Nearly 7 percent of top Fortune 500 companies are led by a female chief executive officer, and 29 percent of Kenan-Flagler’s Business School Class of 2021 are women.
Carolina Women in Business is working to change that.
CWIB is a student-run organization in the Kenan-Flagler Business School that seeks to not only provide female students with career development and support resources, but also to involve male students. The Masters in Business Administration CWIB program also partners with undergraduate students to mentor and connect with female business students.
The group strives to create an inclusive space where members can share their experiences and learn from one another.
CWIB President Harmonie Jacobson, a second-year MBA student, said the disproportionate representation of females in the business school is a challenge.
Melissa Atlas, the vice president of prospective student initiatives at CWIB and an MBA student, said one strategy that distinguishes CWIB as a recruitment tool is its persistence.
She said MBA students have told her the reason they decided to attend Kenan-Flagler was because CWIB was so hands-on and welcoming.
CWIB hosts an annual Women in Business conference for business professionals and students. The group also plans various networking programs, including Coffee with CWIB, where visiting applicants can meet with a female MBA student to learn more about the program.
Jacobson said just having access to like-minded female MBA students as a welcoming community and network of support was helpful for her.
“The MBA is pretty rigorous, and we’re all here obviously to make potential pivots or changes for bettering our careers, but it’s very stressful,” Jacobson said. “Beyond just academics, there’s a lot going on with recruiting, and landing our dream job and also networking, and so Carolina Women in Business has been a great community and support system.”
Atlas agreed and said that she was drawn to CWIB because of its welcoming atmosphere. She said she knew she needed the support, given the smaller proportion of women at Kenan-Flagler.
But Atlas said seeing the value in the CWIB network has informed her job search.
MaryKate Fitzpatrick, a second-year MBA student and CWIB’s executive vice president of operations and finance, worked in the restaurant industry before coming to Kenan-Flagler to pursue her MBA.
She said that while she was used to working in a male-dominated environment before joining CWIB, she values how it has allowed her to expand on her appreciation for diversity in the business world and her ability to communicate it.
But Fitzpatrick said this year, CWIB has worked more to include males in the conversation. She said the next step is expanding CWIB’s programming from this base.
“Now that you’ve gotten people involved in the conversation, how do you include them?” Fitzpatrick said.
Few CWIB events are actually restricted to females only, and male members meet about once a month to discuss articles, pertinent issues and how they can better support their female peers and future colleagues.
“That’s so important because as females going into middle management or upper leadership roles as we come out of school, a lot of us are likely going to be reporting to males and also working in a lot of male-dominated fields," Jacobson said. "So some of the men that we’ll be working with are some of our biggest supporters."
She said that to achieve progress, male allies need to be present during tough conversations about gender inequality in business.
Atlas said that for now, women can’t let a lack of women in business roles prevent them from becoming involved in the field.
“If you want to see more women in business, don’t let the fact that there aren’t many currently stop you,” she said.
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