Corah Forrester, a senior majoring in business administration, noticed that the portion of female students present in her Marshall School of Business classes was much smaller than that of male students.
“There’s been classes where I’ve definitely felt like I’m one of the few women in the class,” Forrester said. “It’s a little bit harder to assert myself in those classes and make sure I’m getting involved because the men in the group sometimes can be overbearing.”
However, Forrester is “hopeful” this will soon change following Marshall’s announcement of the first-year Class of 2025 reaching gender parity earlier this month.
According to a Sept. 3 news release, women comprise 52% of Marshall’s current first-year student population as of the first day of classes, an increase of three percentage points from 49% in the Class of 2024.
“Achieving this milestone has significant impact on the incoming class, the Marshall students across programs and our alumni,” said Interim Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Violina Rindova in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “For the incoming class, this could have a transformative impact on the classroom experience and learning, as research shows that both men and women behave differently in settings where women representation has critical mass. For all Marshall students, this sends a strong signal of the commitment of Marshall’s leadership to diversity and the effectiveness of our processes in increasing it.”
Following the release of acceptance letters last spring, Marshall implemented strategic marketing of various programs, such as the Global Leadership Program and the Experiential Learning Center. The school also promoted women faculty and new scholarships aimed toward women students, according to the Sept. 3 news release. Additionally, Rindova hosted a virtual leadership forum that featured a panel of four female alumni and included more than 110 students — both men and women.
“We created a panel of alumnae women leaders because we believe that the Trojan Family is a tremendous asset for both students and alumni,” Rindova said in the statement. “Gender parity in our incoming class means more opportunities for all our alumni to be a part of mentoring and supporting the growth of diversity in the leadership cadre Marshall prepares for the future.”
Forrester, who serves as the internal president of the Marshall Women’s Leadership Board, said the achievement “aligns so well” with their goal, which aims to “create a safe space for women in business” through professional development workshops, such as resume and cover letter workshops, and a mentorship program with individuals from professional industries.
“As an organization [whose] goal is to empower women in business, being able to see that there are more of us in the school … and that we’re reaching a level of equality and parity, in that sense, is really exciting and really makes me hopeful for the future,” Forrester said.
Shreya Chaudhary, a senior majoring in business administration and director of recruitment for the Marshall Women’s Leadership Board, said the achievement is “absolutely amazing” and “long overdue.”
“I think that this is just one milestone in many to come, in terms of where we’re going to be going in the future, and how Marshall is going to be a leader within so many industries in the field of business, and especially a place where, hopefully, women will be proud to say that they’re an alumnae from,” Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary said she hopes Marshall will continue to work toward changing the reputation the school’s students and environment have on campus.
“There’s definitely this reputation in which we’re almost known for being toxically cutthroat,” Chaudhary said. “If Marshall can do a little bit better with easing that reputation and making it feel like a more welcoming community that doesn’t feel like that, I think that we would go a long ways in making women feel more comfortable within the environment.”
Following this achievement, Forrester said Marshall’s next step should ensure women can thrive in the school’s environment.
“The next step is to make sure that they are creating more safe spaces for women within the [school] so they feel comfortable and supported,” Forrester said. “Whether that means offering more specific programs within the school — not just necessarily student organizations — but specific programs within the curriculum that are more geared towards empowering the women in the school, or looking at the way the Marshall culture works, and trying to identify how we can make this a culture that supports our students and the women in this school.”