In 2021, TIME Magazine reported that 41 percent of students in full-time MBA programs were women. The article looked specifically at the 56 member institutions of the nonprofit organization, Forte Foundation, of which Goizueta Business School belongs.

Although women have driven significant progress in the last several decades, business school—and MBA programs, in particular—are still heavily male.

Renee Dye

When Renee Dye joined Goizueta’s faculty in 2017, she saw a gap in the woman experience of business school. “I saw an opportunity to enhance women’s performance in business school and within their careers by offering a targeted set of programs to grow their leadership potential,” says the associate professor in the practice of organization and management.

Drawing on her decades in corporate America, Dye launched the LeadHership Program.

“Women thinking about attending business school are looking for an ecosystem that will provide them with specific supports, role models, mentors, and opportunities to prepare for the unique challenges women face during their professional careers. It is exciting to see the growth and development of this type of programming for our women students,” says Melissa Rapp, associate dean of graduate admissions.

From application through to being alumni, women will have meaningful engagement specifically for them at Goizueta.

Melissa Rapp

The Purpose of Goizueta’s LeadHership Program

The program is a series of workshops, gatherings, and speaking events hosted throughout the year for women in Goizueta’s full-time MBA program.

“The LeadHerShip program at Goizueta is all about engagement, community and belonging for our students,” says Brian Mitchell, associate dean of the Full-Time MBA Program and Goizueta Global Strategy and Initiatives.

Events vary in size with some promoting an intimate or workshop environment with only 10-20 attendees while the program’s two signature events cater to a larger crowd. The LeadHership Program is divided into two general types of events: community-building and network-focused and events focused on enhancing professional skills and success.

 “We create spaces and conversations with women at the center, providing mentoring and coaching opportunities that prepare our students to lead in any business culture,” says Mitchell.

Our programming is led by women who have established themselves as thought leaders and powerful executives from a variety of industries. From the moment women join the Goizueta community, the LeadHership program makes a powerful statement about redefining how voices are shared and heard in the world of business.

Brian Mitchell

The year kicks off in August with a welcome dinner, featuring an address from leaders across the school, as well as a keynote message by Dye on how to create a successful business school experience by enhancing their performance in the classroom. Throughout the rest of the year, there’s a mid-year check-in and offboarding event for graduating students.

Abigail Sepich 25JD/MBA
Abigail Sepich 25JD/MBA

The community-building aspect of the program drew Abigail Sepich 25JD/MBA to continue attending programming after the welcome dinner. “I found myself wanting that community of people who just get it, who I don’t necessarily have to explain the struggles I’m facing, particularly when it comes to family planning and life,” says Sepich. “Plus, these events have been chances for me to meet other women across multiple programs, whom I might not have interacted with otherwise.”

Let’s Talk Work-Life Balance

The other half of the LeadHership Program covers the professional sphere. During the 2022-2023 academic year, events include topics such as managing family obligations and career advancements, attracting and cultivating advocates (which Dye spoke about on the Goizueta Effect podcast), and crafting and communicating your personal workplace brand.

Morgan Brown 23MBA
Morgan Brown 23MBA

A popular event this year was the Financial Management for Professional Women workshop, led by Usha Rackliffe, associate professor in the Practice of Accounting, that touched on financial planning issues unique to professional women with advanced degrees.

“Financial planning has always given me anxiety due to lack of knowledge, so I jumped at the chance to attend the workshop when I saw that it was being offered,” says Morgan Brown 23MBA. “Plus, the chance to learn in a more intimate setting from strong female leaders such as Professor Dye and Professor Rackliffe was really exciting for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how the LeadHerShip Program develops next semester and beyond, as I think it could attract more women to Goizueta in the future.”

Another event, the Executive Style and Presence Workshop, dives deeper into how women can assert themselves in the classroom—and in their future jobs—building off the skills they’re already learning in class.

“We’re taught executive style and presence in class, but the additional practice and tips on how to emulate women speakers we admire was awesome. Having a background in law, I never had to give the types of presentations we do here in the MBA program, so having that extra time to learn to project the image I want made me so much more confident both in and out of the classroom,” says Sepich.

Yaa Bema Tutu 24MBA/MPH
Yaa Bema Tutu 24MBA/MPH

Fellow LeadHership Program participant, Yaa Bema Tutu 24MBA/MPH, also benefited from the Executive Style Workshop: “It was an opportunity to discuss and learn about important life decisions with a small group of women. As someone who is new to the business world, I found the Executive Style Workshop such a breath of fresh air because it made me really think about how I present myself to others within a corporate space.”

These life-planning events also provide space to learn about different fields and what’s required to secure those roles. Other students have spoken up and shared advice from their experience, further cementing the community feel and intimate nature of the LeadHership Program as a safe space. Sepich’s feeling of belonging to a group has also extended outward, to the faculty members who participate in the programming. “Academically, I have access to professors who I might not have otherwise met, except in large classroom settings, and I’m also getting to know Professor Dye outside the classroom,” says Sepich.

A Gathering of C-Suite Women at the Carlos Museum

In early November, the LeadHership Program welcomed several C-Suite women to talk about their experiences along their career journey. This brunch is scheduled each year with the hope of inspiring students and offering tactical advice on career management.

“There’s never been a better time to be a woman who’s leaning into success in the business world because businesses have a lot of vested interest in helping make women successful,” says Dye. “The Women’s LeadHership Program is designed to give a broad set of tools that will enhance and facilitate future success and the achievement of career aspirations, whatever those are.”

Dye (center) with this year’s C-Suite panelists.

This year’s panel of guests included Hala Moddelmog, president and chief executive officer of the Woodruff Arts Center; Martha Brooks, former president and chief operating officer of Novelis, Inc; Kathy Waller, retired executive vice president, chief financial officer, and president of enabling services at Coca-Cola; and Kelly Janzen, senior vice president, chief financial officer, and treasurer of BlueLinx Corporation. All four women spent decades of their career in leadership and C-Suite positions. Dye moderated the event.

Grace Chi 24MBA
Grace Chi 24MBA

“Drawing on the expertise of women who have already navigated obstacles that you will likely face and seeing their success—knowing that could also be you—and having their advice was priceless,” says Sepich.

For Grace Chi 24MBA, the LeadHership programming offered opportunities to learn from and grow with other strong females along her professional journey. “The LeadHership Program provided the opportunity for me to work closely with the female professors and peers to reflect on my leadership styles, work on plans for further improvement, and get inspired by the open and honest sharing during the workshop. Leadership is hard to teach, but the LeadHership program has been very effective in advancing our leadership skills through observing, analyzing, and listening to the successful female leaders across various business segments.”

Goizueta has long been committed to empowering women in business and redefining how voices are heard. Continue learning about the LeadHership Program here.

Alexandra Shimalla
Alexandra Shimalla is a Communications Specialist for Emory University's Goizueta Business School.