As someone who went to an all-girls high school, comes from a female-dominated industry (non-profits), and whose family is overrun by strong-minded, independent women, the MBA was my first real foray into a male-dominated world. For this and a number of other reasons, I was a bit nervous arriving at Oxford Saïd in September – knowing that I was throwing myself into a universe that was far outside my typical comfort zone.
However, despite the fact women make up only 39% of our MBA cohort, that 39% is loud and proud. In class, our voices are heard, respected, and embraced by our male colleagues, and rarely do we feel like the minority. But nevertheless, while the Oxford Saïd bubble is warm and welcoming, the rest of the world isn’t always quite as accepting. For this reason, it is crucial that we develop effective outlets for discussing the unique challenges we face as women in business.
Partly thanks to the leadership of our Oxford Saïd Women’s Alliance advisor and champion, Amy Major, the Women’s Leadership telegram chat immediately got off to a very active start, and has since become a space where our female colleagues and “male allies” support each other, share job opportunities, discuss comments that arise in the news or in our classrooms that we find offensive or uninformed, and of course, share recommendations for where in Oxford we can possibly find a reasonably priced gown for yet another upcoming black tie ball.
To continue to develop this sense of sisterhood, the Oxford Women’s Leadership Alliance, of which I am a co-chair, launched a lunchtime, bi-weekly discussion series to offer a space for women and men to come together and share experiences and ideas about issues we care about. These round table discussions have covered questions such as:
What are the unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face and how can we overcome them?
What is intersectional feminism and what role does it have in how we define ourselves as feminists?
What does it mean to be a male ally and how do we ensure men feel comfortable being part of these discussions?
What role can we have in helping Oxford Saïd attract and retain female candidates?
And, how do both women and men balance their desire to become a parent with their career ambitions?
With with such different experiences, sectors, and geographies represented in the room, the conversations become thought-provoking and profound very quickly, leaving us all wondering how we can bring these issues to light in other parts of our lives and in our future workplaces, and ultimately, how we can continue to carry the torch and make the journey for women better for those who come next.
As we continue to develop and deepen our relationships in the months ahead, I am honored to be a part of such a thoughtful and passionate community, and in particular, I will be eternally grateful to Saïd Business School for gifting me such an engaging and supportive group of women I will always admire and forever call my friends.Back to top of article