Women’s advancement to executive positions continues to lag behind men. According to Fortune, as of 2017, 32 women CEOs are on the Fortune 500 list, a mere 6.4%. George Mason University’s School of Business is helping to change these statistics through their Women in Business Initiative.
Established in 2014, the Women in Business Initiative (WIBI) at George Mason’s School of Business provides current students, alumnae, and businesswomen a unique platform of engagement for professional development and networking. It serves as an access point for top-performing Mason students as a network of innovation and collaboration, a hub for lifelong learning, and a provider of business insight in support of women in the workplace.
WIBI is all about the connections that women make in business and how these connections can help to break barriers. For two prominent members of WIBI, their student-faculty connection initially brought them together and continues to this day, representing exactly what this initiative is all about.
Alumna Mary Hough, MBA’91, is a founding member of the Women in Business Initiative. While working with Mason as a business partner trying to recruit new candidates for SAIC, she was invited into discussions about the new initiative. “I was asked by the dean to serve as a founding member to help to shape the organization by aligning their students’ career goals with talent needs in the business community,” said Hough. Hough currently serves as president of Continuity Consulting, LLC, a consulting company that focuses on strategic talent management and organization development solutions.
As the WIB Initiative continued to expand, Hough looked to other female professionals connected with Mason to join her in this great endeavor. One name that came to mind was Deb Cohen. Cohen was Hough’s professor while at Mason and the two had stayed in touch after graduation through their mutual interests in human resources, strategic planning, and organizational development.
“As we looked to expand our board membership, I reached out to Deb because of her expertise and dedication to women students, especially in the world of business. Gladly, she accepted and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with her on future initiatives,” said Hough.
Cohen was a faculty member for the business school from 1987 to 1992. She spent 16 years as an executive at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and currently serves as president of Deb Cohen LLC, her own consulting firm that helps organizations with management and human resource projects.
Hough is now an emeritus member of WIBI after serving as a founding member, committee chair and co-chair. Hough said, “The Women in Business Initiative is unique in the quality of its members—seasoned professional women, many of whom are entrepreneurs—who are eager to share their life experiences with the students. The generosity of its members include donations of time to mentor and coach women students as well as financial support to the WIBI Endowment fund.”
Cohen said, “I think this initiative offers a great opportunity for alumni to connect (again) with the school and to stay connected while at the same time, helping themselves with networking. It is important, no matter your role or industry, that you network with people outside of your immediate role or industry. The Women in Business Initiative offers an easy way to do this for women (and others). It also offers a way for alumni to give back to the Mason community.”