October 26th, 2010 | 6:00 am

Are You a Role Model? Teach a Business Course

filed under Back to School

Woman Smiling Behind PodiumBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

What’s one way to pull more women into the leadership pipeline? Be a role model.

On The Glass Hammer, we shine the spotlight on successful professional women in an effort to inspire other high-achieving professional women to break the glass ceiling, and to show that there are plenty high performing women out there – even if they aren’t always highly visible. We’re committed to providing role models and peer networking for our audience of successful women.

But the need for role models begins early. Currently, female MBA enrollment rates are hovering around 30%. The leadership gender imbalance is at play even before women actually make it into the workforce. Only a small percentage of MBA instructors are female – and the lack of successful female role models in business education is one thing keeping women out of the career pipeline.

Do you want to make an impact on the next generation of female business leaders? Be a role model at the MBA level. Teach a course, give a guest lecture, or speak at a networking event. Make yourself visible!

Where are the Women Instructors?

According to a recent article in The Independent, Professor Susan Vinnicombe, director of the International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield University School of Management, said one reason for the lack of female MBA enrollment is a dearth of female professors. She continued, “”I’ve heard women MBA students say: ‘This course is more macho than the business world I’ve come from’.”

Elissa Ellis Sangster, Executive Director of The Forté Foundation, explained, “The reality is they just don’t see [female teachers]. We would like to see more women teaching in the MBA classroom.”

In fact, Sangster said, even seeing women portrayed in case studies can make a positive impact on female students.

In a recent Forbes article, Selena Rezvani and Sandie Taylor explained that the lack of women in teaching positions at top business schools is leaving female students with questions about their role in the workplace. They write:

“Women M.B.A.s also lack professional mentors and role models in the classroom, where female faculty represent a minority. A look at two top business schools–Columbia University and Stanford University–show percentages of female faculty at a dismal 17% and 19%, respectively, according to the 2010 Financial Times. The result is that many women leave business school without a clear sense of how to fit into corporate America.”

Successful women instructors serve as more than just proof of what women can achieve in the corporate world, but that they answer questions and provide guidance on topics that are not usually covered by a standard business school curriculum. For example, Rezvani and Taylor point to common questions like “Can I have the job of my dreams and a family?” or “How do I project a firm, credible presence so that I’m taken seriously?” The fact that these questions are cropping up even before women enter the workforce shows the critical need for successful female role modes in the classroom.

How You Can Get Involved

Sangster said that professional women are definitely needed to enrich the MBA and business school experience for women – and there’s more than one way to be a role model. She said, “Teaching a full course as an adjunct is a big commitment. But there are lots of ways to get involved.”

She advised reaching out to your own alumni network, to see if speaking opportunities are available – which could provide a connection with your own alma mater, as well as other schools in your area, if you no longer live near your university.

She also suggested talking to recruiters at your company who may have relationships with program administrators. “Student organizations are always looking for speakers, and speaking at an after class event could smooth your entree into the classroom,” she added. “And, for the students, those opportunities to see successful professional women are just as valuable.”

3 comments

  1. Natalie Runyon

    I teach Leadership and Communications courses at the NYU School of Continuing & Professional Studies as an adjunct instructor. Another opportunity is to teach through continuing education. Students in my classes are about half women and half men. Also, the semesters are condensed into 8 weeks, so it is not as big of a time commitment.

  2. Nancy Dailey

    Thanks for this article. Great suggestions. Also, Natalie’s suggestions are helpful too. Years ago, in my own MBA experience I did not have one female instructor. It’s a little better today but not much. The void that exists in business schools mirrors the board room.

    I wrote a blog post recently, “Women leaders don’t want to be change agents.” The same thing seems to be happening in B schools.

  3. Avil Beckford

    Great article and thank you for it. I have never taught at the university level. But I have tried to do my part through my blog The Invisible Mentor, which is an education blog. Recently, I featured an interview with Laurel Touby the founder of mediabistro. There was so much rich content because Laurel outlined the steps she took to create and build an online community, with a paid subscription for premium content. In 2007, she sold the company for $23 million. This is just one of the interviews that I have on the blog.

    There are many successful women out there that many have not heard of. I met a few of them at an international conference that I attended a few days ago.