Even With An MBA, It’s Hard To Switch Careers

Women

How Women Can Build Effective MBA Applications

Have you ever felt alone? Left out? Pigeonholed? Undervalued? Welcome to a woman’s world. Glass ceiling? Ha! At least you can be seen through glass. Despite soaring rhetoric and well-meaning gestures, there really seems to be any real follow through for women. Sure, you’ll find pockets of progress. Overall, women still lag behind men in nearly every conceivable metric.

You’d think academia – with its egalitarian sensibilities (and political correctness) – would be more progressive than the rough-and-tumble corporate world. When it comes to business school applications, women comprise barely a third (37%) of all 2014 applications according to the GMAC. And the percentage of female faculty at the top b-schools are even worse, with many programs averaging 25% or less in women on the tenure track. Not surprisingly, most female MBAs earn less than their male counterparts after graduation.

In a recent U.S. News & World Report column, Stacy Blackman, a Kellogg grad and author, who operates an MBA admissions consulting firm, recently noted that warning signs often appear during the admissions process itself.

“A frequent issue I’ve had in my consulting work with female clients,” she writes, “relates to the admissions committee doubting whether the applicant has enough moxie to contribute to the classroom discussions…Several clients have reported that their recommenders received phone calls from admissions officers with questions such as, “Is she confident?” or “Will she speak up in class discussions?” I can’t recall a time when a male client experienced a similar problem.”

In other words, credentials aren’t enough for many women. To counter this, Blackman advises her clients to address these underlying assumptions in their application. “Female candidates have to make sure that they exude confidence. Essays, interviews and letters of recommendation need to indicate a comfort level with speaking out, defending points of view and collaborating with all types of people.”

Blackman also makes her clients aware of this trap before their adcom interviews. “Female candidates often begin their answers with a disclaimer,” she observes, “that reveals their insecurities and detracts from any positive information that follows or are too modest about their accomplishments for fear of appearing arrogant.​ Ideally, you started cultivating your personal brand early on in your application process, so tap into those bullet points and broadcast your accomplishments and skills with pride.”

Beyond that, Blackman makes three recommendations. First, she encourages women to consider male-dominated paths like finance, where schools are looking to boost female applicants. Second, she counsels clients to accentuate their storytelling abilities, where women traditionally have an edge over. Finally, she directs women to reach out to organizations like the Forte Foundation and Catalyst, which offer support to female MBA candidates.

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Source: U.S. News & World Report