Diversity and Inclusion

MBALaunch LA: Leaning In

“In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

Karen-OkakaAs co-founder of Lean In Los Angeles, I decided it was time to do something about the Gender Gap and raise awareness to remove barriers for women. The “Gender Gap” exists in the disparity between men’s and women’s salaries, and opportunities.

At the Forté LA MBALaunch kickoff in February 2015, I met Jessica Chung of the UCLA Anderson Admissions program. In the months that followed, Lean In Los Angeles would partner with UCLA Anderson and the Riordan Program to share a similar mission: promote women’s leadership.

Lean In Los Angeles’ mission is to establish equality for women in the workplace. Lean In Los Angeles is an organization that helps connect women throughout the LA region, and provides targeted materials and workshops they need to successfully help one another.

Our partnership with the Forté organization became a huge opportunity to shine light on the gender gap topic. In addition, the number of women in business school is a topic that garners frequent attention, so I saw an opportunity to not only add to the discussion but to put some action behind the words.

Gender inequality stem from differences in areas such as corporate image, expectations, and promotional opportunities. Research shows an MBA is a viable way to bridge that gap.

leaninla-audienceOn July 23 at a Lean In Los Angeles-sponsored event, approximately 70 women gathered at UCLA to discuss how an MBA can close this gap. Women from all backgrounds had conversations with an engaged panel of six UCLA Anderson School alums. The diversified panel represented careers in consulting, sustainability, finance, marketing and human resources. The candid discussion drove home how an MBA improves confidence, credibility and advancement among women. The discussion in the room encouraged everyone to consider an MBA.

I want other women to be more aware of the opportunities an MBA presents. In the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg states that women are less likely to go for “stretch opportunities” — an imperative part of the conversation as we work towards gender equality.

The Lean In LA event fantastically showcased the best of Anderson from a woman’s perspective, and gave candid advice not only to potential admits, also considerations for future careers. I found myself getting excited about the year ahead as I applied to business school.

Forté has been an invaluable resource throughout the entire business school application. As a Forté MBALauncher, the access to admissions committee, school’s alumni and students is absolutely priceless. Applying to a top MBA program is hard, but the Forté MBALaunch program makes the journey realistic and enjoyable.

I hope to keep finding ways to collaborate and work towards a world where women and men are measured by the same professional standards.


Karen Okaka is the co-founder of Lean In Los Angeles, with 5+ years of cultivating innovative  projects in business and technology. She was an entrepreneur from an early age with a knack for discovering unique growth opportunities. Karen has a global footprint, working in the US, Canada and UK. She merges an understanding of relationship management and technology to serve the needs of end customers.  Karen holds a bachelors degree from the University of Waterloo, Canada. Originally from Nigeria, Karen enjoys traveling and learning new cultures. An avid sports enthusiast she enjoys running, biking, yoga and playing soccer.

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