In 2008, Geeta Sheker and Beatrix Dart of the Rotman School of Management were troubled by the dearth of women in MBA programs and upper management, and the hurdles women face in the male-dominated corporate world, such as salary discrepancies and family planning challenges.
So they established the Initiative for Women in Business (IWB), a slate of professional development programs for women. The first of its kind at a Canadian business school – and unique in its breadth of programming, small class size and faculty expertise – the IWB helps professional women bolster their careers and leadership abilities.
“Women receive the majority of college degrees, control more than 80 per cent of consumer purchases and have many natural leadership attributes,” says Sheker, director of IWB. “But if you look at Canada’s Report on Business rankings or the Fortune 500, only a handful of women are CEOs and board directors at leading firms.”
“Most companies are supportive of equality,” says Dart, associate dean of executive degree programs at Rotman. “Where the whole wagon is stuck in the mud is in the mindset. Women are not socialized to be aggressive or push for what they want.”
IWB’s offerings range from the Judy Project – a week-long forum aimed at launching more women into executive and CEO roles – to classes for women transitioning back into the workforce. There are also programs geared toward lawyers, entrepreneurs and internationally educated professionals, as well as a host of networking events.
Victoria Sopik, co-founder of the nationwide daycare business Kids and Company, participated in the Next Steps program for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their business – in April 2011. In 2012, she and partner Jennifer Nashmi won an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “It was invigorating to meet other women entrepreneurs and [the program] gave us tactical tools to use in our business,” she says.
“Seeing the rise in women’s confidence makes me proud,” adds Dart. “We might not be changing the world, but we are changing one woman at a time.”
Watch the video to learn more about IWB