in a smaller team,” she says.
After graduation, Priyanshi landed a role with Independent Valuation & Consulting AG—a business management consulting and financial advisory in Germany. She is a senior consultant within a team of 45 people.
“Since studying the MBA, I’m always thinking about the bigger picture and about the entire company’s growth, rather than solely my own role,” says Priyanshi.
For women in business, the opportunity to challenge themselves, receive career guidance and mentorship, and build a strong network at a business school that values gender diversity can be an incredibly empowering experience.
“I’m a far more confident and outgoing person than I was before the MBA. I’ve embraced the fact that I can now step out of my comfort zone and be totally fine,” she says.