Sold-Out Crowd Expected at Women in Leadership Conference, March 14

When organizers of the Women in Leadership Conference began planning this year’s event, the impact of empowering the next generation of women felt tangible. Some of the organizers are in the Full-time MBA Class of 2015, whose work with admissions helped boost the percentage of women in the Class of 2016 to 43 percent. Energized by their record-breaking class, the first-year students are building on that work in what they are calling the Haas Gender Equity Initiative.

WIL organizers 2015

The 2015 Women in Leadership Conference organizers

The conference theme, “Empower Me: Invest in All,” reflects those experiences, says Co-chair Carmela Aquino, MBA 15. “This came about exactly because we were seeing the momentum at Haas around these ideas,” she says. “We wanted this year to embody the positive drive we were seeing, so attendees walk away feeling empowered to go beyond themselves in their respective paths and do more to help other women aspiring to leadership.”

The 19th annual conference, organized by the Women in Leadership club, is expected to attract more than 500 business leaders and students to the Haas School from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sat, March 14. Click here to learn more .

The primary goals of the conference are to help women gain concrete skills for advancing in their own careers, connect with others, and get inspired, says Co-Chair Libby Hadzima Perkins, JD/MBA 15. But that’s not to say it’s geared exclusively toward women. In fact, “manbassadors”—as the male student actively involved in gender equity are calling themselves—have been key.

“Without the support of men in the workplace, there is only so much we can do to help promote more gender-equitable outcomes,” Hadzima Perkins says. “That’s why we wanted our theme to focus on the benefit that investing in women lifts everyone up, and provides a benefit to society as a whole.”

Conference Highlights

Keynotes: The morning will kick off with Ann O’Leary, Director of the Children & Families Program for Next Generation and former Legislative Director to Hillary Clinton, in conversation with Prof. Laura Tyson. In the afternoon, Donna Morris, Sr. Vice President, Global People and Places for Adobe will be introduced by Asst. Prof. Kellie McElhaney to close out the conference.

Leadership Stories: For the lunchtime session, attendees will get “an intimate look into the cycle of confidence and failure in leadership” from four leaders in diverse fields.

Invest in All Alley: This new addition to the conference is a space for companies, organizations, and entrepreneurs to exhibit their products or services, to showcase their dedication to gender equality, and to raise their brand awareness.

Panels will focus on tangible skills, from mastering difficult conversations in the workplace to taking control of finances for the future.

Infographic: Berkeley MBA Class of 2016 Leads on Women, International Students

Thanks to mbaMission for this at-a-glance comparison of class profiles for the 10 top full-time MBA programs (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report).

It’s nice to see it laid out so beautifully. Not only does the Full-time Berkeley MBA Class of 2016 have the largest percentage of women, but it’s the most diverse overall, and has the second highest percentage of international students.

We also have the smallest class size among the Top 10 (MIT Sloan has about 350 students in each class, though it’s listed below Haas in the infographic). In sum: At Haas, you’re going to school with an incredible variety of classmates from throughout the world, and you have the chance to really get to know them!

mbaMission-Class-Profile-Infographic

Why I never thought about gender balance, but do now: a male student’s perspective (Part 3)

This is the final post in a three-part series on gender balance at Haas. In the first two parts, first-year MBA student Ryann Kopacka described what it’s been like for her so far in a class with 43% women. Today, second-year student Jesse Silberberg, MBA 15, writes about the dynamics in a cohort with far fewer women—and what he’s learned.

By Jesse Silberberg, MBA 15

My first six managers were women. First as an intern in politics and investment banking, then in full time roles in higher education and consulting, I took my daily cues from smart, effective and accomplished women.

Because I had worked with, and for, as many women as men, I did not actively think about issues of gender in the workplace. I did not see the need.

My perspective has changed since I got to business school.

Jesse, top left, and Haas classmates at an event for Amazon MBA interns over the summer.

Jesse, top left, and Haas classmates at an event for Amazon MBA interns over the summer.

When you combine the current graduating classes of the top 10 business schools, just 37 percent of students are women. In my class at Berkeley, the percentage of women dipped to 29 percent (from 32 percent the prior year). Haas placed me in a study group for my core classes where four out of five of us were men, and in two other groups for project based classes that were all male.

I noticed subtle differences about working in male-dominated groups. We were quicker to form norms based on known (or assumed) similarities in past experiences. We were less structured in how we approached our work and more susceptible to groupthink. Our final work products were very high quality, but largely due to individual team members stepping up at particular points in a project.

These perceptions are anecdotal, but they are supported by research findings from McKinsey about leadership behaviors that improve organizational performance: women are more likely to clearly define expectations and responsibilities, reward achievement of targets and spend time listening to individual needs and concerns; men more often monitor gaps between objectives and performance, take corrective actions when needed, make decisions individually and engage others in executing them. With this simplified lens, our experiences appear to be better when groups have a balance between women and men. I can say definitively that mine have been.

At the whiteboard for a design thinking session with innovation consultancy syPartners

At the whiteboard for a design thinking session with innovation consultancy syPartners

Attending a Lean In event at Facebook’s headquarters, where I was one of about 20 men in an audience of 300, further shifted my outlook. Sheryl Sandberg spoke, and then we moved to Q&A. Although I had things I wanted to ask, I thought to myself “I’m not sure this is the time for me, as a man, to ask questions,” and stayed in my seat.

