Leading Ladies

JANUARY 14, 2013

Photo: Emily Long

As a second-year MBA student, the lack of gender equality in the business world is not always immediately apparent.

My female colleagues and I represent 35% of my graduating class (still plenty of room to improve, but not too shabby), and we seem to be at least as successful as our male counterparts in academics, job recruiting, and social activities.

This sense of near-equality could continue for quite some time post-business school; women make up nearly half of the entire U.S. workforce, and slightly more than half of all professional occupations. However, as we climb the ladder to the top, our presence drops off dramatically.

The end result? Less than 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

Whenever I compare those statistics – the percentage that women represent of the workforce and the percentage that we represent of Fortune 500 CEOs – I realize how, while women have broken through one glass ceiling, securing professional-level employment, we’ve now hit another.

It also amazes me how this disparity is possible, given my current experience at business school.

Then I break down the facts, and it starts to make sense. Choosing to raise a family full- or part-time over devoting 110% to a career certainly plays a role in this disparity, and we should continue the “can women have it all?” debate, if only to learn how we can at least have more. Other factors include the fact that most women network, negotiate, view and value themselves as leaders differently than men. There are also fewer of us in positions of leadership, so we have fewer mentors in executive positions. The list goes on and on.

The point is we’re different. And it’s mainly a good thing, because we bring our own set of unique skills and qualities to the table. However, it also makes the business world, in its current form, significantly more difficult to navigate

That’s why I’ve become involved in Columbia Women in Business (CWIB), Columbia Business School’s women’s organization, and am thrilled to be co-VP of this year’s conference, Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Building Our Presence at the Top. My co-VP and I wanted to create a forum for sharing the ways in which women have been successful at driving their careers toward leadership positions, and provide insight and tools for growing our networks and strengthening our personal skills.

The conference, which is being held on Friday, February 1, 2013 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, is open to anyone, and we’d especially love to see members of the Quarterlette community there.  Learn More Here!  

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