Pursuing an MBA, like other high-level degrees, can be hard on women of color because often there are very few people who look like them to connect with. Besides the lucrative salary that these programs boast upon graduation, networking is an essential aspect of being an MBA-degree holder to develop partnerships and make professional connections. One woman, who recognized the challenges of being black in the world of business, saw the value in building connections with other women of color and decided to expand the concept to prevent other women from getting lost in the wild world of business.

Daria Burke quit her job at Estee Lauder as director of make-up marketing to launch Black MBA Women, a membership organization that connects Black women MBAs from the top 25 business schools in America. Among her goals for the organization is making leading black women in business more recognizable.

“I felt compelled to create an organization that catered specifically to black women from top-tier business schools, and to put a spotlight on the incredible women who hold President and C-level positions who often go unrecognized,” Burke told Black Enterprise.  “For example, did you know that the CFO of Victoria’s Secret is a black woman?! And so are the CFO of Estee Lauder, the COO of Club Monaco and the CAO of Conde Nast…I could keep going!”

Burke, who graduated from New York University’s Stern School of business, says it took her four months to build up the courage and capital to start the organization. New York Life is among the founding partners for Black MBA Women.

The program also seeks to inspire women of younger generations to learn more about business school and give them a helping hand in building connections early on. Burke says that she hopes to motivate others through stories of success that have been found by leading black female executives.

“In Spring 2013, I’m launching a web series called ‘Conversations in the C-Suite’ where I will interview President and C-level women about empowerment, leadership, leveraging being ‘different’ and in general, about their career journey,” Burke said. “It is so important to tell the range of our stories, and for these amazing women— many of whom go unnoticed—to be recognized for their success and the barriers they continue to break for us to have a seat at the table.”

Although Burke is based in New York, Black MBA Women is open nationally to African-American females who are prospective MBAs or graduates from the top 25 business schools. Membership packages are reduced for students.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “the top 25 business schools”

    sounds elitist to me….

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    Which defeats the point right?

  • The Bishop

    We already have that organization it’s called The Consortium. Also if really wanted to help promote minority MBA’s the brother’s need the most help. Black men are the minority when to comes to getting MBA’s and/or advanced degree’s. Also why would you promote the top 25 business schools according to Business Week or other publications. There are a number of HBCU business schools that are preparing young black business talent that can go head to head with majority business schools (i.e. Howard, Clark Atlanta University and Florida A&M). Those schools historically exceed expectations when recruiters come looking for talent. Also why go to school when corporations are not really looking for diversity, they are looking for the majority.

  • The Bishop

    By the way I just went on her website and this was the list of her speaking engagements:

    Harvard Undergraduate Women Intercollegiate Business Convention
    Columbia Business School 31st Annual Black Business Students’ Association
    Step Up Women’s Network Pathways to Professions Workshop
    Harvard Business School African-American Student Union 41st Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference

    Past Speaking Engagements Include:

    Brown University Women in Business 2010 Career Conversation

    Columbia Women’s Business Conference, 2011

    Forte Foundation 2011 MBA Women’s Conference

    Harvard Business School 2010 Retail & Luxury Goods Conference

    Harvard Undergraduate Women 2010 Intercollegiate Business Conference

    New York University Stern School of Business – Various Speaking Engagements

    Step Up Women’s Network Panel – Is an MBA Right For You?

    My biggest question is where are all the minority students. Those schools have a history of admitting a very few number of African American men and women graduate MBA students. Also when you go to majority elitist schools the minority students are already exposed to captains of industry. So, why would a doctor go where people are not sick? If her goal is to increase the accessibility for African American women into top 25 business schools for they’re graduate degree’s, why doesn’t she visit schools where minority students are at a higher concentration? The doctor needs to go where the affirmed are not where the well reside.

  • JN

    It is unfortunately the way the business world works. Businesses like JPMorgan, Fidelity, etc tend to recruit ONLY from the most prestigious schools. My cousins and brother are rare exceptions because they, unlike their co-workers, do not come from Ivy League institutions. In order to succeed you HAVE to get an MBA from one of these top-tier institutions if you even want your resume to be considered, regardless of your color.

