Women in leadership positions are still relatively rare. According to the latest report from MSCI, a research and analytics firm that helps leading investors build and manage portfolios, it could likely be 2027 before women fill just 30 percent of directorships in publicly held companies. Currently, they only hold 18.1 percent of such posts. But despite these discouragingly low numbers, significant progress is being made in other arenas. Recognizing and encouraging progress toward greater gender equity in business and in business school is extremely important if we want to help foster even more.
Fortunately, we need look no further than MIT Sloan School of Management to find clear signs of progress. During its most recent Senate election, two women were named co-presidents, marking the first time in the school’s history that its student government can claim an all-female top leadership team.
Avery Beach and Jennifer Zheng ran for co-presidents as a way to give back to MIT Sloan, a program that they said “has changed our lives.” They went on to explain, “Each of us felt strongly about the school’s potential and thought we could contribute to making it even better. We also believe that representation is extremely important. By running for co-president, we hope that we’ve inspired others, including underrepresented voices, to take on future leadership roles and continue Sloan’s mission to improve the world.”
Both women feel that it has been an extremely valuable opportunity to serve as the school’s first all-female Senate leadership team. In these roles, they have had a chance not only to develop their leadership skill set, but also to expand their network and impact their community.
“Our role as student leaders involves understanding how to influence key stakeholders, managing an organization of 60 students, and making frequent public speaking appearances,” explained Beach and Zheng. “We have learned and grown through this experience in an environment where it is okay to make mistakes. These failures and successes have made us better leaders, and this experience will translate into our work after school.”
Serving as co-presidents of the Sloan Senate has been important to both women personally, but the experience has also convinced Beach and Zheng that it its important for other women, particularly female MBA students, to take on leadership roles within their programs and schools.
“Women are often underrepresented at the top of the career ladder,” they said. “By leading early and regularly, women can stand out in the current job market as well as in their future careers, such as during promotions. We hope that women continue to strive for these experiences.”
In the end, Beach and Zheng have felt empowered by their positions as Senate leaders and hope other women will feel the same. “As we look to the legacy we’ve left at the school, we hope to be remembered not only as effective female leaders, but as effective leaders—that is what will make a difference,” they said.