Maryland Business School Aims to Reach Gender Parity in MBA Program by 2020

Posted By Terri Williams on February 1, 2017 at 11:44 am
Maryland Business School Aims to Reach Gender Parity in MBA Program by 2020

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business plans to achieve gender parity in its MBA program in a hurry. Its initiative is called the 50/50 by 2020 Initiative, and it’s hoping to join a couple of other notable successes for women:

Sharon Strange Lewis, senior director of women and diversity programs in the Office of Diversity Initiatives, tells GoodCall® that the year 2020 has special significance because it will be the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and the school wants to be sure that enrollment of female students compares favorably with their male counterparts by then.

On track for gender parity

How do things stand? Women make up:

  • 35% of the students in the Smith full-time MBA program
  • 34% of the students in the Smith part-time MBA program
  • 41% of the students in the Smith undergraduate program

Lewis says Smith reaches out to young girls through those in high school to help them understand that even if they don’t major in business, it plays a role in almost every profession. “We also want them to know that business is a lot of fun, and it’s something you encounter every day.”

For example, Smith recently invited more than 200 Girl Scouts in kindergarten through fifth grade and 40 teenage Girl Scout volunteers to “Cookie School” to learn how to sell cookies. The girls learned the business aspect of selling cookies, including money management and goal setting. But these types of encounters also provide a vision and role models to help girls see that they belong on college campuses and in leadership roles.

Role models for gender parity

Smith also has an annual Women Leading Women event that showcases and celebrates alumnae along with other successful business women. Other programs and events include Women Investing in Leadership, Future Women in Business Conferences, and the Get Confident series.

In addition, Smith partners with the Forté Foundation to offer scholarships and forums where women can network, hear from a variety of MBA businesswomen, and learn about the advantages of obtaining an MBA degree.

The Smith School Society, and the Smith Association of MBAs are communities that include undergraduates, alumni, faculty, and those outside of the University, and help in skills development in addition to providing various types of resources. “Our graduates go into corporations and start at the first level of management, which is pretty even among the genders, but as they climb the ladder, the gender gap begins to widen and these roles may only be 15% to 20% women,” Lewis says.

These roles also have more stringent requirements. “You can’t work in the C suite with just an undergraduate degree,” Lewis explains. She’s right. Recent research shows that many employers are “upcredentialing” or asking for more education than previously required, even for non-management jobs.

MBA can mean entrance to the club

Roberta Matuson of Matuson Consulting is the author of three books, including Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, which is a Washington Post Top Five Book for Leaders.

Matuson tells GoodCall® that earning her MBA from the University of Houston was one of the best decisions she has made. “The coursework expanded my thinking and allowed me to join what has become an ‘exclusive’ club.”

She also believes the MBA has increased her confidence level and allowed her to be more relaxed and comfortable at the executive table. “I think it’s very important for those interested in moving into senior management to have an MBA, especially women who still seem to be held to a higher standard, when it comes to promotions,” Matuson says.

Gender parity alone won’t mean more women in the C-suite, but it lays the foundation for big gains.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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