Women’s History Month: 8 MBAs From Elite B-Schools On Why Representation Matters

  

Ashley Snow, MBA ’22
Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

Area of MBA study: Managing Organizations

What were you doing before going for an MBA, and what made you want to pursue one? I’ve always known that my passion lies in empowering individuals to reach their full potential. Prior to Kellogg, I specialized in employee engagement within the social impact space, designing and implementing strategic CSR programs for Fortune 100 companies. While in these roles, I became fascinated with the power of the employees themselves, and I knew I wanted to pursue an opportunity in which I could work to align the skills and vision of employees with the long-term strategy of their companies. I am a believer that human capital strategy will be the key differentiator for companies of the future, and coming to Kellogg has provided the perfect chance for me to explore and understand the core of what makes a company run, so I can empower the people within it to work better and smarter.

Why did you choose Kellogg? While applying to business school, I had the unique experience of sharing the entire process with my partner. My husband and I studied for the GMAT together, reviewed each other’s applications, and ultimately decided that Kellogg was the right school for us, both as individuals and as a couple. Years ago we’d visited Chicago and vowed that we would move to the area if we ever had the opportunity; we just fell in love with the Midwest and deep dish pizza!

On a more serious note, we knew that the collaborative culture, tailored academics, and career support that are so signature to the Kellogg experience provided exactly what we were looking for. But, ultimately, the decision was determined by another member of our family – our daughter, Birdie. As dual student parents, we were seeking a meaningful experience for our entire family. From our first conversations with the school, when they introduced us to other student parents, and in every interaction that followed, we knew that the Kellogg community would embrace and support us as a family unit. And that has remained true throughout our experience – especially when our second daughter, Frances, was born in fall quarter of our second year!

Why do you believe gender parity in business schools is important? Gender parity in business schools is absolutely essential to build the workplaces we need in the future. I am especially passionate about increasing the number and visibility of mothers in business school. While many young fathers attend graduate school, it is still shockingly rare for mothers to apply. This disparity is an invisible barrier to gender equality that persists even today.

As the only mother in the full-time MBA program in my graduating class, I took the GMAT eight months pregnant, applied during my maternity leave, and breastfed my daughter in the Global Hub as soon as my interview concluded. From the time we announced that we were going back to school, I’ve received questions that my male partner has not, including, “How will that work with your daughter?” and “Will you be taking virtual classes, to stay home during the day?” The obstacles that I’ve faced in applying to business school, but also during my experience here, are fundamentally different from those faced by my male peers, even if they are parents themselves. If we are committed to developing the leaders of tomorrow, we need to increase exposure to the unique needs and experiences of working families.

Why is female representation in board rooms and C-suites important? Companies cannot retain and grow powerful female leaders without showing that they are willing to support these women at the highest levels. When I see a female (or even better, multiple!) at the helm of a company, I know that I’ve found a place where my career can grow. In a post-2020 world, and in the midst of the Great Resignation, employees are becoming more knowledgeable about what they can expect in a strong employer.

It’s not enough to pay lip service to gender equality; in order to retain and attract key talent, companies will need to empower women all the way up to the C-suite and the board room.

What can be done to attract more women to sectors and industries traditionally dominated by men? Working through 2020 showed us that the arrangements that women have been seeking for years are not only possible – but can create a more sustainable workplace. In order to be pulled toward male-dominated fields and companies, women will need flexible work hours, remote opportunities, and family-friendly benefits. I’ve been following The Mom Project for years, and I am really inspired by their work in identifying an untapped labor market for working mothers. By providing more flexibility in location and hours, companies create an opportunity to hire an entirely new group of people that are ready to take on the challenges of the future.

Have you been involved in any organizations or projects working to increase women participation in business or business education? During my first year at Kellogg, I served as a Director of Personal Development for the Kellogg Women’s Business Association. In this role, I led events and long-term engagement opportunities for current students in areas of personal finance, relationship-building, and more. As a student mother, I also became an informal contact for incoming and prospective student moms at Kellogg. I hosted coffee chats, reviewed essays, and helped other women to understand what their life could look like at Kellogg outside of the classroom – consulting on everything from daycares to housing, and even local pediatricians. The number of moms in the full-time program increased, with three student mothers enrolling at Kellogg in 2021 – and one more student expecting this month!

What are your future career goals? My passion lies at the intersection of human capital and strategy: positioning, training, and empowering employees across an organization to reach their full potential. Most recently I interned at Walmart, where I substantially increased community and growth opportunities for employees from historically excluded groups through the development of tailored onboarding interventions. After graduating from Kellogg, I look forward to dedicating my time to making people’s lives better at work.

What don’t your classmates know about you? My classmates might be surprised to know that I almost majored in musical theatre in undergrad! As a college freshman, my dream was to make it on Broadway. Though I currently direct choreography for our business school musical, “Special K!”, it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve danced outside of my living room… And I think my sore muscles can attest to that!

Next page: Drew Silverman, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

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