  • JN

    UGH I do not know if my comment posted! All I was trying to say was that it is not just about helping minorities in prestigious MBA programs. You have to be able to get a job afterwards. Many people, after getting their MBA many have a hard time finding work, esp. since programs recruit mostly from top-tier universities. And it is that much harder if you are Black and even harder if you are female. That is the purpose of this organization. This lady knows what she is doing. She is playing by the rules but also creating networking opportunities where few exist for Black women.

  • Maia

    Jesus Christ, Clutch. You just tore down a Black woman who started a business to help other Black women. What is wrong with the women who posted here?

    Her list of speaking engagements is IMPRESSIVE. Women at top tier schools need support like everyone else. There is nothing wrong with catering to that demographic. News flash: MOST of the Black students pursuing MBAs at top tier schools attended HBCUs undergrad.

    I can’t believe how nasty these comments are about another woman and one who is positive.This is absolutely shameful.

  • Lauren

    It’s not Clutch. It’s the commetors. BUT – I think what they are saying is valid and true.

  • Ashe

    I believe she has found her niche, and instead of tearing her down, offer support. The first comment and the majority of the comments were not positive but instead divisive and completely dismissed her efforts to helping her own people. If you believe there is a lack of support for black males or HBCU students seeking MBAs, then join the cause and do something.

    Also, perhaps you should think of this from a business perspective in terms of marketability and product differentiation. If she did this for all black mba students, how would that differentiate her from the black mba conference or other support groups? And if this was open to all mba programs,would it be as sustainable? Maybe she is using sisters from the top 25 schools as a test group and depending on how successful it is, she will grow the organization.

    And on a personal note, I do not know Daria but I attended a Howard for my undergrad career, and attained my graduate degree at the top school, it’s a completely different ballpark and as a sista, we have an added level of garbage to put up with and support groups of this nature are very helpful.

  • GeekMommaRants

    You have changed the subject from an business woman creating help for women who wish to get their MBA. Our men would have to finish an undergraduate degree. You still are changing the subject.

    I congratulate this young woman for being a help. This is a great resource for woman who want to pursue their MBA.

  • Keepitreal

    Pathetic, look at all the crabs circling all around this post.

  • Keepitreal

    Perhaps a black male can come up with something similar to help his brothers out. Because black males aren’t doing as well black women who are should not be supported? Really? Really?

    Why wouldn’t she promote BW who have worked hard AF to get to the top business schools? Why does it matter what type of black women are being helped? What are YOU doing to help ANY black woman?

  • http://beautifulmindtss.wordpress.com beautifulmind

    It’s true. It’s funny how these comments talk about what’s wrong with what she’s doing, but don’t discuss what they’re doing that’s better. If you feel like it’s too elitist for your taste then why don’t you start your own organization.

  • Keepitreal

    IKR “the bottom of the barrel business schools” would be more appropriate. How dare this women form a network for the creme de la creme.

    Speaking of barrel, you crabs should jump into one with a bottomless pit . RMFE

  • GeekMommaRants

    I said above. This woman has created a program for those who are ready for a masters degree. I was irked as many ignored the purpose of the article to talk about others. This is a woman’s site, or should I ask what your favorite color you like for lipstick?

  • GeekMommaRants

    What am I doing for black women? How about being a good example! I have a Masters in CompSci and help those who want to help themselves though accomplishment.

    This is a woman’s site, I was irked with the ignoring of this sista and help she is offering those who want to earn an MBA. What you are doing for black professionals?

  • Keepitreal

    This comment was for the woman above screaming “elitism”

  • Truth

    This is not a discussion about what others are doing this is a dialogue about the merits of her program. I’m sorry that we are staying on topic.

  • The Bishop

    @Keepitreal: I didn’t know having a critical discussion about the merits of her program and how it could be focused in a more positive light is the equivalent of the crabs in the barrel syndrome. I feel we need to start being more critical of each other not just supporting an idea just because it sounds good. People need to be able to see the intrinsic value of her program and just flowery cover. Why can’t we question more? Why can’t we demand better? Why can’t use critical reasoning skills and say to others, “Hey you achieve your goal of help others by tweaking your plan this way.” Time out for the pats of the back, it’s time to hold each other accountable no matter what gender they happen to be.

