When Anne Libby entered Wharton’s East Coast executive MBA program in 1993, she knew she’d be in the minority as a female student. But what she wasn’t expecting was the supportive environment she found there. We asked Libby, who is now the owner of Anne Libby Management Consulting in New York City, to share her thoughts about her experiences at Wharton, her ongoing engagement with the School, and the value of the program for women. Here’s what she had to say:
“I didn’t expect my class to be 50% women, but at the time I was working in banking so I was used to being the only woman in the room. When I got to Wharton, it turned out that my class was comprised of about 30% women. With a total of 100 first-year EMBA students, our classes were smaller than what you’d likely have found in a full-time program and that enabled us to have a good mix of men and women in each class. I never felt like there weren’t enough other women in the room.
“My classmates were great! I actually never felt like a minority because everybody appreciated that we were all there to learn. We had crossed a bar of some sort to get admitted and a bond was created by being at Wharton together.
“That said, toward the end of the program, an article was published in the New York Times about a group of women in the healthcare industry who had created their own study group. Their goal was to get some of their members into senior management and they were successful. Inspired by that article, a few weeks before graduation the women in my class held a meeting to discuss how we could stay connected so that we could continue supporting each other.
“After graduation, I also participated in several Wharton Leadership programs where I met women from other classes. I also met Wharton’s Monica McGrath, an expert in women’s leadership and learning. Through these connections, and with support from Monica and the MBA Exec administration, we have really gathered momentum. Now, we have close to 10% of Wharton alumnae as members in the Wharton Women in Business Alumni Group. We’ve held two alumnae conferences in Philadelphia as well as several meetings in New York, and we have local groups forming in Baltimore/Washington and in Philadelphia.
“The goal of the group is to emphasize the importance of connecting with one another. Career discontinuity is a reality for many women. We might stay home with kids for a period of time, and then want to return to the workforce. Or maybe we wind up as a caregiver for an elderly relative. We might even disappear into an intense job for a few years and not keep our networks as fresh as we should.
“We want the WWIB Alumnae group to provide a forum for discussion about our careers, as well as to transmit learning and knowledge between generations. It’s a wonderful group that provides a lot of added value for Wharton alumnae – and ultimately for the entire workforce, as we encourage alumnae to take leadership roles and action in the overall conversation about women’s careers.
“Looking back, whether you are male or female, you can’t ask for a better credential than a Wharton MBA. The opportunities to network for students and alumni are amazing. I loved my Wharton experience, and it continues to open doors for me today. If you’re going to take the precious time away from work and relationships to get your MBA, I recommend doing it at Wharton.”
Thanks to Anne Libby for reflecting on her experiences. To read a Knowledge@Wharton article about the 2011 Wharton Women in Business Alumni Conference, click here. To watch a related Wharton Magazine video, click here.