Gender equity: Always a work in progress

  • December 4, 2019
  • By Mark Taylor
  • 3 minute read

A spate of recent news headlines has highlighted our school’s great success in a number of areas as a result of the hard work of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

One of those successes: This year, we lead the world’s top business schools in the percentage of women enrolled in the full-time MBA programme.

Forty-nine percent of the Olin MBA class of 2021 are women—more than any school mentioned in a recent report from the Forté Foundation, which promotes women in business leadership. Globally, nearly 39% of business school MBA enrollment is female, Forté reported, with only 19 of its member schools exceeding 40%.

That report followed hot on the heels of another important win for WashU Olin, the No. 1 global ranking from Inc. magazine and Poets & Quants for MBA entrepreneurship programmes. I’m thrilled with the acknowledgement of the priority we’ve placed on entrepreneurship—and we’ve covered that fully in this Olin Blog post. So today, I’ll focus on the issue of gender parity.

The Forté report on parity resulted in a relative tidal wave of Olin press mentions in The Wall Street Journal, Poets & Quants, the Financial Times, Business Because and Study International. The news broke so fast, media outlets got to it before we even shared it on our own blog!

Initiatives driving success

To be sure, the news is affirming of the success of our efforts.

It affirms the priority we have placed on pressing for diversity among our students, staff and faculty.  

Mark Taylor

It affirms the work of student organizations such as Olin Women in Business and student ambassadors to call, reach out and build relationships with prospective students. It affirms the recruiting work of our faculty and the strong partnerships we maintain with organizations such as Forté, Reaching Out MBA and The Consortium.

Since I’ve arrived, the Olin team has worked hard to achieve this milestone, which came a little more than a year after the Financial Times ranked Olin No. 3 in the US and No. 4 globally among the best MBA programmes for women.

In those three years, I’ve seen OWIB establish an important “men as allies” initiative and collaborate with other student organizations to explore and build access to pastimes that have been traditionally dominated by men—pastimes such as golf, whiskey tastings, fantasy football and March Madness bracketology.

We’ve enjoyed impressive attendance at our annual Women’s Weekend/Diversity Weekend events. Numerous Olin alumnae return to campus to inspire, mentor and promote women leaders among our students—including Build-a-Bear’s Maxine Clark.

Maintaining our momentum

That includes two extremely successful programmes for International Women’s Day, when Olin has blown the doors off Emerson for our now annual “She Suite” event highlighting the achievements of women executives among our alumnae (Save the date: The next one is March 6, 2020.).

These and many other initiatives have contributed to this milestone—all while maintaining high standards for student admission and overhauling our full-time MBA with a substantial global immersion component. The pressure cooker of a 38-day immersion reinforces the need for diversity across genders, races, nationalities and other identities: A balanced group of students builds support, camaraderie and an aversion to group think.

While the news confirms our efforts, however, we cannot be complacent.

I’m committed, as I know our colleagues are committed, to the deliberate and proactive attention that issues of gender parity and diversity require. Maintaining near-perfect gender parity demands continued commitment, earnest attention and ongoing support of our student clubs, our alumni and our staff. Our students are motivated, determined and talented.

They come to us seeking an experience that is inclusive, collaborative and affords a voice to all identities and perspectives. Because of this work and the work that must continue, our students are prepared to make an impact, shatter the glass ceiling and reach the upper echelons of organizations where they make values-based and data-driven decisions.

Pictured above: Attendees watching the panel discussion at WashU Olin’s 2019 She Suite event on International Women’s Day. (Photo/Jerry Naunheim)

About the Author

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor joined Olin Business School on Dec. 1, 2016, as its dean, serving in that role until July 2022. He is one of the most frequently cited researchers in the areas of international finance and monetary economics in the world. He has served as an economist at the IMF and Bank of England; and as an investment fund manager for Barclays (now BlackRock). Previously, he was dean at Warwick Business School, UK, and a professor of economics at Oxford among other European universities and a visiting professor at NYU.

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