Kathy Cain: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar. I’m Kathy Cain, president of Zehno, and I’ll be your moderator today. Your presenters today are Mariska Morse and Shane Shanks. Mariska Morse is vice president of marketing and operations for the Forté Foundation, and Shane Shanks is the editorial director and a senior strategist at Zehno. Now we’ll begin the presentation.
Shane Shanks: My name is Shane Shanks from Zehno. We are a consulting and marketing firm that works exclusively with higher education and with education-related institutions. We do institutional branding, we handle admissions campaigns, we create development campaigns. We also partner with business schools. We’re currently working with TCU and also the University of Iowa.
Mariska Morse: Hi, everyone. I’m Mariska Morse. I’m excited to be with you today. I’m the vice president of marketing and operations with the Forté Foundation. Forté is a nonprofit consortium of companies and business schools that works to increase women in leadership. Specifically we start educating women while they’re in college about what is business, what are careers in business and why they should earn an MBA. We provide programming along the career continuum for women, especially tools for their career, starting with college students, early career women, MBA students and professionals. We’re all about showcasing the possibilities of business careers for women and inspiring them to pursue leadership roles.
Shane Shanks: If you think back 50 years ago, most women didn’t attend college, but these days women make up more than 50 percent of all the students who are enrolled at four year colleges. And the number of women who earn bachelor’s degrees, I think, is a little more than 30 percent of the population now and that outnumbers men. So a lot of progress has been made for women.
Mariska Morse: Absolutely. I know that we have a lot of listeners today who work in business school recruiting. In fact, I saw a lot of names on the list that I’m familiar with, so hello to everybody that’s already a friend of Forté. I’m looking forward to meeting those that are new to Forté. I do want to say thank you to everyone who’s already been a huge part of the movement in terms of increasing the number of women getting their MBAs. We know it’s a life-changing degree and super for women in terms of their career advancement.
I want to give a special shout out to three schools who recently announced their increase in their women’s enrollment this particular year. ASU jumped up 13 percent, Washington Foster jumped up 10 percent and Michigan Ross School of Business jumped up 8 percent, so congrats to those three schools in particular. But I know that a lot of schools are out there doing amazing work. We’re just going to try and build on what’s already been started.
Shane Shanks: Let’s spend a few minutes to see what still needs to be done for women in the MBA world.
Mariska Morse: To get us warmed up, we’ve got a group participation opportunity. This is going to be fun, a quiz. Think of this like a game show, but with no Alex Trebek or Vanna White. We’ll ask a question. The first person who submits the correct answer wins.
Shane Shanks: The good news is the questions are multiple choice, so if you’re not sure, you can just guess—just like you did in college. There will be prizes.
Zehno is based in New Orleans. We’re located across the street from a praline factory, so we will send our fastest, smartest listeners or our best guessers a special treat. Please stop reading your emails, put down the tuna sandwich you’re having for lunch and focus.
Mariska Morse: All right, we’re going to ask you a question. Remember and type your answer in the question box on the right side of the screen. I’ve had the pralines. They’re very delicious, so you’re going to want to be a winner.
Shane Shanks: All right, so here is our first question. Here we go. What’s the average time to recoup full return on investment for an MBA. Is it four years, six years or nine years?
Kathy Cain: All right. We have a winner. It’s Catherine, who guessed four years.
Shane Shanks: Right.
Mariska Morse: Good job, Catherine.
Shane Shanks: This is a great fact to share in recruiting. All potential MBA folks, both men and women, want to weigh the value of their investments. Cost is always a concern. We’ll talk a little bit later about how it’s one of the inhibiting factors for women.
Mariska Morse: Okay, here’s the next question. What’s the typical pay gain for women MBAs within five years of graduation? 28 percent, 36 percent or 55 percent?
Kathy Cain: Okay, Lisa guessed right at 55 percent.
Mariska Morse: Nice work, Lisa. The first question that Shane mentioned was really about recouping the cost and this one is more about the return. For some of you, your programs might have even better numbers to make your case for the value of an MBA.
Shane Shanks: Here’s our next question. Get your fingers ready. All right. What percentage of female Fortune 100 CEOs earns MBAs? Is it 50 percent, 63 percent or 81 percent?
Kathy Cain: Nobody has got it right yet. Uh-oh.
Mariska Morse: Come on.
Kathy Cain: All right, Sarah just got it right. It’s 50 percent.
Shane Shanks: More and more, the MBA credential is becoming an important prerequisite for those top jobs in business.
Mariska Morse: All right. Last question here. For those of you who may or may not be familiar with Forté, 5,000 women have pursued MBAs as Forté Fellows. What’s the cumulative value of those fellowships over the past 15 years?
Shane Shanks: Is it $12 million, $42 million or $110 million?
Kathy Cain: Jessica got right at 110 million.
Mariska Morse: I might know that Jessica. Good job, Jessica.
