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In Canada, the proportion of women taking the admission test for graduate business studies has climbed steadily, to a record high of 40 per cent this year according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the Reston, Va., organization that administers the test. But women are still under-represented in business schools, which may explain the interest in special events for female students.

Last week, Women in Management Clubs from seven schools of business at Ontario universities held their second annual summit in Toronto as a networking opportunity for female students to rub shoulders with established female professionals. The evening also had a charitable component, with students contributing business attire to Dress for Success, an organization that helps disadvantaged women return to the job market.

The networking event began with four schools two years ago and last week drew about 100 students. A hot topic was how to strike the right balance between career and family life.

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"We are all at the same age and stage in our careers and have a lot in common," says Catherine Pringle, 31, a member of the Women in Management Club at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and an organizer of the event. At her school, women make up 32 per cent of the one-year MBA program. "We do face different challenges once we re-enter the work force," she says.

A former aide to John Tory, the former leader of the provincial Conservatives, Ms. Pringle is set to graduate from her one-year MBA program next April, get married a month later and return to her job as manager of corporate affairs at Labatt.

At the event, former financial industry executive turned career coach professional Sharon Ranson offered advice on how to succeed at work without sacrificing family life. Ms. Pringle says she picked up a couple of key tips: learn how to delegate and to roll with the punches.

"As MBA students, we tend to be A-type [people]and we would love to think that everything goes according to our plan," she said. "It's nice to be reminded that life does not work that way."

Another organizer, Queen's University School of Business MBA student Shannon Kot, says she and others hope the event will lead to more collaboration among women in business organizations to encourage more female participation in business studies.

"Women need to understand that pursuing an MBA opens doors," says Ms. Kot, 26. "The more diversity of skills you have, the more valuable you are to a future employer or in building your own career."

New program for dentists

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Dentists are trained to look after their patients' teeth, but often struggle to handle the business side of their practice.

In response, the Sauder School of Business and the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia have teamed up to offer two new profession-specific certificate programs. The first program, for dentists with a practice, begins next month with 25 expected for the sold-out class.

"Almost all health professionals are extremely good at the clinical procedures and patient care, but they are not necessarily good at the business aspects," says Dr. Charles Shuler, dean of dentistry at UBC. "If your business is not running well, it could compromise patient care if you are under the gun for staff issues, legal challenges and accounting."

The new certificates, developed by Sauder's executive education in co-operation with the faculty of dentistry, have been endorsed by the British Columbia Dental Association. The content, taught in modules over a three-month period, includes tools to assess the performance of a practice and advice on improving its efficiency.

Bruce Weisner, associate dean of executive education at Sauder, is convinced the specialty training for dentists could lead to his school tailoring specialty programs for other professionals.

"We have seen a similar need in the legal profession and mining, where people who are outstanding in their field get to a point in their business, such as a change in proprietorship or a career change, and realize they lack business management skills," he says.

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Executive-in-residence named

David Sloan, senior vice-president and ombudsman of Toronto-Dominion Bank, is a long-time admirer of Ontario colleges and four years ago joined the board of governors of Centennial College in Toronto.

Last week, he took his college connection one step further, taking up a volunteer position as the first executive-in-residence appointment at Centennial's school of business.

"I thought there was more that I would like to do for the college," says Mr. Sloan, 55, who retains his bank job but plans to spend up to four or five weeks a year at the college during his two-year stint.

He expects to help the college with recruitment and placement of students and advise on curriculum changes to ensure students are attractive to employers.

After meeting with business students last week, he now plans to develop some case studies to help students avoid the pitfalls of trying to land a job in an uncertain economy.

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"This is a great thing they have allowed me to do," he says.

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