The Portland MBA: Positioning women to succeed in business

 Kristin Culpepper, Rachel Mattenberger, Lisa Pitt, Ariella Frishberg, and Tichelle Sorensen
(From left) Ambassadors Kristin Culpepper (MBA), Rachel Mattenberger (MBA), Lisa Pitt (MSF), myself and Academic Director Tichelle Sorenson at Bizwomen Mentoring Monday.

I hadn’t given much thought to what it meant to be a woman in business until I started The Portland MBA at PSU. I attended a women’s college for my undergrad and went directly into the non-profit social services sector, so most of the spaces I’ve worked in have been female-dominated and female-centered workplaces. I had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by incredible leaders, most of whom are women, and women’s empowerment has always been an important motivator for me in my work.

Part of what I found meaningful at PSU’s School of Business is the clear focus on making the business world more equitable. Between the number of women in faculty and upper administrative positions, the student clubs dedicated to women in leadership, and the fact that my cohort had a higher percentage of women than men, I believe that PSU is prioritizing gender equity in ways that many business schools still aren’t. And that shows year over year. PSU’s graduate business programs have higher female admission and retention rates than the national averages.

As an ambassador, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Portland Business Journal’s annual Bizwomen Mentoring Monday. Mentoring Monday takes place in more than 40 cities across the country, bringing together more than 7,000 professional women. The speaker lineup was fantastic, and I was excited to hear from women in all areas of the business world about their experiences and perspectives, especially as someone just starting out in her business career.

While talking to the mentors was beneficial, networking with the other mentees was the most valuable part of the experience for me. The organization of the event was such that many of us ended up standing in line to talk to one of the mentors for minutes at a time. At some events I’ve been to, I might have pulled out my phone and tried to pass that time by answering emails or getting a jump start (or last-minute cram) on a reading due in class later.

At Mentoring Monday, people were clearly there to network and engage, and the atmosphere was so welcoming that it was easy to turn to someone in line and start up a conversation. I talked to a woman who had recently left a professional dance career to start her own life coaching business, a woman who was looking forward to connecting with a mentor from the large healthcare organization where she’d just been hired, and several others like me who had left non-profit work to pursue other sectors.

I have been privileged to see women’s leadership and empowerment role modeled during my undergraduate education and work experience. Getting to attend events like the Bizwomen Mentoring Monday and listen to other women talk about their experiences reminds me that the rest of the world still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to gender equity in the workplace. I’m proud to have picked an MBA program that values women’s leadership and supports me as I develop my own leadership skills.

Ariella Frishberg has a background in social services. Her passion lies in creating more equitable employment practices, whether that is in academia, healthcare, or the for-profit sector.

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