Flexibility is Key for Women Pursuing MBAs

Guest post by MBA@UNC’s Molly Greenberg

There is a clear lack of female representation in senior leadership positions in the corporate world, and leading businesses are failing to rectify this imbalance even though gender diversity is good for business.

While only five percent of Fortune 1000 companies are led by a female CEO, they generate seven percent of the Fortune 1000’s total revenue. These woman-led companies, including Mary Barra’s General Motors, outperformed the S&P 500 index over the course of their respective tenures.

Companies with a woman at the helm reward investors well, generating high returns. Given these facts, why aren’t more women present in the upper ranks of Corporate America? That’s the question The Wall Street Journal’s Joann S. Lublin and Nikki Waller set out to answer.

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In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Lublin and Waller wrote about a study of women in the workplace conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. The study found that apprehension about balancing work and family life are among the biggest deterrents for women interested in an executive role, even though 93 percent of women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 are married and 84 percent have children.

Women interested in pursuing an MBA experience this same hesitation where timing is called into question. Kristen Fanarakis would know. She is a graduate of MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program.

In a blog post for her alma mater, Fanarakis asks: “If an MBA is one of the key conduits to top positions in the Fortune 500 and the time versus investment trade-off tips the scale against pursuing the degree, then what is the solution?” The answer is flexibility.

According to Fanarakis, top business schools need to offer more programs that better align with a woman’s life and career. “Many top business school programs offer part-time or executive MBA programs, but these programs can take three to four years to complete and students are still required to live in a specific location,” writes Fanarakis. Leading business schools need to provide geographically neutral programs that can be completed in two years.

Fanarakis cites the study in The Wall Street Journal, which explains why businesses must help funnel women into line roles that lead to the C-suite, rather than staff roles. However, it’s not just businesses that must propel women forward.

“In any given year, approximately 40 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have an MBA,” says Fanarakis. “Education is clearly one of the keys to staying on the path to the C-suite and colleges and universities must do their part to address one of the root causes of this disparity.”

With women comprising of only 25 percent of the business school population, business schools need to determine new ways to attract and retain female students. They can do so by “providing advanced degree programs that allow women to fit education into their lives rather than having to fit their life around education,” says Fanarakis. Business school changes like this will contribute to resetting the balance of the top ranks of Fortune 500 companies.

You may also be interested in:

B-School Deans Convene at White House to Promote Women in Business
Gender Balance Scorecard at B-Schools Worldwide

image credit: Flickr user Steve Wilson (CC BY 2.0)
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