At the School of Management’s third annual Yale MBA Women’s Summit Thursday evening, approximately 300 prospective students gathered with SOM alumnae, faculty, and current students for a panel discussion entitled “Leadership in Business and Society Today: A Personal View.”

The event was held at the Yale Club of New York City and was part of the SOM’s ongoing effort to recruit women for its MBA program.

“We are committed to expanding the ranks of women as leaders in management, both in business and society, and we think an MBA is excellent preparation for that,” SOM Admissions Director Anne Coyle said. “We think that continuing to work to increase the percentage of women in our MBA program can have an impact on future leadership.”

While the SOM placed fourth in the Wall Street Journal’s ranking of best business schools for women in 2002, Coyle said women currently make up only 30 percent of the students in Yale’s MBA program, down from an all-time high of 50 percent during the 1980s.

The SOM’s percentage of female students is lower than that of many other leading MBA programs. At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, the percentage of female students ranges from 33 percent to 38 percent.

After opening remarks from Coyle and SOM Dean Jeffrey Garten, seven alumnae panelists spoke for a few minutes each about their lives and career paths. The group included women with a variety of different backgrounds and occupations including entrepreneurship, marketing and portfolio management.

The main focus of the evening was a question and answer session with the audience, SOM officials said. During this session, many of the panelists said it was following their passion that led them to success. They also explained what they valued most about their SOM experiences and discussed issues such as balancing work with family life.

“I’m very interested to see the women at the School of Management, both alumni and current students, have a good sense of what people do, how to achieve a successful career, and how to achieve a balance in life,” panelist Ranji Nagaswami SOM ’86 said.

Women in Management, or WIM, a networking and social organization for women at the SOM, co-sponsored the event with the Admissions Office. About 50 current SOM students contacted prospective students beforehand and attended the summit, organizers said.

Rachel Gregg SOM ’04, a WIM coordinator, said she attended the first summit two years ago and it was a deciding factor in her choice to attend the SOM. This year, Gregg helped organize the participation of current students in the summit.

“I thought the panelists were really inspirational,” Gregg said of her experience at the previous summit. “You really [felt] welcomed. I think [these conferences are] a really good reflection of the experience at Yale SOM.”

Gregg said she hopes the summit will be marketed more extensively to Yale College undergraduates in future years.