The most recent Georgetown University McDonough School of Business (MSB) report on diversity, equity and inclusion reveals that only 36.14% of undergraduate students for the 2020-2021 academic year are women. More often than not, I find myself as the sole female team member for group projects. But, to my surprise, this disparity has not overshadowed my learning experience despite my initial reservations, which I attribute to my desire to succeed, take risks and make use of the plethora of opportunities I have received.
From the moment I was born, I was labeled a mini version of my father — I looked like him, started to behave like him and eventually developed a deep and profound respect for him. Every detail of his life story, his childhood, his immigration to the United States and his career success, inspires me as I strive to emulate his strength and passion.
My dad came to the U.S. in pursuit of a master’s degree in computer science, but quickly learned that his interest lay in the business side of operations, where he could be his own boss. Through ventures at banks, hedge funds and other types of firms, he became one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met, and began imparting his wisdom to me as early as I can remember.
I learned about different corporations, how to understand news articles and how to follow the stock market. I’d always been a good math student and invested in my education, so I knew my future would consist of high academic and professional vigor.
I joined the business club at my high school, where I first encountered the astonishing level of gender inequity in the field. When I asked my dad why that was the case, he simply said that if I entered the business world, I was going to be on my own, with few female mentors to guide me. I was devastated when the male business club leaders denied me a spot on the board and instead chose more men. I couldn’t recognize then that this defeat was neither my fault nor because I was not qualified.
My dad advised me to be confident, to ask questions and sharpen my already strong social skills. However, when I had to decide what colleges to apply to, I was met with more opposition. I had mentioned my interest in business school to my friend’s dad, who didn’t even pause before informing me that this was a tough endeavor and that women are not treated well in business. I went home that day and slumped on my couch until dinner. I couldn’t stop wondering if I even knew what I was getting into.
Despite the discouraging advice, I applied to business schools anyway, but that didn’t erase the doubts. And even after my acceptance to the MSB at Georgetown, I couldn’t help but worry that my inherent traits, including empathy and organization, in combination with my height and gender, might stand in the way of success against my male peers.
I’ve learned that the business world, while unforgiving at times, can be extremely rewarding when the right people, ideas and efforts line up. At the beginning of this semester, I went to a “Women on Wall Street” panel, and I walked away saying, “they are badass — that’s going to be me in a few years.” I reached out immediately to one of the panel members and had a really resonating conversation about her career and the DEI at the bank where she works. It is true: the environment at progressive banks has really shifted to incorporate unique perspectives and create innovative solutions.
More and more women are entering business and are becoming extremely successful. I have female CEOs to look up to and female graduates to network with. At the same time, disparities in senior management continue to affect women’s achievements. In banking, while entry-level positions have reached an even gender status, the percentage of women drops off at each level of the corporate ladder. The overall momentum in the field is headed in the right direction, but more can be done to integrate women into this historically patriarchal field — whether it’s recognizing alternative leadership styles, bridging the pay gap or improving work-life balance. I’m proud to have been able to adjust my mindset to see my identity as an asset. Nonetheless, I know the path ahead will include long hours, arrogant men and constant growth.
Sachi Tejani is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business.