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Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that minority enrollment numbers for some of the nation’s top MBA programs were misleading. While most schools boast about minority rates that are above 30 percent and rising, researchers have discovered that Asian-Americans make up the bulk of these numbers, revealing that true enrollment rates for underrepresented minorities (African American, Hispanic and Native American) is actually much lower.

When it comes to enrollment numbers for women, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) estimates that women represent 31 percent of the population among top business schools. And if we were to examine these numbers under the same lens as in the above example, I’m sure we’d find that the rate of African-American women pursuing MBA degrees is relatively small, which to some is cause for alarm.

Given today’s economic realities and a dwindling number of job opportunities, it’s important for women of color to equip themselves with the proper tools for career advancement. And while pursuing an advanced degree may not be the right answer for everyone, having the degree can distinguish you from your peers and put you on the fast track to a more robust and visible role at work.

Speaking of visibility, Ursula Burns of the Xerox Corporation is the first African-American woman to run a Fortune 500 firm and she is currently only one of six African-Americans who hold the top job at any major company. While she is illuminating the path for many black women, her peers Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook) and Marissa Mayer (CEO, Yahoo) are also making huge strides in the business world.

And one of the things all three of these women have in common is they all have an advanced degree.

To give you an idea of how post-graduate education can effect your career, I spoke with nine successful African-American women with very diverse backgrounds who have all obtained an MBA. What they have to say may surprise you.

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