Remember this Forté fellowship program is a very young program, actually. As I mentioned the first fellowships were awarded in 2003 and now we’re through the class of 2015. So we’ve gone from zero to $110 million in 13 years. Breaking it down, that’s about $20 million a year now with 1,100 fellows, so we’re very proud of those numbers. All right, Shane. I think we’ve got to get moving here.
Shane Shanks: All right, so here’s the agenda for today. We are going to talk about today’s women: who they are, how to reach them. We’ll walk you through some research that tells you what they’re interested in and what they’re not so interested in. Then we will look at the Forté Foundation’s brand refresh, which happened over the last couple of years. We’ll show you how we incorporated that research into the content of style of the revised brand. Then we’ll finish with some tips that you can use in your own efforts to recruit more women to your business school.
Mariska Morse: Okay. This is going to be fun. Let’s go. There are going to be several sections to my minutes with you here today—five questions that we’re going to review in terms of the strategies. One is, Who are they? Which we’ll tackle first. Then we’re going to go into Where are they? Then What do they want? Why not an MBA? and How do you talk to them? We’re going to answer those five questions.
Another thing that I want you to keep in mind as we’re moving through this is the funnel. As we know, college is not the primary place that most of you start talking to them, but think about college as the top of the funnel in terms of planting the seed.
Then the next step in the funnel is really women around the age 22 to 25. Three years there as they’re in the workforce, and then it’s really about age 26 or 27 when they’re getting into the application process. Think about how these strategies that we’re presenting can be applied to those different stages in the funnel.
We’re going to start off with Who are they? Beyond the demographics.
Persona—I’m sure this word has come up. It’s a little bit of a buzzword right now, but it’s very applicable to what we’re talking about today. I’m going to give you an example of two personas that we’ve created at Forté.
This is Focused Fiona. Meet Fiona. She’s a sophomore at NYU. She’s majoring in business. She’s in the Women in Business Club and the Finance Club. She’s got an on-campus job as a work-study student. In her freshman summer year, her summer job was an admin in her dad’s office. And then in her sophomore year, she did apply to Google, Deloitte and Ernst & Young. Her career interest is consulting or finance.
“Hi. I’m Fiona. I think I want to go into consulting or finance, but I’m not sure which one. I want to find a company that is inspiring, that does cool things, is innovative. And they should offer a career path that’s energetic and creative. My career goal is to get a challenging job, but I don’t want it to be my life. Ideally I want a company that has something I believe in or that has a cause that I can support. You know that granola bar called KIND? That’s pretty cool.”
That’s Fiona. You might wonder, well, why is she a target? It’s because she’s still trying to figure out which direction she’s going. From a Forté perspective, we are helping her down that path of answering those questions around consulting or finance.
Fiona has visited the career center. She’s met a nice person from Deloitte, she’s talked to a friend about EY. She likes articles that have checklists. She reads about people that work in consulting or finance.
How can Forté help Fiona? We can make sure that we’re sending her programs that are relevant to her interest areas, that the messaging is relevant to what’s she’s thinking about and that the people that we introduce her to, and the resources that we provide, are relevant. The keyword here is relevance.
Here’s our next persona, Emily. Emily is exploring. Emily is a junior at the University of Minnesota. She’s majoring in econ and philosophy. She is co-president of the student council. She has an on-campus job as a sales rep at the bookstore. She’s had a couple of different summer jobs. Emily is exploring.
“Hi, I’m Emily. I don’t really know what kind of job I want when I graduate. I really like philosophy, but I don’t think that’s going to get me a job, so I’m taking some classes in econ and entrepreneurship too (my dad told me I should). I’ve had a couple of good internships to explore different ideas, but my career exploration efforts happen when I have time. I go to the career services office. I look at a school job or internship portal. I’m checking out some company websites. Mom suggested that I create a LinkedIn profile, so I’ve checked that off the list. But it can get really overwhelming. Sometimes I just don’t know what direction to go.”
Exploring Emily and Focused Fiona are two very different personas. I want to just start off today with giving those examples to just say that is what Forté is doing to understand our target audiences.
But who are your current customers? Who do you want your customers to be? Our suggestion is to create a persona for each of your desired segments. Once you’ve identified those different personas, then tailor your message to each one, and ensure that what you are delivering is relevant. This is definitely the “What’s in it for me?” generation.
All right, let’s move on to the where question. You understand who your targets are. Now you need to go and find them. In this next couple of sections, I’m going to be jumping into some data. I just want you to know that my very different sources include NACE, Universum, GMAC and Forté. Before I even go to the first slide I’m going to mention some NACE research that I thought was interesting, but I didn’t include here. In NACE research on the labor force interests of graduating seniors planning to enter the workforce, 24 percent of the women were going into nonprofit organizations (compared to 7 percent of men), and 14 percent of women were going into teaching (compared to 5 percent of men), and 49 percent of women are going into the private sector (but compared to men it’s 72 percent). If you want women, you’ve got to go where they are after they graduate from college.
Here’s another source from Universum speaking to the same idea. This was done for women aged 21. The most preferred industries for women are media and advertising, shown there at the top. They far outpace men. MBA is a great fit for this industry, but there are not a lot of MBA role models in ad agencies.