  • The Bishop

    @GeekMommaRants I didn’t change the narrative. I stated a fact that you may not be aware of. We already have an non-profit in place in which is already helping minority men and women to get into the top business schools in the country. The Consortium also takes it a step further by providing full ride fellowships to these schools while exposing these professionals to network with C-level mentors in-order to get them internships and jobs after they complete they’re MBA.

  • The Bishop

    CORRECTION @Keepitreal: I didn’t know having a critical discussion about the merits of her program and how it could be focused in a more positive light is the equivalent of the crabs in the barrel syndrome. I feel we need to start being more critical of each other not just supporting an idea just because it sounds good. People need to be able to see the intrinsic value of her program and not just a flowery cover. Why can’t we question more? Why can’t we demand better? Why can’t use our critical reasoning skills and say to her, “Hey you can achieve your goals of help others by tweaking your plan this way.” Time out for the pats of the back, it’s time to hold each other accountable no matter what gender they happen to be.

  • ChiHou

    Awesome. A new avenue to create opportunity. I wish her the best!

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    Ok, I see what you are saying…good points….

  • PJ

    I graduated from a top undergrad business school but never chose to pursue an MBA degree. If I’m honest with myself at first I felt a bit annoyed that she chose only *MBAs* specifically at top schools, which seems a bit elitist, but then I corrected myself. Just because her organization doesn’t necessarily serve ME and MY needs doesn’t mean that it isn’t serving someone else. I think that a lot of commenters here have missed that point. Congratulations to the sister on doing big things, keep moving forward!

  • Tara

    Doesn matter if you are wildly successful with just a bachelors or have an MBA from a school that is not from the “top 25 business schools” . That excludes a lot of successful black women. Black folks are sick. SMH

  • Tara

    My very thoughts. I have a Master’s but it is not from a top 25 school but after reading your comments, I agree.

  • yumm

    Maybe she plans to establish a solid reputation first and then expand to institutions seen as more of a risk by the business world. Maybe she doesn’t. I can’t help but see this as a positive thing though.

  • yumm

    Bam! People are acting like this is a racially fair society. Realistically the only way she can reach the elite companies is by offering them elite blacks. After that relationship has been built up then I could see the point of all the whining but at this stage, no.

  • aspiringmediamaven

    @TheBishop I’ve read all of your comments on this article and I must say that I’m truly saddened that someone would choose to be so critical of an organization with a positive purpose when it is unclear whether you know a lot about top MBA programs or not – or the realities that this small group of talented, future business leaders face. Yes, the Consortium exists to help underrepresented minorities get into and succeed at top tier business schools. There is also another organization called Management Leadership for Tomorrow that has a similar mission. However, both of these organizations serve a broader array of pre-MBA/MBA candidates than what Ms. Burke has created (i.e. Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, men, and women). Plus, the benefits that they afford members are heavily concentrated prior to school admission and during the 2-yr MBA program. As a current MBA candidate at a top 10 business school and someone who has attended Ms. Burke’s first events for Black MBA Women, I can honestly say that this organization adds incremental value to the lives and careers of the demographic she is trying to serve. And while that demographic is not broad, it is important. We have aspirations to do great things in our professions and in our communities, but we’re often working towards these goals in schools and in office buildings where most people do not look like us or fully understand our culture, our hair, or our isolation. As it stands now, I see this organization as a support system for people like me, who confront the possibility of “corporations not really looking for diversity” every day. And I hope it will grow into a source of great motivation for black women to achieve beyond just the niche demographic that it has started with. But for now, I ask that you and anyone else who reads this not tear down someone who is trying to uplift her community.

