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The Impact of Women in Global Business

September 22, 2021

Many studies have shown that having more women in senior positions is good for business and increases a company’s diversity of perspective and thought. In fact, according to a 2019 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), 75% of the enterprises that cited improved bottom line from achieving gender diversity,  indicated a profit increase of between 5 and 20%. Furthermore, it showed that enterprises with a gender-inclusive culture are 9% more likely to have improved business performance. 

According to the 2021 World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report, it will now take about 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide. This is a marked improvement from the 2020 report which estimated it would take 267.6 years to close the gap. This is due to a greater number of women in the workforce and in more diverse industries. Research shows that when more executive positions and boards are diverse, more women are empowered to seek leadership positions. It also reduces gender segregation in the workplace and creates a more inclusive environment.  

At Thunderbird, we are proud of our diverse group of students and faculty. We believe in the empowerment of all and hope to help people globally achieve their dreams and aspirations regardless of gender, race, age or orientation. Our students vow to "respect the rights and dignity of all people", when they recite the Thunderbird Oath of Honor

Perhaps it is this mindset and value set that makes Thunderbird so appealing for female students. This year alone, a high percentage of our incoming students are female:  

Many of our female T-birds have broken down barriers, created successful careers, and made a huge impact in the health, prosperity and sustainability of our world. 

Here are some inspiring stories from a few of those women. 

Gbemi Abudu ’09 

Gbemisola (Gbemi) Abudu is the Founder and Managing Partner of BMGA Enterprise Limited (BMGA), an EdTech finishing school for the future of work. She is a global marketing expert who specializes in transformational impact, human capital development, and luxury brand management. With BMGA, she is focused on investing in human capital in Africa.  

In 2020, she launched the BMGA Fellows Program, a social impact initiative designed to narrow the gender skills gap amongst university students in Africa. The program provides young female university students/graduates with employability skills, high-level professional development courses, mentorship, and leadership training.  She is also the host of the BMGA Leadership Speakers Series podcast.

Prior to BMGA, Gbemi worked as a global marketer for some of the most reputable companies and governments across the world, enabling her to develop a holistic understanding of the international business environment and a sound understanding of brand stewardship. Some of the organizations include Anap Jets, Louis Vuitton, White & Case LLP, Walt Disney Company, and Clorox Company. Through all these experiences, she has built a proven track record of piloting and driving businesses into new marketplaces.

She feels that her time at Thunderbird has helped her look at things more globally. “When it comes to business, do not limit your reach to your immediate market. Always think global. When I started BMGA, although the plan was to start with the Nigerian market, I always knew I wanted to offer products and services that would be valuable and accessible to consumers in other countries in Africa and other parts of the world. I didn’t want to limit BMGA’s reach to just consumers in Nigeria.”

Jocelyn Wyatt ‘06 

Jocelyn is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IDEO.org, the nonprofit design organization that she cofounded in 2011 after leading IDEO’s social innovation practice. As CEO, Jocelyn spends her time sorting out the vision, strategy, funding, and growth plans for IDEO.org. She heads up partner development with foundations, nonprofits, and social enterprises; builds networks by speaking widely on how design is changing the social sector, and has racked up more miles on the Star Alliance than she cares to admit. 

Prior to joining IDEO in 2007, Jocelyn worked in Kenya as an Acumen Fund fellow. Before that, she served as VisionSpring’s interim country director in India, where she helped increase the distribution of low-cost reading glasses to the poor. Before that she did training, project management, and business development for Chemonics International, a contractor for USAID. She holds a BA in anthropology from Grinnell College and an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management.
 
For extra-curricular fun, Jocelyn is a program advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, an advisory board member to Marketplace, a board member for Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, and an Aspen Institute First Movers Fellow. 

"Thunderbird helped prepare me for a global career by introducing me to students and faculty from around the world. I learned how to lead diverse teams of people and how to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the cultural differences and similarities we have."  

Michelle Arencivia ’07

Michelle Arencivia is the Vice President of Product Management – Harlem Innovation Lab, JP Morgan Chase. During her time there, she has held leadership roles with the Hispanic Business Resource Group – Adelante and served on the Business Banking Deposit Products team. Before JP Morgan Chase, Michelle held tenure at several Fortune 1000 firms and the United Nations.  

During her career, she has become deeply engaged with organizations that serve the Hispanic community, including the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Prospanica, the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her passion for serving this community stems from being the daughter of Cuban exiles. 

While completing her B.B.A at Florida International University (FIU), she dedicated herself to earning a Certificate in Latin American studies from FIU and an Honors Certificate in Spanish from Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca Spain. Then, as a William Randolph Hearst Award Recipient, Michelle came to Thunderbird to earn her MBA. Michelle also holds a professional certificate in Advanced Diversity & Inclusion at the Cornell University – ILR School. While her educational background is diverse, Michelle attributes much of her professional success to the experiences she gained and the people she met through her time at Thunderbird.

“Thunderbird is like a mini-United Nations. The diversity of the student population and both the explicit and implicit cultural nuances is amazing. When I reflect back, I did not just acquire business acumen, I experienced a great deal of personal growth as a human.” 

Michelle is so passionate about her experience at Thunderbird that wherever she has lived – New York City, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Ohio – she has served on the alumni leadership team. “Having a monthly gathering, surrounded by fascinating and worldly people to have deep meaningful dialogue is highly enriching and fun! 

Madji Sock '00 

Madji is a Partner in Dalberg’s Senegal office and manages the firm’s activities in the West Africa region. She has more than 20 years of experience implementing and managing projects in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the United States. She has been a champion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in various engagements relating to investment facilitation, policy development, program implementation and supporting women’s entrepreneurship. 

Madji is the co-founder of the Women’s Investment Club in Senegal. The club aims to address the constraints Senegalese women face in the missing middle for access to finance, and to promote women investing in the West African Stock Exchange.  

Madji holds an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management where she feels she found herself and her calling.  “Thunderbird is where I found my voice. It’s where it was confirmed to me that as a black woman, I have a seat at the global table, and my voice deserves and needs to be heard. I have never stopped ‘talking’ since then, through action and voice.

Although these women are proof that we have come a long way on achieving gender diversity in global business, we still have a long way to go. At Thunderbird, we believe that diversity makes us stronger, more capable, more globally minded, and more accepting. We believe that people should not have limited opportunities based on their gender, race, age or orientation. We accept and empower all. We are here to help people achieve their aspirations and work to achieve sustainable and equitable prosperity, not just in the workforce, worldwide. 

 

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