Alina Vrsaljko is a current Tech MBA student at Stern. Within Stern, she is part of the Stern Women in Business Club‘s board. Before starting her MBA, Alina gained professional experience in Digital Strategy Consulting at McKinsey in Europe and in multiple roles at Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Germany and Singapore. She holds a BSc in Business Informatics and a MSc in Management.
45% minorities, 9% LGBTQ+, 57% international students and 55% women – those are not target scores from exemplary studies on what ideal diverse teams should look like, but those are the actual numbers of the Tech MBA at NYU Stern. When I met my classmates for the first time, I was amazed by the number of strong women in the program. This was not at all what any of us had expected when signing up for a Tech focused MBA, but we LOVED it – both male and female classmates. In the picture below, you can see a small part of our amazing group of women in the Tech MBA.
Being the only one
Coming from a Tech industry background, I’ve gotten used to being the “only one”-the only woman in the room. And even though my colleagues and clients meant well, there were certain situations where I could feel the impact of what it means to be the only person of a certain group in the room. And this did not just happen to me – a recent Women in the Workplace Study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org shows that “32% of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only woman in the room at work” (2022). This is one of the reasons why I believe the makeup of this year’s Tech MBA is so special and important – the more we normalize women thriving in Tech, the easier it’ll be for young women to imagine themselves in those roles.
Why is this even relevant?
Throughout my career, one big factor I’ve considered when deciding on a next career move was around female empowerment – will this decision help me advance further and will this have an impact on women in the industry? Maybe that’s also why I specifically picked the Tech industry as an 18-year-old girl to start off my career. I believe it’s time that all of us start making a difference. Especially in Tech but also in leadership in general, women are still heavily underrepresented – in the US, still only 1 in 4 CEOs is female and even only 1 in 20 CEO’s is a black woman (LeanIn, McKinsey, 2022). Thus, I believe us as MBAs, and hopefully all future leaders, need to push further for equality to achieve the equal world we aim to live in. Another reason for focusing on gender equality is that diverse teams make better decisions (Harvard Business Review, 2016) – no matter whether that’s in business or politics. Additionally, especially in Tech, having diverse representation will matter even more than ever. With Artificial Intelligence solutions on the rise and tech firms not having a diverse employee body, those new algorithms are full of unconscious biases that will need to be resolved (Forbes, 2020). Thus, I am proud to be part of an MBA program that is educating so many women in Tech, sets us up with the tools to excel in the industry, and educates allies who are aware of gender equality issues and who will actively create an impact in this field.
When thinking about how to thrive as a woman in Tech throughout your MBA experience, there’s three main areas to leverage:
1. Role models: I can’t stress enough the importance of strong role models for your career development – I am still thankful to all the amazing role models in my previous positions who I am still in touch with. NYU Stern will also help by connecting you with strong, successful women – I was lucky enough to have met a few of them at multiple events hosted by NYU Stern, from Elizabeth Elting (see picture below) who was listed on FORBES’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, to Rama Akkiraju, who is leading NVIDIA’s AI/ML efforts after being responsible for IBM Watson for the past few years.
Those women are living proof that it is possible to break glass ceilings in all kinds of industries, and an MBA at NYU Stern allows you to connect with and learn from them. Additional events to connect with women are now also happening all over New York – and for every industry. Especially for Women’s History Month, companies like Google and Amazon have held great events around women in tech that were free to join for students.
2. Network within Student Community: Besides external speakers, who often can act as inspiration, the Student Community at NYU Stern is full of strong and ambitious women to network with. Starting from the Fall, Tech MBA students will get to interact with all full-time students and there are multiple opportunities to engage with fellow students. For example, I’m part of the Stern Women in Business Club’s Board for Alumni Relations. This involved connecting with a lot of female MBA alumni, and allowed me to network within the SWIB community to further build out my network. Of course, the small class size of the Tech MBA and the close connection to the smaller sized Fashion and Luxury MBA also allowed to create a close-knit network already in the summer. I’m sure I’ll carry my network of strong NYU women throughout my career and can’t wait to see what all of them will accomplish.
3. Allies: Finally, a concept that is gaining much more popularity is involving allies that do not identify as women. The great part about women’s engagement within NYU is that non-women identifying students are also asked to participate in a range of events. There are specific events like “Bring your Ally to Work” where all students discuss issues that women in the workplace have experienced to raise the awareness of discrimination, or “Real Meals” where an ally hosts a dinner at their place and invites women to listen and learn more about what discrimination currently still looks like. Additionally, our SWIB conference this year is also centered around the topic of Active Allyship. NYU Stern promotes a policy of equality that can only be achieved by working together and aiming as one for a more equal world and I’m proud to be a part of this effort.