So what can you do? Find your school’s role models within your alumna group and go to where those women are in media and advertising. Make that message relevant for them in terms of why an MBA would fit for women in that industry. Yes, they’re in management and consulting and banking and finance, but there are a lot of role models in those industries already.
Same with the company division. Number one again is marketing. 40 percent, women outpace men.
Women are also in accounting and HR, and they could use some special outreach.
Again, where are the women once they graduate from college? What are the industries and what are the divisions? This slide, from the Forté database, shows the top 10 industries for early career women, aged 25 to 30. The numbers that stand out to me are 8 percent in nonprofit and 6 percent in education. Again, 13 percent in consulting, and 7 percent investment and banking. Yes, but they have the role models in those industries. I do believe that the women in those more traditional business industries will come to the MBA door more naturally than those women who are in nonprofit and education, government and retail.
So know where to find the women. Also from a functions perspective on the other side of the slide, they’re typically in consulting, analyst, project management and so on.
All right, I’m going to move on to our next section here. What are their aspirations or, more specifically, their wants? You have to understand what’s important to women, what they want from their career, so that you can help them see how your MBA program is going to support their goals. Let’s start off with some data, again from Universum, about career goals of U.S. college women. The top three goals all outpace men. It’s always interesting to me to just see which one bubbles to the top and then how is it different from men. These three—work-life balance, security-instability and being dedicated to a cause or serving a greater good— are career goals of U.S. college women, at least the top ones. That’s very interesting to keep in mind.
Then this next slide is looking at a survey we did with Forté members. This was about what was most important to them in their careers. This is a little bit different. This is not about goals, but just what are they looking for in their career? This is important if they’re going to take a two-year break from their career, right? I think it’s saying the same interests apply: having a friendly environment, having challenging work, a collaborative environment, a place that is exciting and of course performance. Those are critical in terms of their careers.
All right, employer attributes. I thought that this data was particularly interesting, not the line specifically, but if you look at the categories. If you look at the color categories on the bottom, we’ve got orange for employer reputation, green for remuneration and advancement, blue for people and culture and black for job characteristics. What stood out to me on this slide was that on the female chart, there are four boxes in the blue category—so people and culture. That’s four on the female side versus with men, it’s three. Women outpace men in terms of the people and culture, in terms of the attributes that they’re seeking from their employer.
Then the secondary note is that the men have two orange boxes representing employer reputation and image. Things like rankings are definitely more important to men versus people and culture, which are definitely more important to women. Again, keep that in mind as you’re positioning your school to your target audience.
All right, career progression. As women are progressing in their career, what are the things that they’re looking for? This was a very good survey to early career women. We had about 423 responses to this particular question in terms of what is the most important aspect of their career. I circled the ones that bubbled to the top. They want to do work that is fulfilling, work that maximizes their earnings, work where they’re learning all the time and mastering skills to be a high performer. Those all make good sense, absolutely. If that’s what important to them, that’s good to know, right?
But what’s standing in their way? We know now what’s important to them in their career, but now we have to understand what the barriers are so that when you are talking to them, you can position your program as a solution to these problems. Let’s look at what’s standing in their way. Number one, bubbles to the top, is their employer. Their employer is standing in their way. Great. Well, an MBA can help them find a new employer! That’s a good fit.
Number two, they want to switch their careers. Well, perfect. The MBA is an ideal tool to pivot their career.
Number three, is lack of an advanced degree. Sold! A, B and C: your MBA can solve all of their problems, so we just need to position it accordingly.
Unfortunately that’s not the only barrier, however. You’re helping them to solve some problems in terms of their career progression, but they do have one more barrier to address. That’s the barrier to the actual MBA application process. This might be before or during the application process. The first slide here is the top reasons women pursue an MBA. I’m going to skip over that because I’m thinking everyone on the call probably knows why women pursue an MBA, but those stats will be on the slides in case you need to reference them.
I’d rather focus on this slide here, which is about what gets in the way during the application process — either before they start or during. In the 15 years that I have been in this business of promoting business careers and promoting an MBA to women, these two issues have absolutely remained the same. That is number one, around the GMAT and GRE. And number two, unsure of how to finance.
About financing the degree: women tend to overthink this in terms of short-term investment. We have to help them think long-term about how the MBA will continue to be an ROI for them over the course of their career—and not just in the next five years. Then around the GMAT and GRE: how can we help them get over that hurdle? How can you help, right? You can encourage women to take the GMAT in college. You can suggest some GMAT prep resources. You can introduce them to students who just went through the experience, and certainly all schools are best poised to provide information and people for them to talk to.
So your focus should be helping them solve their problems: the career progression issues I mentioned and then these specific application barriers.
All right, we are getting to the last question here, which is What is their language? I’m going to mention some words that resonate and also the best approach and some channel insights.
This slide shows some words to keep in mind as you are developing your communication materials. We did a survey to Forté women that asked them about how do they want to be perceived in terms of their career. These are words that bubbled to the top: leader, innovative, dedicated, driven, ambitious. They want to be perceived as these words portray.
