Women wear white at Haas School of Business graduation to symbolize strength, unity

Stephanie Li/Senior Staff

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Sixty-seven women wore white on their graduation caps when they graduated among 173 of their nonfemale peers from the Haas School of Business’ part-time MBA program Friday.

According to organizer Lori Chen, who also graduated Friday, the coordination was meant to symbolize the strength and unity of the women who completed the program, despite their minority status.

“I was looking for a way to visually represent to our friends and family what I’ve experienced in the last 3 years at Haas: The women of Haas are a Force,” Chen said in an email. “We’re a small but mighty minority and I wanted to turn up the volume on our strength in unity.”

The program, which lasts three years, is designed for working or otherwise engaged individuals to complete their Master of Business Administration degrees on a part-time schedule, during weekends and evenings. According to Jamie Breen, assistant dean for Haas’ MBA programs for working professionals, the program cannot take gender into account during the admission process, but it does hold events designed to recruit targeted demographics such as women.

The business school’s dean, Ann Harrison, added that the school was founded by a woman and is the only top business school that has had two female deans. According to Breen, the number of women in the program has been rising.

“The percentage of women in the class that entered in 2018 is 33 percent (up from 29 percent in the class that entered in 2015),” Breen said in an email. “We believe that our numbers are increasing partly because our female students have organized to reach out to other females in the admissions pipeline.”

According to the school’s website, the program strives to create “fresh thinking, and an incredibly talented, diverse, collaborative community.”

Chen added that she was excited about this year’s commencement speaker, Nancy Hoque, who is a Muslim woman of color, but said she still thought the school could do better in representing women, especially women of color, as the 67 female graduates only included one Black woman.

In an email, Hoque said she felt the program was diverse in “thought, work and personal experiences.” She added that she believed that women might be underrepresented in the program because of extra responsibilities they often have at work and at home and that some may lack a support system.

“I believe there are many qualified and ambitious women leaders out there,” Hoque said. “Having gone through the program and seeing how so many women and men went through life-changing events like getting married, having babies, switching careers, traveling, starting a new venture, etc… and be an MBA student, it is certainly possible and achievable.”

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.