Black women take their place in MBA network

Daria Burke is the founder of Black MBA Women. — PHOTO BY ALEXANDRIA FRUMBERG

As the founder of Black MBA Women, Daria Burke is striving to build a strong network of professional women.

Burke, who is a graduate of the New York University Stern School of Business, left her position as director of makeup marketing for Estée Lauder to launch an organization that focused on connecting women who hailed from the nation’s top tier business schools.

While enrolled at NYU, Burke was one of nine Black women in a class of 411 students. Post-MBA, Burke built a marketing career in the beauty industry. Over the years, the Detroit native spent a significant amount of time interacting with young women and talking to them about the value of obtaining an MBA.

When Burke first formed Black MBA Women in April 2012, she tapped into her personal network of about 60 women and reached out MBA student organizations. Since its inception, Black MBA Women has grown to a network of 500 women from across the country, primarily through grassroots efforts and social media.

“Most of these women are coming to this organization because they want to connect with each other, and they want to swap stories about what their career experiences have been like,” said Burke who is based in New York.

Burke says about 65 percent of the women who are in the network are post-MBA, while the remaining 35 are currently enrolled in business school.

Burke says those who are pursuing their MBAs can tap into networking opportunities as they search for internships and jobs, while those who are post-MBA can use the network to help build their clientele base and business contacts.

Women have also turned to the network as a place where they can make new friends.

“For me it’s been really rewarding, because I initially launched into this thinking that it was going to be all career and professional development and I think the women in the network look for personal development and personal connections just as much as they want that career piece of it,” Burke said.

For spring 2013, Burke is launching a Web series titled “Conversations in the C-Suite” where women will share their stories about how they built a successful career.

“There are a lot of Black women out there who have incredible careers and they go unrecognized. No one is telling their stories. No one is putting the spotlight on them,” Burke said.

She wants to inspire the next generation of Black women business leaders.

“It’s so important for young girls to see the bigger range of our stories. When you look at us in the portrayal of the media our stories are so underrepresented,” she says.

To that end, the network’s website blackmbawomen.com highlights women executives such as Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO, Xerox; Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam’s Club and Pamela Edwards, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Victoria’s Secret.

The women who are a part of the network must be alumni of/or enrolled in one the nation’s top 25 business schools.

One question that Burke often hears is why membership in Black MBA Women is currently open to only those who were educated in top-tier schools.

“I want to challenge our definition and our idea of excellence. I think that we need to be willing to challenge ourselves and think about what it means to be excellent,” Burke said.

“So when I’m looking to inspire the next generation of Black women who are going to business school, I want them to go to the best school they can,” she said noting that Fortune 100 and 500 companies often recruit from top-tier institutions.

“I want them to have access to the best career opportunities, the best network and the most influential network and be poised to have the highest salaries. Whether people like it or not, you have to go to a top school to be able to achieve that. I’m not excluding or eliminating people but I want to challenge our definition of what it means to be excellent and strive for that.

Burke has worked in brand management at L’Oreal USA on the Lancome and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté brands, developing and implementing strategic brand positioning of the beauty and fragrance categories. She sits on the Stern Alumni Council and serves as chair of the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS) Alumni Group. She is a member of Cosmetic Executive Women and the Step Up Women’s Network in New York.

 

Contact staff writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or ajones@phillytrib.com.

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