Recent MBA graduates Lindsay Bozzer and Lezlie Mintz know that despite significant strides made by women, it can still be tough to break into the business world and rise up the ranks.
When the duo assumed the leadership of the Women in Business MBA Club as co-presidents in the fall of 2011, they made it part of their mandate to use what they learned at Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School and the school’s Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre to equip women in the community with the skills they need to establish professional careers.
Mintz says they wanted to reach out to Vancouver women to explain that, “It's about understanding what barriers there are, working towards a professional career that suits you, and working with an employer to break down barriers.”
Shortly after taking over the Women in Business MBA Club, they began a collaboration with Dress for Success—a non-profit that helps low income women transition into the workforce by providing them with professional clothing and other support. The collaboration allowed the first-ever Dress Rehearsal program to be established in Vancouver.
Through this pilot project, Bozzer and Mintz matched Dress for Success clients with female volunteers from Vancouver's business community for mock job interviews. The volunteers then provided feedback to help the clients succeed in real interviews.
“We got to use some of the tools we learned from Sauder’s Business Career Centre and our MBA program in terms of interviewing techniques and interpersonal skills. We presented these skills to women to help them prepare for the workforce,” said Mintz. “That was a major success and I feel they took a lot from it.”
Since the Dress Rehearsal program started, Mintz and Bozzer said some of their clients have already found employment thanks to the network that they helped foster.
“Building connections with people in the business community is one of the best results from the Dress Rehearsal program,” said Bozzer. “It's really hard for these women to apply for jobs over the Internet and even get an interview, so getting them out there in the community is important.”
Now that the trial run has proven successful, part of the Dress Rehearsal program will be moved online. Rather than matching clients to volunteers manually, personal profiles and resumes will be uploaded, and business community volunteers will contact for candidates to interview.
For Bozzer, getting more women into business is not simply about creating more opportunities and equality for women, but about increasing the diversity of good ideas, as well.
“We know that having diversity is key to idea generation, productive teams and innovation,” Bozzer said. “Women bring certain skills that men don't.”
“I think it's important to have women at the table to reflect the customer base,” adds Mintz. “That was one of the takeaways we had from school. Why have a board full of men if half of your customers are women? That’s not really understanding your market.”