Mendoza School of Business

Taking the Lead on Gender Parity

Maria Muldoon, MBA Candidate ’19, and classmates have increased awareness of the gender parity issues inherent in business—and empowered other women in the MBA program to take the lead.

Maria Muldoon, MBA Candidate '19

Maria Muldoon, MBA Candidate ’19

Prior to enrolling in the MBA program at Notre Dame, Maria Muldoon spent six years working as an account executive in New York City ad agencies, serving brands like Unilever Hair Care. She enjoyed the work and the pace, but she began to envy her clients.

“It was frustrating to be on the agency side and see creative projects get killed,” Muldoon recalls. “I started to really find myself interested in the client side of the equation, and I knew that, in order to secure a role as a brand client, I would need to earn an MBA.”

When she began to explore MBA programs across the country, two schools she strongly considered were North Carolina and Texas. But ultimately, it was Notre Dame that appealed to her most.

“For one thing, the Notre Dame brand name carries a lot of weight,” Muldoon says. An added plus is the fact that both of her brothers earned their undergraduate degrees from the University. “Notre Dame has a special place in my heart,” she says.

An opportunity to create change

Muldoon knew before she even arrived on campus that–as is the case with most MBA programs across the country–there was work to be done in achieving gender balance.

“I came to Notre Dame fully expecting to see a disparity in the number of male versus female students,” Muldoon says. “But while it was a concern, it was overshadowed by my desire to be a part of a smaller class size–something that would give me the opportunity to get involved and help shape the program.”

To say that Muldoon has made an impact at Mendoza would be an understatement. This year she served as the president of the MBA Marketing Club. “I was the only woman president of an academic club in the program this year,” Muldoon points out. “Last year we had no female-led clubs. Next year, I think we have three women that are leading the clubs. When you’re 28 percent of the MBA program, that stands out. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to do.”

What I’ve experienced my last two years here is a real effort from the administration as a whole to be better about [gender parity]. Maria Muldoon

Bringing women together

In addition to her leadership of the MBA Marketing Club, Muldoon has worked closely with the Women in Business Club. “It’s a bit daunting to look around and be one of two women in a class,” Muldoon notes. “The Women in Business Club has done an incredible job of hosting events to bring the women in the program together.”

Working with the Women in Business Club, Muldoon and fellow MBA candidates Emily Clark ’20, Shannon Russo ’19 and Phoebe Tzannes ’20, hosted a series of gender parity conversations over lunches. “We got together and we would ask: ‘What would gender parity mean to you?’ We created a space to have those conversations about how not only the program can change, but what we can change about ourselves.”

Those conversations led to the formation of a new course at Mendoza titled Rising Together: Gender Equality in Business. The class filled up right away.

A Mendoza-wide effort

Muldoon acknowledges that the progress being made toward gender parity in the MBA program is the result of a supportive administration and the work of a diverse range of Mendoza students—male and female alike. “What I’ve experienced my last two years here is a real effort from the administration as a whole to be better about [gender parity]. I’ve worked with some really amazing women and men in the program to try to make the experience better for everyone involved.”

Thanks to the work of Muldoon and her peers, Mendoza now has an official Men as Allies club on campus, a group that engages complex issues of gender equality, bias and behavioral dynamics in the classroom and workplace. “I’m excited that it’s not just the females talking about it, but the male students as well,” Muldoon says. “I’m jealous of the first years and the people coming into the program. It’s a really exciting time to be a woman at Notre Dame.”

Next stop: PepsiCo

In addition to her leadership roles at Notre Dame, Muldoon participated in a summer internship with PepsiCo in New York. Shortly after her tenure there, she was offered a position in brand management, which will be waiting for her when she graduates with her MBA in May.

“I found a lot of similarities between Notre Dame’s commitment to ethics and the way that Pepsi runs their business,” Muldoon says. “They’re constantly asking more of themselves, whether they’re talking about their products or their people. And that’s exactly what we do in Mendoza.”