Vanderbilt’s Forté Membership is a Win-Win for Women

From the Fall 2014 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Sandra Cochran
One of the Forté Foundation’s goals—and Vanderbilt’s—is to increase the number of women with MBAs and in top management positions. Sandra Cochran, BE’80, represents both. Cochran is CEO of Fortune 1000 corporation Cracker Barrel and earned an MBA after graduating from the Vanderbilt School of Engineering. She recently talked to Owen students about leadership and corporate strategy as part of the student-organized distinguished speaker series.

Owen joined an exclusive group of business schools committed to supporting and recruiting women when it became a sponsor of the Forté Foundation in July.

The foundation is a nonprofit consortium of schools and corporations dedicated to increasing the number of women in business and helping them learn and achieve. Owen underwent a rigorous application process and vetting before being invited to join. It was one of only six schools accepted for membership in 2014 and is now one of 48 business school sponsors in the United States, Canada and Europe. This was the first year the group accepted membership applications from schools since 2011.

Forté selects sponsor schools strategically, based upon their capability to reach women as prospective MBA students and their ability to provide connections to potential sponsor companies. The schools must also add diversity to Forté in some way, so the foundation also considers school location, size, undergraduate pipeline and programs, and a proven commitment to female leadership.

“The Owen School is fortunate to have strong female leadership,” Dean Eric Johnson says, noting that top positions throughout the school are held by women and that both the alumni association and Owen Graduate Student Association are currently led by women. “Joining with Forté expands our support of women and provides opportunities for our students, alumni and prospective students.”

Christie St-John, director of MBA and MS Finance admissions, led Vanderbilt’s effort to join Forté. As someone on the front lines talking to potential students, she saw how Owen’s goals and those of Forté were aligned. Nationwide, women are less likely to apply to business school than men are—something Owen and the Forté Foundation seek to change.

In addition to the foundation’s commitment to increasing the number of women in the early business pipeline, the organization helps corporations and its partners reach, recruit and retain top female talent. It also provides resources and benefits to women at all career stages and offers fellowships through its Forté Fellows program.

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