Why Women's Groups Are Important on MBA Programmes | TopMBA.com

Why Women's Groups Are Important on MBA Programmes

By Niamh O

Updated March 20, 2021 Updated March 20, 2021

Aoife Considine, full-time MBA student at Imperial College Business School and Member of the Imperial MBA Women Club said: “A day doesn’t go by where someone isn’t sharing a job opportunity or where members are offering connections across an array of industries."

To mark International Women’s Day – celebrated on 8 March every year – TopMBA is celebrating the accomplishments of women in business from across industries and sectors.

Aoife Considine, a full-time MBA student at Imperial College Business School, knows all about the challenges women can face in male-dominated fields. She came into the MBA programme from an engineering background and has brought her experience to the Imperial MBA Women Club.

The club began life as a WhatsApp group intending to bring together women from the school’s various MBA programmes during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The positive outcomes from this WhatsApp group gave Aoife an idea.

She said: “Seeing how inspiring the conversation on this group was, myself and three of my peers on the full-time MBA programme decided to expand the idea beyond just the WhatsApp group to create a more formal group.

“We now run monthly events, publish a monthly newsletter, have a successful IMW podcast series spearheaded by Samantha Bonnar, and have just launched a blog for our members and supporters to contribute their own thought content to our website.”

Aoife Considine Imperial College Business School MBA student

Why is the Imperial MBA Women group important?

As Aoife comes from the male-dominated engineering industry she says she’d never worked in a team of only women before.

She said: “Despite being an advocate for women in the workplace, I was often one of only a few! My biggest takeaway from Imperial MBA Women has been how encouraging women can be and how important it is to be able to talk openly in a safe space about our issues.

“We all want equality, but the group has also shown me the importance of focusing on our differences and that that’s okay.”

Aoife adds that sharing experiences has allowed her to learn new ways to deal with discrimination in the workplace and to call things out to ensure change rather than just adapting herself.

How to join the group

The only necessary requirements to join Imperial’s MBA Women group is members must currently or used to study one of Imperial College’s MBA programmes and identify as a woman. Aoife said: “This is not to be exclusive, but to offer a safe space for women to discuss the intrinsic differences we face navigating the business world and in particular our MBA programmes. 

“There is no obligation to our members to participate any more than they want, whether that’s just inputting on the WhatsApp group, being featured on our Instagram page, hosting a podcast, writing a blog, or attending an event.”

And although 2020 was the year of virtual living and working – with networking very much falling into this category, the group was still able to hold a number of virtual events, including:

  • Virtual Meet and Greet – 'Addressing women’s issues in the workplace’.
  • Practical ways to overcome diversity imbalance in the workplace: A conversation with Professor Celia Moore
  • Yoga with Aimee Lavender
  • #WomenCrushWednesday: A Galentine's Speed Networking Event & Virtual Happy Hour

There was also an in-person, socially-distanced meet up at an outdoor market in September 2020 so alumni and new students could meet for drinks and food.

Aoife says one of the best things about the group is the organic ‘women supporting women’ that happens in the WhatsAppp chat. She said: “A day doesn’t go by where someone isn’t sharing a job opportunity or where members are offering connections across an array of industries.

“I had a friend of mine from home reach out to me that her consulting company were hiring, and I immediately shared it on the IMW chat for which she has had a number of direct applicants for the roles. It’s great a great medium for enabling such connections.”

Why women should pursue advanced degrees

Aoife believes for changes to be made in traditional male working environments, we need more women, and diversity in general, in roles of leadership.

She said: “We can’t expect homogeneous leadership teams to predict problems that don’t affect them; it’s easier to change problems when they’re problems you experience yourself.

“An MBA doesn’t make you any better than someone who doesn’t have one, but it certainly gives you an upper hand and helps to propel you to C-suite positions in the future. Some companies even have it as a requirement.

“With more women pursuing MBAs or other advanced degrees, it levels the pot of those eligible for senior leadership roles.

“For those women setting up their own businesses, an MBA adds weight and credibility…The MBA has exposed me to people from lots of different industries and shown me that there are equally successful men and women in all of them.”

But what was the competition like earning a spot on the MBA program at Imperial? You’d be forgiven for thinking competition would be fierce – in fact Aoife says it was quite the opposite.

She said: “Being a woman wanting to do an MBA meant that people were rooting for me. So many people offered support and coaching and there were far more opportunities for scholarships. I’m the recipient of the Forté Fellowship scholarship without which I likely would not be able to have pursued my MBA so for that I am very grateful for being female!

“I never saw myself as up against other impressive women or other men when applying for MBA programs only impressive people.”

Looking ahead post-graduation, Aoife says she’s already been offered a place at a well-known logistics company post-MBA – for which she feels vert lucky.

On the other hand, she says she’s enjoying being a part of a start-up at the moment and getting entrepreneurial exposure.

She said: “In the long-run, I hope to continue to support equality in all its forms – in what capacity that may be however remains to be seen.”

This article was originally published in March 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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