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

Drew Silverman, MBA ’23
UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

What were you doing before going for an MBA, and what made you want to pursue one?Before I moved to Berkeley, I lived in New York City and worked at governance consulting and recruiting firm Trewstar. Our mission was to place outstanding women on public and private company boards. During my five-year tenure, I worked with the company’s founder to grow the firm by over 300%, and I placed over 50 C-suite women on public and private company boards. I connected with hundreds of executives and fostered deep relationships while working to lift historically excluded leaders into positions of power.

I loved my job, but I want to pursue other purpose driven careers that empower women, sharpen my quantitative skills, and expand my network, so I’m at Haas to explore.

Why did you choose Haas? Haas was always my top-choice MBA program, because I aligned with its four Defining Leadership Principles: Student Always, Beyond Yourself, Question the Status Quo, and Confidence Without Attitude. They are naturally in sync with my own values, and I believe that the most powerful communities are those with clear values that all members uphold.

The laundry list of “Why Haas?” could go on and on, but certainly includes the collaborative ethos, small class size, applied innovation courses, student-run culture, female dean, location, strong Consortium community, emphasis on sustainability, impressive alumni network, and outstanding professors. Finally, and most importantly, I chose Haas because of the impressive and genuine people I met during my application journey. They were open, curious, smart, and kind.

Why do you believe gender parity in business schools is important? Gender parity is not only important in business schools, but in every aspect of society to ensure that all people are represented, valued, and respected equally, regardless of gender. Business schools simply cannot equip leaders with the skills they need if only men are in the room.

Don’t forget that gender parity is just a statistical measure of the female-to-male ratio under specific indicators! Discussing gender equity is more worthwhile and inclusive. Achieving gender equity involves a substantial shift that goes beyond ratios to include the reshaping of societal norms, identity construction, bodily autonomy, and feelings of belonging for historically excluded groups.

Why is female representation in board rooms and C-suites important? Adding women to leadership roles is not only the right thing to do, it is good for the bottom line. The business case for increasing female leadership is rock solid. There are many academic findings like this one by the Harvard Business Review that show that firms with more female leaders are “more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences”.

Beyond the business case, it is not a wild leap to say that boards of directors should reflect the people they are representing—72% of all S&P 500 directors in 2020 were men. When I started working in 2016, I remember sifting through huge data pulls that listed all-male boards. Thankfully, the last all male boards in the S&P 500 have vanished, but we still have a long way to go to achieve parity and ultimately equity.

Have you been involved in any organizations or projects working to increase women participation in business or business education? At Haas, I am a Consortium Fellow and a Forté Fellow, and I serve as the co-president of Women in Leadership (WiL). I work with my club’s VPs of admissions, the Haas Admissions team, Haas program office, and other affinity group leaders to collaborate on ways in which we can increase the number of women at Haas. Stay tuned for the class of 2024 Class Profile, because I’m hopeful our work will pay off and you’ll see many more women enrolled.

WiL not only works to increase the number of women in the Haas MBA programs, but also strives to deepen an inclusive and intersectional WiL community on campus. Our mission is to serve the entire Haas community through a series of professional, educational, and social events designed to enhance the understanding and appreciation of women’s roles in business, while equipping WiL members for success.

Elevating women in the business world and creating a sense of belonging is not a battle to be fought by only women. We need allies. I feel so fortune that WiL has an incredible allyship program called “Manbassadors” that leads the charge in our community to promote allyship.

What are your future career goals? I love being a jack of all trades who can get things done and build high-functioning teams. I am interested in using these skills to work with a female founder who is scaling a mission-driven company. If that’s you, let’s connect.

What don’t your classmates know about you? My classmates don’t know that I was on a synchronized figure skating team for 10 years.

Final thoughts? So many inequities in the world are being laid bare right now, both at home and far away. And as I reflect on how to be an intersectional ally, I keep coming back to something I heard at the Haas Women in Leadership conference that we hosted earlier this month: “Real solidarity is not transactional.” This wisdom from Michelle MiJung Kim has stuck with me, and I hope you can carry it forward, too.

I’m grateful for the Haas community, which models what real solidarity and real intersectionality look like. My incredible classmates and professors go beyond themselves to model this behavior every day and inspire me to continue the work of fostering inclusion at Haas.

Next page: Kristin Lim, Stanford Graduate School of Business

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