As a mom of two young children, Divinity Matovu was originally unsure if she wanted to pursue an MBA. She enrolled in Forté’s MBALaunch to learn more about the application process after one of her contacts raved about the program. Within weeks of starting the GMAT modules, she quickly realized she needed to make a definitive decision given the work involved.
Divinity contacted the Forté team for further support. She didn’t see many images of women MBA students with kids and needed to hear how they were juggling an MBA program and parenting. She received a list of Forté Fellows who are moms so she could get their perspectives.
She connected with Forté Fellow and MBALaunch Advisor Erin Nilon, a mom of two toddlers who was earning her MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Erin’s youngest was only a few months old when she started her MBA program, and she blogged she was getting her MBA because of her children—not despite them.
“She was such an inspiration to me,” Divinity said. “I see reflections of myself in these role models. Forté gave me the confidence to know I can do this.”
Not only will Divinity begin University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton MBA program this fall with a coveted Howard E. Mitchell Fellowship covering her full tuition, she’s now on a mission to address the lack of MBA student mom role models. She officially launched a new blog, MBAMama, in mid-April, and it features Erin Nilon as the first “MBA Mama of the Month.”
Her goal is to create a place where women with kids — or who may want kids — can readily access role models and unique resources they can use in getting their MBAs as parents. Examples might include pointing to the top business schools offering childcare, kids clubs, or locations within good school districts.
She also shares her own story within, and thinks telling it helped her stand out in the MBA application process. She adopted her son, Shafiq, age 7, from Uganda. She wasn’t able to bring him to U.S., so she supports him from afar while he lives with her relatives there. She lives with her daughter, Nyah, age 3, day-to-day as a single mom, and she officially launched the MBAMama blog on Nyah’s birthday. Divinity says she wants to challenge the status quo that tells mothers they cannot or should not aim for the top.
“I look forward to group projects in business school where I can offer my perspectives as a mother,” Divinity said. “I bring different life experiences to campus as a parent. After getting a toddler to eat asparagus, my negotiation skills are better than most,” she laughed.
MBAMama is the fourth start-up Divinity has launched, and she aims to monetize it during her MBA program.
More Advice from Forté “MBA Moms”
In celebration of Mother’s Day — and in hopes that Forté women will continually inspire one another — we welcomed comments from others in the Forté network who are pursuing, or who already earned, their MBAs while also raising children. Here’s what they said about how the unique perspectives of MBA students who are moms add value on campus and beyond.
“Being an MBA student who is also a mom helped me to better prioritize tasks and focus on getting important work done in a timely matter. My teammates value my efficiency and dedication when working with me. It helps me to be more results-oriented and focus on getting the maximum work done during any time crunch.”
Fei Yang Adams
Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business, 2014 MBA Graduate
Mom of Eleanor Rose, age 4, and a baby girl on the way, due June 2015
“As an MBA candidate and a mother, I am illustrating to both my female and male colleagues—many of whom will be career-driven parents in the future—that you can have both. The time management, spousal support, and personal drive required to complete an MBA as a parent are the same ingredients needed to have a rewarding career while raising a family. Beyond campus, I am modeling to my son that education and professional pursuits are valuable. I hope that witnessing my MBA achievement as a child will inspire my son to set higher goals for himself as an adult.”
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois MBA), 2015 MBA Candidate
Mom of Tyler, age 4
“Before I had a child and came back to work for a year as a parent, I didn’t understand the specific issues mothers in business face. Practicing that balancing act gave me a new take on what it means to be a mother who is also dedicated to her career, and I now ask different questions and feel more passionate about negotiating the areas of work that are particularly difficult for mothers. This understanding was my primary reason for wanting to lead Fuqua’s Association for Women in Business club. On a personal level, there’s a lot of stress, excitement, joy, and disappointment wrapped up in the first year of any MBA program. Having my son forces me to pause and switch gears—and bursts the “MBA bubble” daily—which I think is very healthy for keeping my perspective balanced.”
Genevieve Joyce Lupton
Duke University The Fuqua School of Business, 2016 MBA Candidate
Mom of Robert “Trent,” age 2, and a baby on the way, due November 2015
“My children helped me keep perspective in business school, grounding me and reminding me each day what really mattered and what I should bother stressing over. And that perspective helped me be a better classmate and team member. Additionally, I believe that every person and family must make choices that are right for them, but as people and families we sometimes struggle to know our choices and to figure out what can work. I know I struggled when figuring out if I could balance starting business school with a 3-month-old, a 2-year-old, and a partner who worked full time. So I looked to other women paving the way before me, and I hope I was (and can continue to be) an example for other women.”
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 2014 MBA Graduate
Mom of Graelyn, age 4, and Elcie, age 3
The Forté Foundation team wishes everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. Keep aiming high and cheering for one another’s success at school, work, and home!
And, if you have a similar story you’d like to share with Forté’s network now or in the future, please email us.