McDonough MBA: Fearless Women Drive Growth

One of the career panel sessions from the 2023 GWIB Conference

Let’s face it, for aspiring women, the proverbial ladder to the top echelons of business leadership has always been broken. 


In 2023 alone…

  • Taylor Swift became the first musician to become a billionaire based on her songs and performances alone.
  • Greta Gerwig became the first woman to solely direct a billion-dollar blockbuster movie.
  • Claudia Goldin became the third woman to win a Nobel Prize in Economics.
  • Janey Truncale became the first woman to become the CEO of a Big Four Firm.

….and many more. 

Today, and every day from here on out is a new day for women’s leadership. It’s time we re-train ourselves to stop being surprised by our sex’s success.  Women are increasing their presence in leadership positions year on year. In McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2023 Report, the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. Over the past nine years, the number of women in senior leadership positions has increased from 17 to 28 percent, with Vice President, Senior Vice President, and C-Suite having the highest 5-year percentage point change.

This is something to celebrate, yet, it isn’t the whole story. The progress, although seemingly slow but steady, has not been evenly distributed. Women of color have remained underrepresented across the leadership pipeline and promotion progress for women at manager and director levels has been slow. This data should make corporate America very concerned. It suggests that a large majority of companies are choosing to alienate and sideline a significant number of their women employees who could be excellent future leaders. Over time, this promotional bias has caused women to experience career and salary stagnation

Alumni career panelists from 2023 GWIIB Conference


Therein lies the opportunity. If corporate America continues struggling with promoting women, then the best alternative is to jump over the broken ladder altogether. By choosing to get an MBA or equivalent, women are signaling to the corporate market that they are qualified for leadership roles and can bypass the “wasted” years in promotional purgatory. According to an earlier Poets & Quants article, the Forte Foundation found that 45% of women CEOs of the S&P 500 have an MBA or equivalent degree. This statistic strongly suggests that an MBA or equivalent degree could help achieve gender parity for women in c-suite leadership positions. Therefore, the Forte Foundation has focused on increasing the number of women obtaining an MBA degree by facilitating over $400 million in Scholarships for women and allies through their partner schools over the past 21 years. 

Monica Waldu (MBA’24), a Forte Fellow at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, mentioned to me that Georgetown is a partner school of Forte, which is an application and education portal for women seeking MBAs.

“These recruiting methods foster a sense of empowerment for women on campus, which just multiplies once in the MBA program” Monica told me. “Additionally, more than $2.5 million is available to Georgetown MBA applicants through scholarships, and 46% of enrolled full-time students were awarded funding in 2023.”

GWIB Board members posing for a photo at a Barbie themed school event they hosted


The Graduate Women in Business Club (GWIB) at the Georgetown University McDonough School for Business mission is designed to empower women in business.

“When I was looking at business schools, I wanted to go to a school that fostered an inclusive community and one where I could grow as a leader”, Co-President of GWIB, Delaney Hobbs (MBA ’24) candidly disclosed to me. “I found both of those things not just at Georgetown, but within GWiB as well.” 

Georgetown McDonough is a unique and attractive MBA program for women for many reasons, but stands apart due to its community. Even though Georgetown McDonough is still working towards gender parity, it fosters a safe environment for women to learn and grow as leaders due to the admissions selection process. Specifically, McDonough MBA students can be described as inclusive and collaborative. McDonough’s GWIB club offers tailored quantitative tutoring to its members during finals and midterms and provides access to career mentoring and networking opportunities, and every year GWIB hosts a conference. The conference’s theme this year was “Unleashing Your Power: Creating an Authentic Career”, which encouraged attendees to be true to themselves and uncover their inner potential. 

I sat down with Katie Pfeil (MBA ’24), one of the organizers,  to hear about some of the highlights of the conference. For her, the alumni experience resonated the most. 

“Discussions revolved around the challenges of being a woman in the industry and important topics such as burnout, advocating for yourself,  asking for a promotion, motivation, work life balance, and career switching,” Katie said. “One of the unique aspects of our event includes our career panel sessions. This year, we welcomed almost 40 alumni back to the hilltop for career panels across consulting, finance, social impact, international development, real estate, marketing and hospitality, technology, entrepreneurship and venture capital. There is still a lot of work to be done in increasing representation and pay equity, and because of that I am grateful spaces like GWiB exist”, Kate concluded. 

Keynote Kara Swisher and moderator Professor Koester at the 2023 GWIB Conference


I can think of no one who better personifies what it means to be a fearless woman than Kara Swisher, a Georgetown alumni, entrepreneur, formidable business journalist, and keynote speaker at the 2023 GWIB Conference. For that, being fearless starts with self-awareness. 

“You should know your leverage points,” Kara said as she addressed the graduate women and male allies gathered at the opening keynote of the 2023 Graduate Women in Business Conference. “You have to be incredibly honest with yourself about your talents, what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at.

That means devoting your time and energy to what can give you the biggest return, Kara concluded.

“I find a lot of women fall into two things, broadly speaking, a lot of them are the good girl, more acquiescent, more yes ok I’ll do it, thinking it will get them to the top. And then there’s women who feel like they’ve got to be constantly battling, like battling and topping and stuff like that, and that doesn’t work either. It’s to know what you do well, focus on that and what you like to do.”



Emily Claytor

Bio: Emily Claytor graduated from Trinity College with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, International Studies, and French. As Trinity’s Student Body President, she helped launch the College’s Strategic Planning Initiative, Summit. Emily formerly worked in the education technology sector and is in the process of pivoting her career to strategy consulting. She interned at Accenture in NYC, the summer of 2023, as a Summer Senior Strategy Consultant and is excited to be returning after graduation. She is a member of the Consortium and a second-year MBA candidate at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, with a focus on Sustainable Business. She is a board member for McDonough’s Graduate Women In Business Club, a Consulting Peer Advisor for McDonough’s Career Center, an Impact Investing Fellow for McDonough’s Business for Impact Initiative (BFI), as well as the student program lead for BFI’s Impact Investing Fellowship Program.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.