This was the first time that I had changed my behavior based on something—my gender—that I could not control. It made me realize that being outside of the dominant group—which, frankly, was rare for me—can affect how I approach a meeting, an organization, or a career. Being part of an identifiable minority is a powerful learning experience, the type of which I now seek out more often. The Lean In event also showed me the value of initiatives that allow women to voice their perspectives in a space where they do not feel like a minority—something I struggled to understand during my pre-MBA career.

Leaning in at Facebook

Leaning in at Facebook

I entered my second year of business school with refined thinking:

  • Gender balance improves the performance of groups and organizations
  • It is important to be aware of the limitations of our personal experiences with regard to gender balance, and find ways to reflect beyond our day to day
  • Women can benefit from opportunities to discuss gender issues in settings where they do not feel like a minority

At Haas, clubs like Women in Leadership (WIL) and classes like Kellie McElhaney’s The Business Case for Investing in Women provide platforms for us, as men, to think about our experiences with different levels of gender balance, and create opportunities to experience different gender dynamics, even if only for a short time. We must find and seize opportunities—both formally through classes and clubs, and informally by asking questions of our classmates—that expand our perspective and advance our thinking on gender.

My thinking is not the only thing to have evolved at Haas. The Class of 2016 is 43 percent women and every study group of five has at least two women. With the highest reported percentage of women among top MBA programs, and one of the smaller class sizes in our peer set, Haas could be primed to become the first business school with 50% (or more) female students. But one year does not a trend make, and we won’t get there unless men and women actively work to better understand gender dynamics, in our community and beyond.

You don't need to work at Amazon to use an Amazon Locker. Jesse Silberberg MBA '15, is interning as a senior product manager.

Jesse Silberberg is a second-year student in the Full-Time Berkeley MBA Program. He has worked as a senior product manager intern in Amazon’s Kindle Education group, a Founder’s Intern at edtech startup DIY.org, a consultant in Deloitte’s Strategy and Operations practice, and a Presidential Fellow at Dartmouth College, his alma mater. At Haas he is the co-president of the Design and Innovation Strategy Club and the education lead for the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC). A native New Yorker, he is still searching for great pizza in the Bay Area but happy to be doing so with better weather.

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.

Part of the 43%: A First-Year Student Perspective (Part 1)

In this first part of a three-part series on gender balance at Haas, guest blogger Ryann Kopacka, MBA 16, shares her experiences as a new admit to the Full-Time Berkeley MBA Program. Coming Monday: Ryann writes about what it’s been like during her first few weeks of classes. In Part 3, a male student will share his perspective on gender balance at Haas. 

Women In Leadership Retreat_Big Group_sized

Group photo at the Women in Leadership retreat in September

There is something different about Haas this school year.

It is not the hum of construction for the new building, nor is it the addition of sushi in the café.

There are more WOMEN!

The incoming Full-Time Berkeley MBA Class of 2016 boasts 43% women, the highest in the business school’s history and the highest reported among its peers. I am even more impressed by the leap of 14 percentage points from the previous class, and the increase in average GMAT score. I am proud to be member of the Class of 2016.

After I received an exciting phone call earlier this year from Assistant Dean Stephanie Fujii offering me admission, the Haas community continued to reach out to me. Erin Kellerhals, now executive director of FTMBA Admissions, called to welcome me to Haas and offered a listening ear at any time. I also got a call from fellow-East-Coaster Akilah Huguley, MBA 15 and vice president of admissions for her class, who asked if I had any questions or concerns about moving west.

When I attended Days at Haas for new admits, Eliza Rosenbaum from the Class of 2014 spoke at the Women in Leadership breakfast about her decision to attend Haas. Eliza was open about her experience moving from her home in New York to Berkeley. I felt like she was talking right to me. And though I didn’t know at the time, I was also sitting next to my future roommate.

The common thread in these touchpoints was that the Haas community of women was genuinely interested in getting to know me, and in helping me gather the information I needed to make my decision. I am thankful for the dedication of current students and the admissions office. These efforts demonstrate how members of the Haas community go beyond themselves to make a difference to others, and to ensure that school’s gender balance matches its culture and values.

Ryann, 2nd from right, and new classmates at orientation week

Ryann, 2nd from right, and new classmates at orientation week

I ultimately chose Haas because I believe it offers me the most holistic education, especially in providing diverse perspectives, ideas, and experiences. The Defining Principles resonated with me before I came, and so far have been prevalent in my interactions on campus. I am most impressed with the confidence among the Haas community, interlaced with an openness to new ideas and a concern about the well-being of others. My classmate Ashley Lohmann embodies this principle: she previously worked on Middle Eastern security policy and is now launching her own company to help social impact organizations in the Middle East share stories that we do not see on the news.

I feel that my classmates are encouraging me to question what society considers to be commonplace and to support me in making changes and finding solutions.

Stay tuned for my next post on my experiences at Haas so far!

Ryann_finish_sized

Ryann crosses the finish line at the 2014 World Triathlon Championship

Ryann 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.