The Robert H. Smith School of Business takes personally the challenges faced by women in business.–Courtesy of UMD

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Feb. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Women remain underrepresented in MBA programs across the United States, but the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business is pledging to close the gap within five years. The school will announce its 50/50 by 2020 Pledge on March 5, 2015, during the school’s fourth annual Women Leading Women symposium and International Women’s Day celebration. The 2020 target will coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees U.S. women the right to vote.

“Many business schools talk about their commitment to women,” Smith Dean Alex Triantis said. “Now it is time to deliver results. Working together with public, private and social sector organizations, we will do what it takes to attract and advance more women in business careers.”

As an early step toward 50/50 by 2020, the Smith School became an educational partner of the Forté Foundation in 2014. The consortium of corporations, business schools and nonprofit organizations works to empower women in the workplace. At Smith, this will mean access to new scholarships, events and career opportunities for women. Other 50/50 by 2020 initiatives will focus on three priorities identified by a panel of faculty, staff, students and alumni called the Women’s Initiative Board. These focus areas include:

Recruiting and admissions. The Smith School is working to make business school more attractive for women through scholarships, fellowships, women-only information sessions, and more flexible program offerings.

Student programming. The Smith School supports its women MBA candidates with professional development, networking and information events. Besides Women Leading Women, these include a salary negotiation seminar, women’s speaker series, women-only corporate networking events and women MBA symposia. New or recent initiatives include Lean In Circles, fireside chats, mini-podcasts and Forté Foundation events, including an MBA career fair for women.  Smith’s Association of Women MBAs (SAWMBA) also provides opportunities for networking and professional growth.

Alumni support. The Smith School will ramp up its Women’s Alumni Network, creating new mentorship and career coaching opportunities.

Other efforts are described at rhsmith.umd.edu/about-us/diversity/women, where the school will post updates on the 50/50 by 2020 pledge. “We are asking women what they need from business school, and we are responding,” said Smith Vice Dean Joyce E.A. Russell, who leads the Women’s Initiative Board.

Women earn a majority of college degrees at all levels in North America, but the trend does not extend to business schools. The 2014 Business School Data Guide from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), reports 30 percent to 40 percent female enrollment for most North American MBA programs. At the Smith School, women in the full-time, part-time, online and executive MBA programs represented 31 percent of enrollment in fall 2013 and 32 percent in fall 2014.

Women Leading Women
What: Free event for women, featuring keynote speaker Andrea Brody, Smith School alumna and Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for BravoSolution
When: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, March 5, 2015
Where: Frank Auditorium, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park
Information: rhsmith.umd.edu/womenleaders

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