This next slide is a survey that we did about asking women what was most interesting to them when reading different kinds of career information. This was a survey that said, “What was most compelling to you when you were reading different kinds of information?” Number one was that they were looking for information about women who work in an industry that they are interested in. Then the second is stories that detail the career path to success. The third one was that they shared a major or academic area. These are all pretty significant. The industry: 73 percent. The career path to success: 55 percent.
What this means is you need to make your content relevant and really sell the experience first—and the school second. If they don’t understand the value of the experience, then there’s no need to even sell the school.
Here’s a really quick example. We did an ad campaign in the spring, an eight-week ad campaign targeted to college students. The result was 142,000 landing page visits. Of those landing page visits, there were about 11,400 clicks. Of that 11,400 clicks, 10,000 of them were clicks on the testimonials views, the stories about three women that have their MBA. It’s just a perfect example to say the content is what’s important, that women are thirsty for the stories.
All right, two final things here about how you can reach them and the best kind of format. Blog articles are definitely very interesting to women. Lists, they love the 1-2-3-4-five. Then if we’re looking at channels, I think this probably isn’t much of a surprise, but Facebook is very popular and then Instagram. Surprisingly on the lower side is Twitter. I think some of the younger women are just getting into LinkedIn.
In conclusion, just in terms of this section of speaking with you today, I would say three things. One, go where the women are at all stages of the funnel. Number two, make your message relevant to your target. Number three, sell the experience first. All right, Shane, I’m going to hand it over to you.
Shane Shanks: Zehno worked with Forté on a brand refresh. We started rolling out the tools about two years ago. I want to walk you through the process and show you how the decisions that were made about messages, content and design were definitely in reaction to the data that Mariska just talked about. We really focused on reaching the audience segments that she described, plus a couple of others that you haven’t heard about yet.
For this project, Zehno used the same process we used when we are working with all the colleges and universities that we partner with, so we began with an audit where we reviewed the research, we looked at the competitors, we learned about the different audiences. We found that Forté was doing a lot of things right, so that’s why we needed only a brand refresh, not a complete overhaul.
You can see a sample of the old Forté materials here. They were professional, but the look didn’t really match what Forté had become. It looked a little bit more like a typical nonprofit. It didn’t have that sense of energy needed to reach all the audiences. Also, we really needed to elevate the people stories. That’s what the research just showed. These stories were not rising to the top in their current materials. Remember that research seemed to say over and over, “Show me the stories.”
The next phase is to work through the communications plan. Forté had a robust plan already in place, so our work at Zehno was more about the positioning and then about sharpening the key messages.
We reviewed the existing messages and guess what? They were still relevant 15 years later, but they needed to be pruned. Like many organizations, Forté was probably saying too many things and needed to focus on a few points that audiences could remember.
The background up to this point is really about informing the next step in the brand refresh process: this was the mood board workshop. What’s a mood board? It’s a way that we can show the creative direction before we develop an entire campaign. The mood board shows a concept. It’s about a vibe that matches your strategy.
The mood board shows inspirations, in the same way that interior designers will give you the carpet samples or the paint colors before they start the whole renovation. In the mood board, we’re looking at the typefaces, the color palettes, the photo styles. You don’t have real photos in place. You have inspirations because you haven’t done the photo shoot yet. You don’t have final text ready to go because you haven’t done the writing, but maybe you have some sample headlines that show the voice.
We presented two different brand concepts. You can see a sampling, a summary of our mood boards here. The first concept we called “Let’s Keep Moving.” The next generation of women really know that women can make it to the top in business, so this concept didn’t have to focus on knocking down barriers. It was more about keeping the sense of momentum going. The key element in this concept is the word “let’s.” Let’s keep moving. It’s about the idea that we’re all in this together. We’re trying to build this sense of community of women helping other women.
If you look at the mood board you can see a few of the elements. You can see it’s a bold set of colors. We’ve got numeric steps — one, two and three — that outline what you should do. There are some quirky illustrations that show some different types of women. There’s a photo style that’s very young, very spirited, maybe a little bit from the fashion world. That was concept one.
Here’s concept two. We call this one “Turn It Up.” When the Forté Foundation uses its name Forté, it’s using “forte” in the sense of helping you find your strength. But there’s actually this whole other definition of the word Forté — and it’s about volume. This concept was about pumping the volume. It was about bravery, leadership. We wanted to use a set of role models to connect different generations of women in business.
On this mood board, you can see the elements. There’s a more classic typeface. We would pepper it with one that was very ornamental. (That typeface is used on the phrase that says, “She’s no shrinking violet.”) This concept is a little bit more formal. The palette is quieter. We used some crest shapes that we thought could be sidebars to hold information. Again the centerpiece of this concept will be these success stories where we would identify specific people and then shoot them like they were the Fast Company cover story.
Here’s the summary of these two concepts. I’m showing them to you side by side. I’ll ask you: which one do you think was the winner? Mariska, what do you remember about concept one, “Let’s Keep Moving,” that stood out and resonated?