  • JDB

    I agree to the point that only accepting MBA’s from the top schools does sound elitist. Anyone who thinks that commenting on that fact is mistaken to say that it’s only an attempt to tear her down. Anything thing to offer a hand up is a good thing, but the good in the thing is limited when you’re looking down and reaching past certain people to only help up “the top 25 percent”. What about the black woman with the brains but not the funds to pay for a top tier MBA program? She does herself a disservice by assuming those women wouldn’t be valuable assets to other MBA women, particularly those college MBA candidates. I have to say, as a black MBA woman, I was turned off by the selective criteria. I’m at a loss trying to understand what purpose it serves other than trying to situate yourself at the top by inherently creating some unworthy subcategory of the group of women you claim to be seeking to serve.

  • JDB

    Any support group is a good thing, if it does what it sets out to do. It is a little misleading to call yourself a network of Black MBA Women when they are people in the group of women you named yourself after that are ineligible for membership. Maybe it’s the name of the organization, and not the criteria, that’s a problem. If you’re going to name yourself after a group of people, shouldn’t membership be inclusive of all people in the group? To call yourself Black MBA Women and then say only black MBA women from the top 25% can apply is kind of like saying the others aren’t valid.

  • PAT

    @JDB

    Make your own group. Then you can include whomever you choose.

  • PAT

    Great idea, Ms.Burke!

    @the Bishop

    No congrats,good job on your success…..NO! right out the bat *its brothers need the most help*…even though this is a site for BLACK WOMEN!…its ALWAYS about the *brothers*. I have yet in my life to hear or see Black men say what can we do to help Black women, especially because so many Black women are the only ones raising Black children. Nothing, as usual….but Black women always have to consider the Black man.

    #Yousoundbitterandjealous@the bishop.

  • JDB

    Good idea, I imagine I would start with a requirement for civility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mahogani Mahogani Dyan Webber

    I’m currently in a dual masters program. I’m working on a MBA and MHSM (Healthcare Administration)…I was very interested in joining this organization but I’m not attending a top 25 school…This sounds like a great avenue to network!

  • Truth

    According to her your not qualified. I can only imagine that she would tell you, “next time step your game up when it comes to your education.” (Sarcasm)…. Looks like her organization is missing out on qualified African American woman such as yourself.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    “Pursuing an MBA, like other high-level degrees, can be hard on women of color because often there are very few people who look like them to connect with”

    really? how so? all you have to do is get on madame noire and clutch to connect. apparently everybody has a high level degree or mba…. that or somebody is lying.lol

  • GG

    Just to clarify, this org is actually intended for women who are either currently enrolled in, or have already earned their degrees, from a “top” b-school. Its focus is actually NOT getting black women into these schools nor providing funding for them (a la the Consortium), but rather once they have already reached these achievements, to provide a suportive network (which does not exist) to make sure that these investments (financially, emotionally, physically, etc.) that have been made are maximized.

    As for the “elitism” argument, that’s fair to think that, but it isn’t so cut and dry. Just because you go to a “top” school does not automatically mean that you will be afforded opportunities and doors will be opened to you, especially if you are a) Black , b) a woman, or c) Both – a Black woman. Most top business positions in the real world are still dominated by a) Whites and b) Men, excluding the previously mentioned groups from the real positions of power. This organization seeks to change that.

    Additionally, as a graduate of both an HBCU, as well as a “top” b-school, I know first-hand that the support systems available for any black woman vary significantly between these environments. Having been one of few Black women (if not the only) in white, male-dominated environments easily allows me to see the value in this org. I wish her the best.

  • PAT

    @JDB

    Touche’.

  • Mademoiselle

    I’m guessing the admission fee is steep considering black MBAs are already a very small portion of total MBAs, black women MBAs being a subset of that population, and black women MBAs at the top 25 business schools being an even smaller subset of that. If she’s profitable at all, it would have to be because they’re paying high annual dues.

    The other thought that crossed my mind is “Top 25″ is not a static list. Does she change her admissions criteria every year to accommodate schools that flow in and out of those 25 spots (I’m thinking of the last 5-10 schools on that list that aren’t as consistent at holding those spots as the top 5-10 schools are). So one year a new member may have eked by because they’re school overtook last year’s #25, but the next year her classmates may miss out because that same school fell back down to #26?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.lee.90834776 Rose Lee

    Nice informative Post. Woman in MBA study is highly being observe.

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