Tiffany LeDonne-Smith, a business program advisor at Oakland University,  speaks at a Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program event May 2.

Tiffany LeDonne-Smith, a business program advisor at Oakland University, speaks at a Women’s Leadership and Mentoring Program event May 2.

Photo provided by Oakland University

Number of women in business schools continues to climb

By: Charity Meier | Metro | Published November 8, 2023

 An enrollment specialist engages with a student at Walsh College.

An enrollment specialist engages with a student at Walsh College.

Photo provided by Walsh College


METRO DETROIT — Women are having an increased presence in the business world, according to recent statistics. Troy’s Walsh College calculates that women are more prevalent than men this semester, with over 53% of the student body being women.

“We are seeing an increase of women in technology, and we want to encourage that,” said Suzy Siegle, the president of Walsh College.

According to Siegle, the majority of female students are going into the fields of accounting, marketing and management. Oakland University said they are seeing an increase in women enrolling in the areas of accounting, human resource management and operations management.

“I would say in the areas of marketing, definitely in management, in the MBA (Master of Business Administration) we are seeing a lot of women business folks who are interested in that,” Siegle said, “We have a great doctoral program in business administration program, and I’ve been impressed when we’ve had the doctoral residencies on our campus. … I’ve been impressed with the strong women leaders who have been enrolling in that program to take their careers to their next level. And a lot of them see opportunities in business coaching and consulting, really taking their careers advancing through that.”

“When I was in business school back in the 1990s pursuing an MBA, fewer than 10% of my class were women,” said Toni M. Somers, the associate dean and a professor of management and information systems at the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business. “Today, in our business school, at least 50% are women. This parallels nationally the rise of women in executive positions and on boards of directors of both Michigan and U.S. corporations. While traditionally there have been fewer women than men in analytics, finance and technology studies, presence is growing in these fields as well.”

Jacqueline M. Stavros, a professor of the College of Business and IT at Lawrence Technological University, said the school can prepare women to pursue a wide range of career paths, such as accounting, finance, marketing, analytics, project management, general manager-types of positions, human resource positions, operations management, supply chain management, information technology, and even start a business.

“I think we need to do more to recruit women into our programs,” said Stavros.

Siegle said Walsh College does have a variety of ways in which it encourages women to go into the business industry. She said they have scholarship opportunities for women going into an emerging field, as well as opportunities through the school’s career services, such as “Lunch and Learn,” where female executives come and present to the students.

“There’s been a lot of great examples in our career fairs where we’ve seen amazing female leaders present,” Siegle said. “So they’re seeing great women in leadership.”

The school also offers flexible programs. Siegle said this enables women, as well as men, to balance school, work, family and other obligations. She said that studies have shown that, especially for women in the workforce who do balance many different obligations, that flexible scheduling is very important to them. She said that the school offers instruction in a variety of ways, including in person, online and a hybrid format.

“That flexibility has been very important for our students so that they don’t have to compromise the quality they deserve for the flexibility they need,” said Siegle.

Tiffany LeDonne-Smith, a graduate of Oakland University and an advisor for the OU business program, founded a mentoring program for women in business. She said she noticed when she started working at the university in 2017 that there were many female students in the business program, but no support services for them specifically. After getting some feedback,  LeDonne-Smith was able to determine that the students “overwhelmingly” wanted and needed both a student organization for women in business and a mentoring program.

In fall 2018, some students founded the student organization Women in Business, which is now one of the largest and most active student organizations in business on the campus today, according to LeDonne-Smith. It offers programming on topics such as  women in leadership, women in various business fields, sexual harassment in the work place, etc., and brings in guest speakers and alumni.

In January 2019 LeDonne-Smith launched the Women’s Leadership and Mentor Program, which pairs female undergraduate students with an alumna businesswoman to mentor them for a year.

“That program has really been phenomenal, because each student who is in the program is connected with someone who obviously works in the profession. … That’s been really great for our students,” said LeDonne-Smith. “The program has just been great for students to have a professional connection, because they might not have someone in their personal life who works in that industry and I also think it’s just beneficial to have … women helping women through navigating that college to career transition.”

Siegle said Walsh College has a proud history of educating women and in shaping the college in the institution it is today. She boasted that the school’s faculty and administrative staff is at least 50% women.

“I look at business as a way to have contribution and impact in the world, and I think that as business has grown and become more global and more technologically savvy it’s more accessible and inclusive,” said Siegle. “I’ve always seen women be very successful in business … but there’s such an incredible power that we have to make an impact in the world and to change and to be in contribution for that, and I think there’s a heart and soul for that. So, I think it’s a beautiful thing when you see a woman saying, ‘Well, I stepped in to fill a need in business.’ … So I think there’s problems that we see in the world that we want to help solve that maybe our unique and inclusive perspective can bring.”

She said women can add a “rich” dimension to leadership roles. Women can make contributions, lead teams and making an impact in a way that brings great empathy, generosity and understanding, Siegle said. According to Siegle, companies that have more diversity in their staffing compete better in the global business place.

Siegle said they are striving to get more women to take positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, and Walsh is seeing an uptick in the number of women in STEM as they are growing their programs in cybersecurity and machine learning. Siegle said they are also looking to increase the number of women in entrepreneurship.

Women contribute substantially to entrepreneurship in the United States, according to the National Women’s Business Council. According to the council’s 2022 annual report, the number of women-owned businesses increased significantly in recent years. In 2019 there were 5.7 million employer businesses where women accounted for 1.2 million or 20.9% of those businesses, according to the NWBC report.

“You pick up Entrepreneur Magazine and you see Sarah Blakely, and you see other celebrities who have started companies, and you think, ‘Wow, that’s so cool to see that they saw a need in the world that wasn’t being field and they brought a unique perspective,’” said Siegle.

Walsh College is also looking at partnering with companies that have grant opportunities for minority- or women-owned businesses.

Siegle said that she recently gave a presentation to the society of human resources professionals and noted that there were more women than men there. She said it was probably about 70% women.

“There’s a creativity and an innovation that women have because of the experiences they’ve had that anybody from a different population would bring. So it’s really nice to see women saying, ‘Hey, maybe there’s a better way to try this,’ or ‘Have you thought about it from this angle?’ and that brings such rich diversity of creativity, and I also think with jobs being so accessible to commuting and to hybrid work it’s probably opened up a lot of things that may have been limitations before,” said Siegle.