Mariska Morse: Yes, I was definitely the typical client, I guess, because I liked a little bit of each. But for “Let’s Keep Moving,” what stood out to me was the sense of community. Forté is definitely, especially when it comes to women, a very strong online community. We want women to be connecting with each other, sort of across peers as well as with the companies and with each other. So that sense of community was really important to us. I also loved the fresh, bright colors in concept one. That just made everything look and feel high-energy.
Shane Shanks: What about concept two, where we were using the role models and the success stories?
Mariska Morse: Yes. I was giving Zehno a little bit of challenge here because I said, “Oh, I do like stuff in concept two,” which was that feeling of aspiration. It goes back to some of those words that I mentioned earlier in the presentation, where women want to feel like they are being the leaders and they are being brave, and that they are going out there as the next leaders of the generation. That aspirational feeling and the photography that shows strength were really critical in concept two.
Shane Shanks: Right. We went with concept two, but with a couple of alterations. We brought in the idea of “let’s” because it’s really about this network of women. We also brought in those numbered steps. We weren’t going to just show the role models; we would give you the specific steps you could take if you wanted to reach that same level of success. That’s the “one, two, three” shown here.
All right, the next step in our process is what we call the brand vision. This is when you flesh out the concept. You’re looking at how the concept could be portrayed across the various audience groups, how you would express it creatively in the specific tools. The brand vision is really where the concept stops being a concept. It’s not just an idea. It starts to become more real.
So here’s our revised concept, how we’ve written it up. It’s called “Let’s Turn It Up!” The keyword is “let’s” for the sense of community.
The next slide shows you an example of a Zehno brand vision. You have to use your imagination here a little bit because the brand vision that we produced is actually a giant print, maybe 25 feet long or so. It shows the key tools in your brand. The important thing about the brand vision is that it lets you see at a glance how the messaging and the tools and all those style elements work together to capture the spirit of the brand. The brand vision is a great tool for an internal team because you post it on the wall and you can refer back to it as you start to roll out your campaign. You can always ask, “Are we staying on brand?”
The brand vision shows you all the elements in the brand look and feel. I showed you the verbiage about the concept and the goals of the team messages already. Then the brand vision also covers the style elements, so let me walk you through those. There’s the photography. We’re looking at inspiration shots. We wanted to have all the women look like total rock stars, like in Fast Company or Wired. We suggested using a neutral background so that the people themselves would always be the focus. You wouldn’t be distracted by the cool stapler on the executive’s desk. This was also a good logistic decision because the role models might be in different cities and they could be consistently portrayed, but shot in different locations.
Mariska Morse: Is Helen Mirren in our database?
Shane Shanks: We want her to be. Let’s get her signed up!
That was the photo style. Then we looked at the graphic elements. We polished those up from the mood board and extended them. We introduced some giant quote marks. We made those crest shapes a little more ornamental and brightened up the colors.
This is the type of graphic system and color palette. We kept one typeface with a lot of flourish. That’s the second one there. We’re using that very sparingly. We kept Forté blue and green, and added some of the brighter colors. We also paired a set of neutral colors, which is the charcoal, gray and tan.
Then there’s a section on the vision where you start to show sample tools and you show how the elements would all come together. We suggested a set of key message postcards, where the “let’s” idea is up front: “Let’s Make Tracks, Let’s Work Together, Let’s Move Ahead, Let’s Be Brave.” On the back side we describe what the messages mean, and how Forté can be involved and help you.
For the homepage, as Mariska mentioned, Forté has members around the globe, so the website needs to be a real hub for this community. We suggested doing a reskin and reorganization of the website. Some of the key changes included using sliders at the top that would show these role model stories and elevating this blog called Business 360°, which is really a treasure trove of success stories and business insights, career tips and industry-specific advice. It was a little hidden on the old site.
This slide is showing you some other slider types that could make the case for “Let’s Turn It Up”. You could use one of the statistics like we used at the beginning of this webinar instead of specific stories. There’s a profile page where we would tell the role model story. It needs to have a killer photo. We suggested a diagram that shows the career progression and the mini profile so you could read the stories.
Mariska Morse: I wanted to jump in here on both of these slides to talk about what the research was saying. This is a combination of showing that strength as well as the story, but presented in a way that has the list so that it’s very easy and skimmable for women to read. It’s engaging. It’s a fun way to get through some information.
Shane Shanks: Forté communicates a lot through email, so we needed multiple formats so the emails didn’t blur all together. Here’s a sample that shows leading with a key message. There’s the list format that shows you the series of steps to take. There’s one that centers around the profile stories. Another one that’s about a specific event that you should attend.
We also do a college flyer. This is something that would be handed out on campuses. Starts with an attention-grabbing line. “Don’t be the assistant. Be the boss.” It’s got those numeric steps to give you some resources, maybe some conferences for you to attend. This is an attempt to appeal to the people who aren’t necessarily 100 percent sure that they want a career in business.
