MIT Sloan attracts promising women in business and management

“I want every woman coming in next year to have as extraordinary an experience as I had.”

December 18, 2012


The first in an occasional series about why students choose MIT Sloan.

The most promising women leaders in business and management are finding that MIT Sloan is the right choice for them.

And with MIT Sloan Women in Management (SWIM), one of the school’s most active and influential student clubs, they are finding a community steeped in opportunity and support.

To that end, the MIT Sloan Admissions office hosts a series of panels featuring leading MIT Sloan women alumnae and faculty, as well as online chats for prospective women students.

This spring, SWIM will host its annual brunch at MIT Sloan’s AdMIT Weekend, when accepted MBA students visit campus to explore all the School has to offer.

“I still remember how professional these women were and I remember how many people showed up,” said Katy Dybwad, MBA ’14, about last year’s SWIM brunch. “It was the last thing I went to and it made a lasting impression.”

“I think there’s room for everybody to be strong,” said Dybwad, who applied to MIT Sloan from Burma while working at a product design firm. “It’s not just about strong women. It’s about the humility in all MIT Sloan students. I don’t think there’s an old boys club culture at MIT Sloan. It’s a ‘Let’s make something’ culture.”

That fits with SWIM’s mission, which calls for members to “increase opportunities for all women at MIT Sloan” with more finite goals of: creating an inviting and supportive community; advancing the careers of current MIT Sloan women; working with faculty, administrators, and the business community to increase opportunity for all women in business; and attracting the most promising female students to MIT Sloan.

“We want to make sure it’s helping women develop professionally,” said Marine Graham, MBA ’13, a co-president of SWIM and the COO of its annual conference. The 2013 conference, slated for Feb. 8, will include talks from JPMorgan Chase treasurer Sandie O’Connor, entrepreneur Alicia Morga, and U.S. Air Force General Janet C. Wolfenbarger. This year’s theme is “Dare to Fail: Taking Risks When it Matters Most.”

For Graham, who teamed with three classmates to start an entrepreneurship committee at SWIM as an antidote to what they saw as a critical, but male-dominated sector of business, the point of SWIM is to provide other students the opportunity and support to make attending MIT Sloan the linchpin they need to develop their lives and careers.

Today, only eight months after attending AdMIT Weekend and committing to MIT Sloan, Katy Dybwad is co-vice president of mentorship at SWIM, together with Denise Bailey-Castro, who began her career at JPMorgan Chase and later worked at education startup The Achievement Network.

For Bailey-Castro the ‘A ha’ moment was the annual Diversity Weekend hosted by MIT Sloan Admissions. She met with school leaders, attended classes, and joined one of MIT Sloan’s C-Functions, weekly culturally-themed community events for students.

“Diversity Weekend was what really sealed the deal for me in terms of ‘Why Sloan?’ and in terms of why I wanted to go now,” she said.

SWIM assigned Bailey-Castro a second-year student mentor to introduce her to MIT Sloan before she even arrived on campus. SWIM’s mentorship program provides a series of arranged meetings between mentors and new students, but Bailey-Castro said her mentor relationship spilled beyond those boundaries to become a stronger, more personal connection.

“I think sometimes people underestimate mentorship or it seems kind of forced,” she said. “But this year’s SWIM leadership did a really good job looking at our background and looking at the current SWIM members and trying to match people who are on the same path and have the same kinds of interests.”

Now, as a leader in the mentorship program, Bailey-Castro said she wants “every woman coming in next year to have as extraordinary an experience as I had.”

Kelsey McCarty, who graduated MIT Sloan with an MBA in 2010, was impressed with the student culture of inclusion and collaboration. As an alumna, she returns to campus to offer feedback when the award-winning case study she co-wrote—detailing work she did with Massachusetts General Hospital to improve patient flow and scheduling before surgery—is taught.

McCarty also speaks at MIT Sloan Admissions events exemplifying the involved and supportive nature of the MIT Sloan alumni community.

“Everyone at MIT Sloan is collaborative,” McCarty said. “Everyone wants to shoot for the moon. Everyone wants to have fulfilling careers. It’s a very supportive environment, and whatever people want out of the MIT Sloan experience, there’s support for you no matter who you are.”