Giving Women the Leading Edge

Haas has created several programs to attract more female candidates and better serve them as students and alumni.

Two graduating MBA students are offered $100,000 salaries. The man negotiates up to $111,000, while the woman quickly accepts. By age 65, the woman ends up shorting herself $1.6 million—assuming 3 percent annual raises and a 5 percent return on the extra income.


That typical scenario demonstrates why negotiating skills are a key component of the Women in Leadership Retreat, a three-day executive education program at Haas and one of many ways the school supports women in business.


Although women now make up a majority of the workforce, they still represent about a third of top U.S. business school MBA students. At Haas, women comprise nearly 30 percent of the Full-time MBA and PhD programs and 45 percent of the Undergraduate Program.


While the reasons for this gap are complex—including family demands, confidence, and a shortage of mentors—the Haas School has developed a multi-pronged effort to close it by attracting more female applicants and better serving them as students and alumni.


Haas was among the first business schools where students organized a Women in Leadership conference 14 years ago. This year’s annual conference in March sold out with more than 400 women networking, participating in industry-specific workshops, and hearing from inspiring leaders.


Since networking is so important to success, Haas expanded another event—its annual Women in Leadership Dinner in Berkeley—globally last year. On April 1, Haas alumnae gathered at dinners in nine cities worldwide.


While many top business schools recruit women through preferential admissions and scholarships specifically for women, 1996’s Proposition 209 prohibits public institutions in California from giving preferential treatment based on race, sex, or ethnicity.


Still, “we know—and can show applicants—that Haas is the ideal place for women to gain the knowledge and training they need to become innovative leaders,” says MBA Admissions Director Pete Johnson.


One way Haas does that is by participating in Forté Fairs for female MBA applicants across the country and other programs developed by the Forté Foundation, a consortium aimed at preparing women for business leadership positions.


Each year, about ten women in the Berkeley MBA Program who receive academic scholarships become Forté Fellows. As a Forté Fellow, Wendy Walker, MBA 11, has taken advantage of job webinars and introductions to participating companies, including one firm that flew her to New York for an MBA women’s forum.


Although Haas cannot offer scholarships targeted to women, Walker says the school is very welcoming. “I feel like the atmosphere at Haas really helps offset the fact that women are in the minority at business schools,” she says. “It’s a very collaborative culture.”



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