Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Usual Question of Why Top Business Schools Can’t Attract Enough Qualified Women

The headline of the August 20th Wall Street Journal article by Sue Shellenbarger “The Mommy M.B.A.: Schools Try to Attract More Women” annoyed me.

Same old, same old. I’m so tired of reading why top business schools can’t attract classes of close to 50% women. I’ve heard the reasons why and I agree with some of them. But this sentence in the article is just silly:

The alternative – seeking an M.B.A. at a younger age – means shouldering roughly $80,000 in M.B.A. expenses at a life stage when many are laden with student loans and aren’t making much money.

This sentence makes no sense (ignoring that young men have the same considerations), especially when compared with the article’s mention that “female enrollment in full-time M.B.A. programs has remained mired for years at a dismal 30%, compared with about 49% in medical schools and 47% in law schools.”

Hello, the expenses for law school (three years compared to two years for a full-time M.B.A.) and medical school (four years) are comparably more than for an M.B.A. program. And both a law degree and a medical degree are usually undertaken almost immediately after undergraduate college.

As I have previously written, I believe that business school is of less interest to women than law school or medical school for two main reasons:

  • Hollywood movies and television frequently portray women as lawyers or doctors and infrequently if at all portray women in high-powered business positions (LIPSTICK JUNGLE and CASHMERE MAFIA being the exceptions).

  • Young women are not exposed at an early age to the wide variety of careers in business as they are in elementary and secondary school to careers in science and engineering thanks to school programs sponsored by corporate America.

In 1977, when I told my mother that I planned to apply to an M.B.A. program, she repeated what she had told me before: she thought I could be a very good executive secretary. I asked her why I couldn’t be the executive. (I didn’t listen to my mother, and instead I graduated in 1980 with an M.B.A. from Wharton.)

I strongly maintain that, if more young women were exposed to varied business careers earlier in their lives, the problem of getting qualified female applicants for top business schools would be greatly solved.

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