Then the brand vision folds in some other tools like signage, banners for some events.
We imagined a campaign to help women share their personal goals. This says, “I aspire to” and then you fill in the blank. We thought this could work great in a conference setting where you would share with other women attending or in an online format, where you’re asking people to join Forté or perhaps donate to help fund another fellowship.
In social media, we showed how these tools could run across social platforms. Here we’re using the same kind of signature headlines, stats and photo style.
You’ve seen the vision. At this point, the next step is that you actually create the tools to get them in the marketplace. In our case, these finished pieces stayed pretty close to the original vision, so let me show you some highlights here.
Here’s the finished website, fortefoundation.org. The role models are there front and center. “She is innovative, curious and sincere.” That’s the role model. There’s a calendar of things to do. The Business 360° blog, it’s front and center. There’s a push to join. There’s a spotlight event and a couple of other factors there.
We gave this role models campaign a name. It’s called MBAs on the Move. Here you can see the finished photography. It’s beautiful. Every woman looks like a total rock star. We’re using that ornamental typeface just to bring up some keywords in the headline, so “Disrupt the norm,” that sort of thing. We brought a mix of industries. There’s finance, there’s marketing. There are some buzz companies there, Twitter, entrepreneurs. This is the starter set and it will grow over time.
Remember how we talked about we were going to write these profiles as stories? Mariska pointed out that these would say more if we did them as videos and people could tell their own stories.
Video 1: I’m Amanda Magliaro. I’m the head of global structured finance distribution at Citi. I’ve been at Citi Group almost 13 years, so I’m a post-business school lifer at Citi. I followed the firm through the ups and the downs in the financial crisis. I work on the trading floor, which is a place full of energy. Every day is a different day. I worked on a transaction that was in a very hard market. The issuer or company trying to raise debt was very unsure of what level, what credit spread the debt was going to price. At one point during the transaction, when it wasn’t going well, I said to the issuer, “If this trade does not price at the level I gave you, I will eat my shoe.” There was silence on the other end of the phone as the banker got very nervous about my comment, because the banker needs to deliver what the client wants.
He was very nervous that I was over my skis and couldn’t deliver what I said I’d deliver. We worked through the transaction. It priced and it priced at my level, not everyone else’s level. It was exactly what I said it would be.
The next day I came in to the office and moved on to the next transaction. I totally forgot about what had happened. About 10 a.m. a package arrived. I opened up the package and it was a package of cookies of high heels, all decorated beautifully. The note on the package said, “Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world.”
Shane Shanks: There’s a little sample of the beginning of the video. You get how the woman can share her own experience about her confident decision. Later in the video, she gets to tips for other women who want to follow in her pathway.
Mariska Morse: I love that video, Shane. It’s so inspirational.
Shane Shanks: Then here’s the Business 360° Blog, which is loaded up with the success stories. You can sort by industry, you can sort by career stage, videos, other factors. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you definitely should. This is the main page.
The individual posts look more like this. Again, the idea is you want to get as many voices as you can. We want to let people see people in their industry or with their background. On the left you could hear from a current MBA student. On the right you can learn about leadership in the manufacturing world.
Then we also did our own version of Focused Fiona and Elusive Emily in the illustration style that was on those original mood boards. Here are the personas used by Forté. We’ve got the Pathfinder. That’s the college student who’s finding her own way. The Driver is the pre-MBA woman. She might be interested, but she might need some convincing. You’ve got the Game Changer. That’s the MBA student. Then the Trailblazers are the working professionals.
At your school, as Mariska mentioned, you might have some different personas. Maybe you have Career Changers. Are you the place where an orchestra conductor can come and get an MBA? Maybe so. Maybe you’re great with military backgrounds, people who need to apply their skills in the business world. Maybe you’re great with the helpers, the nonprofits, the healthcare. You want to develop the personas that work for you.
The website is organized around these audience personas. On each landing page is a copy block that summarizes the stage so that you can see how it applies to you. Here on the left there’s a typical page and then the examples on the right are just those blurbs that help describe the group. So for example, “Get ready for your MBA. Forté helps women throughout the MBA process — from consideration to graduation — helping you to maximize your experience.” That’s a sample.
There are a lot of conference materials for Forté. The trick is to make each conference seem a little bit different but have them all relate. It looks like they’re coming from the same place.
This one is for Forté Forum.
Mariska Morse: Yeah. If you haven’t heard of our Forté Forum, it is a great event for a prospective MBA students at any stage, whether they’re just in consideration mode or actively in the application process. It’s also open to non-Forté schools, so I’m happy to talk to anyone who’s interested more about our Forté Forum event, specifically for your prospective students or if you as a school are interested.
Shane Shanks: The conference packages have emails, invitations, flyers, a whole set.
Then some event collateral. These are audience-specific print pieces that you pick up when you attend a Forté event. We’ve used the same key-message style of headline. They list the next steps for you to become more involved with Forté.
