Women pursuing careers in management often approach me with the question – will an MBA advance my career? While, at Female Breadwinners we do encourage many women to study further, it’s not the easy fix towards equality many assume. Most management skills are learnt on the job, rather than in school. Besides, in the long run, most women simply can’t afford to put their careers behind by at least 2 years and the hefty financial investment. For example, at Harvard an M.B.A. costs more than a hundred and eighty thousand dollars before lost wages. Arguably, it’s the qualities that get a candidate admitted to Harvard, rather than her degree itself, that insure her success after graduation. Even when they get there, there will be few role models in the coursework as only eight percent case studies feature female protagonists.
The uncomfortable truth is women in business are more likely to have their careers interrupted because of family considerations. A Harvard Study on the dynamics of gender gap for young professionals in the corporate sector mapped the careers of business school graduates from 1990 to 2006. They found that a decade after earning their M.B.A.s, women were 22% more likely than men to have experienced at least one career interruption. Just over 13% of women weren’t working, compared to 1% of their male colleagues. The study also found that “M.B.A. mothers seem to actively choose jobs that are family friendly and avoid jobs with long hours and greater career advancement possibilities.”
Laura Hemphill of the New Yorker wisely points out – “Given this possibility, isn’t the most important thing for a woman to work as hard as she can and advance as far as possible while she’s still in her twenties and her life is as uncomplicated as it’s going to get? That way, by the time she’s a decade or so along, she’ll have more savings, more job experience, and more bargaining power—all of which translate into more options.” An M.B.A degree is certainly not the obvious or even smart choice for all.