Earning the MBA Becomes More Family Friendly

Women have always faced certain biases when it comes to business. Pay gaps, maternity leave and the overall balance of work and family life have limited women to positions that are available to them. However, over the last few years the number of women in leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies and in political office has increased. According to the Pew Research Center, “Women have made inroads in this area slowly over time.”

Twenty years ago, there were no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Now, women make up 5 percent of CEOs in the country’s Fortune 500 companies, 17 percent of the corporate board members among Fortune 500 companies and there are now 104 women who serve as members of Congress, according to the Pew Center. The number of state legislators who are women has also risen from 4.5 percent in 1971 to 24.2 percent in 2015.

The corporate and political worlds are not the only places where women are beginning to see changes. Colleges and Universities are now seeing more women enrolled in MBA programs than ever before. According to Pew, in 2013 women earned 36 percent of MBAs. Specifically, the Sloan School of Management at MIT welcomed the largest class of women in the school’s history in 2014. The incoming class of MBA students at Sloan in the Fall of 2014 was 40 percent female, up from 33 percent from the last year.

The increased variety in format of the MBA has also helped women to find the work-life balance necessary to complete an MBA program. More schools are now offering online MBA programs for students who may not have time to go to campus for classes or are looking for a program that will give them maximum flexibility. The Marshall School of Business at USC is just one of the school’s that has recently created an online MBA program. The Marshall online MBA is a 21 month program that will feature a curriculum that was designed specifically for the online learning environment. The first class of Marshall online MBA students will begin in Fall 2015.

The increase in program advertising that targets women has helped to increase the number of women enrolling in MBA programs. The Harvard Business School has recently started a new recruiting program that is directly targeting women. The new program, called PEEK, will address the underrepresentation of women in the Harvard student body. Of the 1,859 MBA students currently enrolled in the Business School, 41 percent are female. The new recruiting program will target women’s colleges to help increase the female study body.

Recently, there has also been an increase in the number of student groups that support women, mothers and mothers-to-be. At the Columbia Business School, the Columbia Women in Business (CWIB) group is one of the most popular and successful student organizations on campus. The group has partnered with organizations both on and off the Columbia campus that are devoted to supporting women in business, such as the Forté Foundation and the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women initiative. Columbia also works closely with the University’s Office of Work/Life, Columbia Better Halves and the CWIB subcommittee, Mothers in Business, to make the School experience as accommodating as possible for mothers and soon-to-be mothers.

Columbia is not the only school with groups that focus on women. The Wharton Women in Business (WWIB) is a professional organization that works to expand career, leadership and networking opportunities at The Wharton School. The annual conference is the group’s cornerstone event. The conference features prominent women in business and discussions on the relevant issues that women in business are facing.

Dana Brown, the director of the MBA program at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School, recently wrote an article that was featured on the Financial Times website. In the article, Brown states, “We need to see more mothers participating in the MBA at Oxford and other business schools. Mothers add unique value to the MBA, and serve as role models for both male and female peers, many of whom will at some point confront the challenge of balancing their career and parental responsibilities.”

Brown also comments that motherhood has its benefits for women who are completing the MBA degree. She explains that motherhood forces women to develop certain skills such as time management. She also states that mothers have learned how to “genuinely support others,” which can help them to contribute to the learning environment.

The business school experience is getting easier for women. Schools are working harder than ever to attract female applicants and are redesigning how MBA programs are structured to make programs more appealing to women who have families. Whatever the reason for pursuing a MBA degree, women can feel confident that they have a place in the classroom.

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About the Author

Erin Purcell

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.

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