For International Women’s Day, Forté launched a campaign to get members to make a small donation that would help other women. This campaign was asking: Who is the woman we should put on our currency? I should mention that this came out right before Harriet Tubman was chosen to be on the $20 bill. This series had a whole parade of nominees. There was Oprah.
Mariska Morse: Beyoncé!
Shane Shanks: Yeah. And Sheryl Sandberg. I was pulling for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mariska was for Beyoncé. Her choice would have been cooler.
All right, so you’ve seen the research. You’ve seen how it was shaped into the Forté brand. Let’s talk about some tips that you use at your own institution.
Mariska Morse: We’ve seen some questions coming in, so we’re just going to finish up quickly here and then we’ll definitely get to your questions.
Shane Shanks: Yes, exactly. We want to end on an upbeat note, so we’re going to start out with the don’ts.
Mariska Morse: The mistakes you shouldn’t make. Okay, so don’t treat all women the same. Absolutely segment your audience. Try to create these personas because it will really help you get inside the minds that you’re speaking to.
Don’t spend a lot of resources developing a separate women’s campaign. I hope this is not confusing, but you really want to incorporate these ideas and strategies into your overall campaign. If there is money and time at the end of the day to create something separate, great. But really your overall brand outreach should incorporate these strategies.
Don’t just sell your school. I said that a couple of times. For women in particular, it’s about the experience, it’s about the outcome. They need to touch it, feel it and then the school attributes come second. They’ll understand that your school is delivering the outcome.
Don’t rely too much on the rankings. As I said in the data points, it’s really beyond the rankings. It’s that people and culture that women are interested in.
Don’t walk away from those ambassador outreach efforts because it’s really those personal contacts that are so effective for women—and men, frankly. Personal contacts give a lot of cues about the environment.
Shane Shanks: Let’s talk about the things that you should do. One of the things that we think is really important is focusing on the storytelling. You remember that is what the Forté research said: tell us the story. So we looked for some examples out in the MBA world of schools that we thought were doing a good job. Here’s the one from the UC Berkeley admissions. The B-school hit a recent record high in women’s enrollment. I think it was 43 percent, something like that.
What does that mean for you as a student? This blog tells you in a series of posts. First you hear from a woman who describes what it feels like there. She talks about the club she’s involved with personally. She talks about planning a conference and the skills that she gained from that. There’s another post that’s from a man. It features his perspective. He described what it is that his female teammates bring to the group projects. He identifies a class called Investing for Women—it was one of the best classes and describes why— and which is taught by one of the best professors, who happened to be a woman. That’s just a side note.
The point is, the story here is not presented as something that’s only for women or that only they should care about. It’s not tucked away on separate blog for women. It’s on the main blog. It’s for everyone.
Here’s another great example of storytelling. The facts are great, as we mentioned, and we don’t want to discount using facts. But the stories are what gives the facts meaning. Here’s the example in a video from Willamette University.
Video 2: Joan Reukauf: Being a chief operations officer for a small bank, you wear many hats. There were some changes that happened, that landed me in an interim CEOO. That was when I really felt like I needed just a little bit more education. An MBA is something that I always knew I would do some day, but as you get married and you have a family, those things get put off.
Debra J. Ringold: It became pretty clear that there are a lot of people who wanted to do an MBA that were not able to stop out and go back full time.
Alex Subert: The MBA for Professionals program is designed to be a part-time MBA program condensed into six semesters for working professionals to have some management experience or are looking to enter in some more of a management role and need more business exposure.
David M. Carroll: We designed our program to be done in two nights a week. You come over right after work. It’s going to be a rigorous program. You’re going to be challenged, but you’re going to learn so much.
Doug Evans: Willamette tries to make this as easy on the students as they can. They provide catered meals. We provide books. That’s all included in your tuition.
Alex Subert: The nice thing about our program is that it’s a set tuition rate for six semesters. You have no tuition increases while you’re here.
David M. Carroll: It’s a great format for those who are working hard and they want to balance everything.
Joan Reukauf: What my MBA did for me was show me I can do anything. I know that I’ve opened doors that are there any time I want to walk through them. I like to think that I’ve been a role model for my family. They’ve seen that you can do more, you can be more, and a little farther in education gets you a lot farther in life.
Shane Shanks: A lot of people could identify with the woman in that clip. We like how that video discusses some of those barrier issues — like work-life balance — without making them seem like an issue that’s only important to women.
As Mariska mentioned, you don’t want to just sell the school — sell the whole experience. This is a great example from TCU, where the MBA program was doing experiential learning as part of the curriculum way before other schools. There’s consulting, there are travel courses, there’s an investment fund, competition teams, that kind of thing.
One of the programs there has students brainstorm alongside the C-level executives, and that inspired this postcard called “Fear the Pretzel.” In this case, it’s telling the story about how students partnered with Frito-Lay to think through what it means when a merger happens that results in one of your competitors acquiring the number two pretzel company. You could just talk about the work, “experiential learning,” which is a little boring. You could mention the name of the program, which doesn’t say much. Or you could tell the story. That’s what draws people in.
