Kent State's College of Business Administration's First Female MBA Graduate Receives Business Award
Kent State University alumna Judith A. Jones is the first honoree of the Spirit of Women in Business Award. Jones, a 1964 graduate of the College of Business Administration’s Masters of Business Administration program, was the first woman to receive an MBA from the university. “I wasn’t trying to be a trendsetter,” Jones said. “I just knew that was what I liked to do and it was what I wanted to do.”
Jones said she chose to attend Kent State because it was affordable and near her hometown of Canton, Ohio. After receiving her undergraduate degree in finance with Kent State in 1961, Jones was able to remain at Kent State to receive her MBA after she received a scholarship as a graduate assistant.
Jones said she originally wanted to get a job in economics but there were no careers open in that field for women. The same problem occurred in accounting firms, so Jones chose to study finance.
“I was really interested in the way business worked,” Jones said. “I tried education and even worked as a substitute teacher, but I didn’t like it, and nursing was out of the question. There were so many fields not open to women, but banking was doable.”
Jones said that she faced many challenges while earning her MBA. At times, Jones said, it was lonely being a woman isolated from her male study partners.
“They didn’t know if I was serious or not,” Jones said. “They didn’t know I had staying power.”
She said there were some women in her classes, but most of them wanted to teach high school.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Jones went to work for Goodyear Aerospace Corp. in Akron, Ohio, as a market researcher. In 1965, Jones joined Cleveland Trust, which eventually merged with KeyBank, as an administrative assistant.
After being promoted to a security analyst, she then became a portfolio manager for employee benefit accounts. From there, Jones managed not-for-profit accounts and eventually became manager of the Charitable Division, which handled more than $2 billion in assets. Her largest account responsibility was the Cleveland Foundation. In 1999, Jones retired as senior managing director of Society Asset Management, a division of Key Asset Management.
Once she earned her degree and entered the workforce, Jones said it presented her with a new set of challenges. She said one of the challenges she faced was dealing with bank customers. Jones said that her company used to meet clients at a place called the Union Club in Cleveland, but she wasn’t allowed to enter through the front and had to go in the side door. She said when they met with clients, there would be an administrator, usually a man, and Jones as the investment officer. Jones said often when asking financial questions, clients would look to the man for the answer rather than her.
“The customers were understanding,” Jones said. “But they were also cautious. People had to get used to the idea of a woman in a position of investment advisor. It was a change for them, but it didn’t feel negative to me.”
As the years passed and more women chose banking as a career path, Jones said it got easier. She said she has seen a tremendous change in the amount of women in the workforce.
“It’s night and day,” Jones said. “I think it’s wonderful. You see just as many women or more women in higher level positions; positions they earned.”
Jones believes in continuing education, earning the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1973 and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation in the early 1980s. Jones served as president of the Cleveland Society of Security Analysts from 1982 to 1983 and served as a panelist for the Los Angeles Times Annual Investment Strategies Conference in 1999. She also enjoyed participating in Wall Street Journal’s Dartboard Contest.
Jones, now retired, currently resides in Florida with her husband, Harry.
The Spirit of Women in Business Award goes to a Kent State alumna who excels in her profession, paving the way for women in business, and is actively involved with the university.
The Spirit of Women in Business Conference will take place on March 5 and will feature keynote speakers Amy Cuddy and Farai Chideya. Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor, studies the way people perceive one another. Chideya is an award-winning journalist, entrepreneur and sociopolitical analyst who looks at the future workplace and economy.