The women who run the best business schools in the world
Women Rise Among Top U.S. B Schools According to a P&Q analysis, 15 of the top business schools have 40% or more women in their MBA programs, with 11 of the top 27 schools making progress from 2021-2022. But how does the representation look at the top of the pyramid?
Bluesky Thinking recently highlighted 10 of the most influential women in business education, sharing their stories of how they made it to the top and deepening their hopes for the future of women in business education.
ISABELLE BAJEUX-BESNAINOU, DEAN OF THE CARNEGIE MELLON TEPPER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
One could call Bajeux-Besnainou an accidental dean. Born in Paris, she found her calling in numbers. After earning her doctorate in financial mathematics, she moved to the United States to become a finance professor at George Washington University. Here it was her turn as a department head and she discovered that she loved to strategize, implement projects and make an impact.
This path led her to become associate dean of undergraduate programs at the school. Three years later she was appointed Dean of Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. In this role, she led the founding of the renowned Bensadoun School of Retail Management. During her tenure, the Desautels community also relocated to a new 49,000 square foot building and launched several master’s programs including analytics and retail. These achievements prepared Bajeux-Besnainou to take the next step. In 2020, she was appointed Dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. It was a process in which the school selected 400 candidates and Bajeux-Besnainou conducted 50 interviews himself.
True to her math background, Bajeux-Besnainou launched The Intelligent Future after the school conducted 400 interviews with thought leaders and stakeholders. More than a slogan touting the school’s capabilities in analytics and interdisciplinary learning, “The Intelligent Future” is a commitment to harnessing change and innovation
“You always feel like business schools are catching up with the business world,” says Bajeux-Besnainou. “We don’t want to catch up. We want to define what the business school of the future should be.”
Her advice to women? It’s simple: Don’t limit yourself – or the world around you. “Dare. Nothing is impossible. Thanks to my generation, there is a growing awareness that women make a significant contribution to the economy. The future is yours.”
ERIKA JAMES, DEAN OF THE WHARTON SCHOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
James also made history as the first woman and first person of color to be appointed dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 2020.
Since her appointment as Dean, James has openly acknowledged her responsibility to increase diversity.
“This is a tremendous responsibility, not just in terms of the magnitude of the role as Dean of the Wharton School, but so many eyes are watching me and you and the people who are in these positions to really make a difference,” James said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning. “So yes, I personally feel that while my primary and overwhelming focus is on taking the first, biggest, best business school in the country and making it even better, that will only happen if we make sure we have the right talent in the right positions. And I believe that talent is everywhere and comes in all colors and packaging.”
“We often say that there is no pipeline of different talents,” she regrets. “Well there is no pipeline if you look at a very narrow set of positions. One of the things companies can do differently is expand their ability to identify exceptional talent that may be going untapped.”
ANN E. HARRISON, DEAN OF THE BERKELEY HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Originally a professor at Wharton University, Harrison was appointed the 15th dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, becoming only the second woman to head the top-ranking business school.
As Dean, Harrison has focused her priorities on three key initiatives: innovation, inclusion, and sustainability. She was instrumental in navigating B-School through the COVID-19 pandemic — just a year after joining as dean — and transitioned Haas to all distance learning in 48 hours in March 2020.
“We’ve talked about virtual programming for years and realized that if we put our minds to it, we have the ability to implement it,” Harrison told P&Q. “For most faculty and staff, summer 2020 has meant rethinking courses and implementing technology improvements in preparation for fall. The challenges of COVID-19 prompted us to invest in significant technology upgrades, new virtual classrooms and faculty training for an enhanced remote experience.”
To learn more about these leaders, click on the Bluesky Thinking link below.
Sources: Bluesky Thinking, P&Q, P&Q, P&Q, P&Q
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