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Stanford Graduate School of Business: Women Belong In ‘A Place Like This’

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What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?

Fifty years ago, five young and ambitious women were admitted into the MBA program at Stanford University — three of them being Susan Phillips, Anne Thornton, and Barbara West. At first, their presence was unusual to faculty, administrators, and the male-dominated class. In fact, female students only made up 2% of the school class. The young women would often get asked, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

These women soon reclaimed that question and proved they belonged ‘in a place like this’ as they started to excel in business school and make their faces known around campus. One of Susan’s goals while at business school was to ensure that women had the freedom to pioneer their own lives and choose the career path that is best for them. 

Susan, Anne, and Barbara’s friendship and support for one another is what ultimately got them through this time in their lives. Susan mentions that she was always grateful for the advice Barbara would share with her and Anne. Susan also recalls during class how she was asked, “You’re an MBA?!” Anne would not let her friend’s credibility be questioned. So, from the back of the classroom, Anne roared with support, “She sure is!” 

Fifty years ago, the three alumni voluntarily created a video project as a way to document the challenges they faced trying to navigate a male-dominated business culture. The project was entitled “What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing in A Place Like This?”

This project has recently been repurposed with current interviews and discussions with the three women who brought this project to life and inspired generations of young women at Stanford GSB.

Women From Stanford GSB Belong In A Place Like This

Little did Susan, Anne, and Barbara know that their presence in the Stanford MBA program would open admissions for other future trailblazers and later inspire a school and workplace culture of inclusion and empowerment. Three second-year MBA students from the class of 2021—Jenny Zhou, Janna Wandzilak, and Juli (Hye Ryeong) Cho—are grateful for and inspired by what Susan, Anne, and Barbara accomplished.

These three women, currently enrolled in Stanford GSB, are affiliated with the school’s Women in Management (WiM) community. This organization aims to create a more gender-mindful business world and build a strong network for women in the industry.

Just like Susan, Anne, and Barbara, Juli mentions the importance of sisterhood and comradery. “I could not have gotten to where I am without the women groups at Stanford,” says Juli. They have provided her with an enormous support network and have been a “great rock” for her throughout her time at Stanford. After graduation, Juli hopes to provide the same type of mentorship and coaching to other young women. Jenny hopes to become a leader in the business world, but she will stay true to her womanhood as she makes a name for herself. Susan’s example of a woman’s freedom to do what she wants in her life breathes throughout the Stanford campus, and it has inspired Janna to create her own business and have a family after graduation. 

All in all, these women have shown the importance of supporting and inspiring other women. Most importantly, all these women have shown that women have always belonged in a ‘place like this’.

Read the full announcement regarding the project here.

Alexandra Markovich
Alexandra (Alex) Markovich was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Florida State University (FSU), where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English. After her time at FSU, she has continued to pursue learning more about the writing industry by enrolling herself in editing certificate programs provided by Poynter Institute and the University of Chicago. In her spare time, you can find Alex working out her local gym, perusing local book stores, taking her dogs to the local dog park, and soaking up the Miami sun!