43% Strong: A First-Year Student Perspective (Part 2)

In Part 2 of a series on gender balance, guest blogger Ryann Kopacka, MBA 16, describes what it’s been like for her so far in a class with 43% women. Next up: a male student shares his perspective on gender balance at Haas. 

Women In Leadership Retreat_Small GroupBy Ryann Kopacka, MBA 16

I attended an undergraduate engineering program with less than 30% women. I was often the only woman on project teams and even in the classroom.

Now, I am fortunate to attend classes where almost every other seat is occupied by a female classmate, and I work through group cases with female voices at the table.

In just my first few weeks at Haas, I feel a noticeable difference in our class dynamics compared to my previous college experiences. My Haas female peers are more vocal during classroom discussions and are becoming a driving force in the student community—over half of our recently elected cohort representatives are women.

Coming into Haas, I was sometimes uncomfortable sharing my thoughts about controversial topics, especially about gender equality and women in business. However, being among this larger group of women has accelerated my personal development. I am already more confident speaking up when I would have remained quiet, more assured in sharing my opinion when I would have kept it to myself, and more assertive in seeking leadership opportunities that I otherwise would not have considered. I feel a strong support system building among the women in my class, and I can only imagine how we will continue to grow as we progress through the program.

This community of women offers a diverse set of skills, experiences, and perspectives that we can all leverage. For instance, when I am practicing being a more assertive leader, I know I can ask for constructive feedback from my classmate Mor Goldberger, who managed a team of 16 people (14 of them men) working on economic development in post-earthquake Haiti. When I am negotiating a salary, I know that I can depend on coaching from classmates KC Simon and Sonya Hetrick, who achieved the highest results during an in-class negotiation simulation.

Ryann (2nd from left) and classmates with Haas alumna and Citibank CEO Barbara Desoer, MBA 77. Desoer spoke at the Forte Foundation Annual MBA Women's Leadership Conference this summer.

Ryann (2nd from left) and classmates with Haas alumna and Citibank CEO Barbara Desoer, MBA 77. Desoer spoke at the Forte Foundation Annual MBA Women’s Leadership Conference this summer.

When I have questions about managing a career and personal life, I know that I have a large community of like-minded women to ask for advice.

I am also supported by more formal resources. The Women in Leadership (WIL) Club provides skills workshops tailored for women, facilitates networking events to connect members with women alumnae, and organizes mixers to build a stronger community among women AND MEN—who are also engaged members of WIL. I am especially excited to be part of Professor Kellie McElhaney’s course, The Business Case for Investing in Women.

Ryann and classmates climbing Half Dome on an MBA camping trip last weekend.

Ryann and classmates climbing Half Dome on an MBA camping trip last weekend.

As I become armed with this knowledge and these skills, I feel an increased sense of responsibility to be a leader in the movement toward gender equality.

Haas is in a unique position as the Class of 2016, 43-percent-women strong, begins the Full-time MBA program. We should celebrate this achievement, but understand that we are not done. We as the Haas community have a responsibility to invest in women, to continue to develop a culture that welcomes and supports women, and to be leaders in achieving gender equality.

It is my hope that when women and men graduate from Haas, we are all equipped and driven to establish gender equality within our future organizations. I look forward to a world where 43% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women—and why stop there?!

Summit celebration

Summit celebration

Ryann1_sizedRyann Kopacka is a member of the Full-Time Berkeley MBA Class of 2016. From Atlanta, Georgia, Ryann worked as a consultant in Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy and Operations practice, focusing on supply chain operations and analytics. She also worked as a marketing intern at Osmo Nutrition, a sports nutrition startup company with a line of products specifically formulated for women. Ryann earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Industrial Engineering at Georgia Tech, where she competed on the Varsity Swim Team and held three school records. Now a member of Team USA, Ryann recently competed at the 2014 World Triathlon Championship held in Edmonton, Canada.

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