Ten years of Forté Fellowships at Smith

Posted on September 26, 2017

At the Forté Conference in Seattle this past June (from left): Aditi Nayak, Teresa Pires and Samantha Cochrane.
At the Forté Conference in Seattle this past June (from left): Aditi Nayak, Teresa Pires and Samantha Cochrane.

Kingston, ON — A few years ago, Rebecca To, a Californian working in Silicon Valley, turned her attention to a dream she’d had since gaining her undergraduate in 2007: an MBA. Visiting business-school fairs, Rebecca soon heard about “Forté Fellows”, a scholarship program for women seeking a Master’s in business.

“I’ve always thought more women should get their MBA. I found it inspiring that this kind of program even existed…I wanted to be part of it.”

She was further delighted to learn that a school at the top of her list – Smith School of Business – was a Forté partner. “It was more than a happy coincidence,” Rebecca, MBA’14, recalls.

Women in business

Based in Austin, TX, the Forté Foundation is a not-for-profit that aims to bolster women’s ranks in business schools and c-suites. Its launch, in 2001, was spurred by a study, “Women and the MBA: Gateway to Opportunity” that found the percentage of women in business schools stubbornly lagged other professions, such as law and medicine.

Smith was the first Canadian school to take up Forté, and this year marks the partnership’s 10th anniversary. Each year, the school provides $40,000 Forté Foundation Fellowships for up to four women in the Full-time MBA program.

Teresa Pires, Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions for the Full-time MBA program at Smith, says Forté is an important way to drive women’s interest in a business career.

“You can’t be what you don’t see,” she says. “The more successful stories we have of women in business, the more women will see themselves in those stories. I believe Forté is an added advantage for Smith.”

Teresa notes steady growth in the school’s Full-time MBA program among women: 34 per cent of the class today are women, up from 20 per cent a decade ago.

A growing fellowship

Forté recipients get more than just tuition help. They can avail themselves of webinars and events on topics such as personal branding and career advancement that are hosted by the Forté Foundation. Then there are mentoring and networking opportunities. More than 6,200 women around the world count themselves as Forté Fellows, and 130 business schools, universities, non-profits and corporations, such as Deloitte, IBM, Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company, are members of the foundation.

Twenty-seven graduates of Smith’s Full-time MBA program are Forté Fellows, as are two current students: Aditi Nayak and Samantha Cochrane (both MBA’18).

Aditi grew up in India and worked on a start-up venture in the U.S. before coming to Smith. Samantha, from Toronto, had managed a community investment program for the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Both have experience mentoring girls and were right away drawn to what Forté could offer.

“It really showcases [Smith’s] commitment to elevate women in leadership,” Samantha says.

This past June, the Forté Foundation held its annual conference in Seattle, WA, drawing business leaders, Forté alumni and speakers from companies such as Starbucks and Amazon. “It was a great chance to meet other women and see what their journeys have been like,” says Aditi, who, with Samantha, attended the conference.

Meanwhile, three years since earning her MBA at Smith, Rebecca To is back in Silicon Valley. After working at Deloitte in Toronto, she’s now in marketing at the semiconductor maker Xilinx.

“I’m still proud of the fact that I’m a Forté Fellow,” she says. “It’s helped me in my career, it’s given me that little edge.”

Tags: MBA

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