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Women Leaders Headline 2018 MBA Commencement Addresses at Many Top Business Schools

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Spring has sprung, which means that classes have come to an end on many leading business school campuses, and commencement activities fill weekend after weekend from now through much of June. The roster of speakers top schools invite to send their MBA graduates off into the world can be revealing.

Graduation speakers are typically invited to impart hard-earned wisdom and present words of encouragement to MBA classes, and this year is no exception in that regard. More exceptional, though, is the number of women delivering the headlining speeches.

Instagram COO Marne Levine at Michigan Ross

One of the first commencement addresses of the season took place on Friday, April 27th, at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where Instagram’s Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine delivered a rousing headlining speech.

Ross Dean Scott DeRue introduced Levine with remarks about her inspirational career and commitment to her work’s impact on society. DeRue added that he sought to invite someone “who role models the leadership we aspire to.” He also praised Levine’s “transformative and positive impact on how we live, work, and interact with each other.”

With more than 700 million users worldwide, Instagram has become an iconic brand due in no small part to Levine’s efforts to scale the company’s business and operations at a global level.

She has been COO at Instagram since 2014 and before that served as VP of global public policy with parent company Facebook. Levine’s roots, however, are in the political arena: She worked in the Obama administration as chief of staff of the National Economic Council, worked under Harvard President Larry Summers, and began her career in the Department of the Treasury during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest at NYU Stern

NYU’s Stern School of Business selected Sallie Krawcheck to headline its 2018 Graduate Convocation ceremony on Friday May 18th.

Krawcheck is currently CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, an investment firm designed for women, which “aims to serve women [investors’] needs…using an algorithm tailored specifically to women’s incomes and life cycles.”

The company has racked up a slew of accolades, among them inclusion in both Nerdwallet’s “Best Robo Advisors of 2018” and Entrepreneur Magazine’s “100 Brilliant Ideas of 2017.”

In a preview of her speech, Krawcheck spoke about our “tumultuous and confusing times,” challenging individuals to evaluate their own personal “ideas of ethical leadership and who we really are,” as well as the ways in which we consider our careers as they relate to our responsibility to the world around us.

“We have to decide if we’re going to be that person who does the right thing. We have to decide if we’re going to commit to equality, to diversity, and to using the power of business to make the world a better place.”

Vice Chairwoman of Morgan Stanley Carla Harris at Harvard Business School

On May 23rd, Harvard Business School welcomed Morgan Stanley Vice Chairwoman Carla Harris, whose distinguished career spans three decades.

Harris has been named to Fortune’s list of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America” and its “Most Influential List” and appeared in similar lists in wide-ranging publications including U.S. Banker, Black Enterprise, Essence Magazine, and Ebony.

Harris has also received honorary doctorates from seven different institutions including Marymount Manhattan College, Jacksonville University, and Simmons College.

Hillary Clinton at Yale SOM

Perhaps the most recognizable professional woman in the world, former first lady, presidential candidate, and attorney Hillary Clinton spoke to graduates of Yale SOM and Yale’s other schools at a university-wide event for this year’s Class Day.

Clinton took the opportunity to speak to 2018 graduates of her alma mater by praising Yale’s high acceptance rate of women. She even joked about the school’s longstanding all-male a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs, having begun to accept women into their membership this year. She added sarcastically, “If you thought my emails were scandalous, you should hear my singing voice.”

She also spoke candidly about the Trump presidency, her 2016 presidential election loss, and the current political landscape, which she explained was indicative of tumultuous times for the country.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.