Elusive Emily, she needs to know: What does it feel like? What happens in the classroom? How will this MBA make me think differently? How could I make it different? How would business be challenging to me?
Some other examples in this print piece: “What Should Pepsi Do.” That’s telling the story of a consulting team that was hired to boost Pepsi sales in Walmart stores. As a student, you’re working with the world’s number two beverage company and the world’s number one retailer. Then “Steak with a Side of Swoosh” is describing a dinner series where you have a small dinner with a C-level executive. About four students had a private discussion with the VP at Nike and he was so impressed that he hired them to be consultants for his company after the dinner was over.
Finally, definitely show off the culture of your school. This is a viewbook from Vanderbilt that does a great job throughout the whole piece, but we especially like this page as a way to describe the culture. It starts with this great headline: “We welcome you to our family — and that goes double for your family.” It talks about the Partners Association. It covers spouses, fiances, partners, families, all the options. Talks about your resources for jobs and childcare. We think it’s great.
You want to think about what are the strengths at your school. They might not be these same things, so play to what you do best. That might be, at your school, it might be at a teamwork culture. It might be community service. Maybe it’s football, tailgating or some of those traditions that are meaningful. So choose those that add the most.
Then finally you want to identify your sub-audiences and response then. Think about your own personas. Include that list format that lets people know what to do next. If you really want to help get more women into an MBA program, we’ve all got to pay more attention to the Elusive Emily.
Shane Shanks: All right. How about some questions?
Kathy Cain: Thank you, Shane and Mariska. We’ve got lots of questions that are coming in. There’s one from Connor, that is asking, “Where can I find Elusive Emily? I know what to say to her, but where is she?”
Mariska Morse: Well, she’s in those industries that I talked about. She’s majored in econ and philosophy, and I see that econ double major a lot with college students, when they’re not exactly sure what to do as a liberal arts majors. They are intending to go into the areas of nonprofit, government and healthcare.
What I often say to these college students is this: business skills are required in any industry that you go to. Once she’s out of college, how do you find Emily? We really need to be going to the associations that Emily might join. If she’s going into marketing, she might be a member of the American Marketing Association, or a healthcare organization.
She’s certainly online, so there are definitely career websites that are more tailored to women’s careers, like Forté. There are some other ones too. Her Campus is more for college students, but HelloGiggles is an interesting website to check out. You need to find Emily in these different industries where she has landed her first job.
But it’s definitely easier to find her in college. You don’t want to wait until she’s 26 because at that point the opportunity has passed.
Kathy Cain: Okay, we have another question from Jennifer: “Why shouldn’t we do a separate campaign for women?”
Mariska Morse: Like I said, I think it’s not that I’m saying you shouldn’t do a separate campaign if you have the time and money, but the priority is making sure that you integrate these strategies into your main outreach and your overall brand proposition. You don’t want to be saying, “Here’s our Brand A and then we have this separate Brand B for women.” You need to be thinking, when you’re developing those personas, that there might be three women personas and three male personas. But you’re still tailoring your message to each of those segments. You’re delivering your brand value proposition to the six segments, but your message might be a little bit different depending on which audience segment you’re talking to. Focused Fiona wants to talk to different alumnae than Exploring Emily. You’re not changing your overall strategy. You’re shifting your message according to the specific audience segment.
Shane Shanks: This webinar is really about attracting women, but I will say that if you do a better job at capturing what the experience looks like and feels like in your MBA program, or if you can really show what people do in their careers later on that’s fulfilling and challenging and inspiring, that’s going to strengthen your program for men as well. So don’t think that you have to choose between either recruiting men or women because a lot of these strategies that will reach women and be very successful will also be gangbusters for the men.
Kathy Cain: Absolutely. I think we have time for one more question. This is from Julia: “To what extent is the finance concern due to women thinking about starting a family and unsure how that will affect their career down the road?”
Mariska Morse: I think it’s a very relevant consideration. That’s why talking to women about the long-term investment is so important because if they are just thinking about starting a family, that might be five or seven years and absolutely there might be a choice to off-ramp. But where that MBA is going to be so critical is helping them on-ramp. The message for women who are thinking about, “Well, is the return on investment there for me if I’m going to take some time off to start a family?” is that much more critical. Because the MBA will give them the flexibility to on-ramp, or whatever those career shifts are over time. The MBA will help them navigate their career changes.
Women tend to think more about just the first five years. “I’m going to have a family” and they start coming up with the reasons why that MBA is not going to give them the ROI. What they don’t realize is none of us are going to get to retire! I’m kidding. We certainly hope to retire, but they have a ways to go. It’s 20 years. It’s 25 years. They need to be thinking not just about the short period of time when they start their family, but that the MBA can help them over the course of their career.
Kathy Cain: Well, thank you, Shane and Mariska. This information was very helpful. We’d like to thank everyone for attending the webinar. If you have any questions, feel free to email any of us. On behalf of our presenters, thank you for joining us today and have a great rest of your day.
Mariska Morse: Thank you.
Shane Shanks: Thank you.
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