Women Going Stronger

Women and the Executive MBA

Prospects are brighter than ever for corporate women. The numbers of women in business schools are rising yearly, wages are reaching parity in an increasing number of industries, and now there is an all-American effort to encourage boards to include female business degree holders. These developments will hopefully infect the rest of the world too. Nevertheless, B-schools’ increasing popularity among women calls for an even better understanding of what needs to be considered before applying.

According to Forbes magazine, in 2007 the number of women in MBA programmes increased by 75% hike in comparison with the previous decade. According to Catalyst, a non-profit organization which supports women in business, 36% of all MBA graduates in the US in 2011 were women.

The advantages of the executive form of the MBA programme for women are obvious: no need to interrupt work and be absent from family for long periods of time, while still working in an intense business environment with fellow executives. It provides a more flexible attitude on behalf of faculty, co-students and administrators who aim to accommodate as many of the working mother’s needs as possible.

The executive MBA provides a more mildly academic environment more suited to the pace and environments of busy executives. Moreover, in today’s times of economic peril, remaining on the payroll while studying for a high-value business degree which will most surely boost your income even further, is more than preferable for both students and financing institutions which would gladly have your salary as loan security. Women in particular find this to be one of the Executive MBA programme’s major assets, together with not having to be absent from family.

Although joining an MBA or an EMBA programme is becoming an increasingly natural step for corporate women, there are still aspects of this endeavour which need to be considered in depth before choosing to join what can be a very intense and rigorous race. Here is a list of some major points to bear in mind before deciding to apply:

Family. No matter how evolved and advanced the corporate world may have become, this will always be issue number one with women in business. A greater number of women choose to proceed with an MBA degree after attaining some level of corporate success. So they might be well into their thirties or even forties and have families and children. Albeit more relaxed schedule-wise, EMBA programmes can be quite rigorous too and require great dedication and long hours of studying. Still, they make an excellent choice for working mothers with weekend-based schedules and much more flexible administrative conditions, including online and distance classes.

Pay. Although obtaining an EMBA degree will most commonly place you on the fast track to higher pay (no less than 60 per cent salary increase as per Financial Times’ MBA rankings), studies show that
even with b-school degrees, men’s salaries continue to outpace women in almost all industries. This is often due to the type of industries where women and men with MBA degrees are employed. While the majority of men with business degrees would head to or continue growing in the finance field, women tend to be attracted to consulting firms, consumer products, information technology and venture capital. Research, however, shows that fewer and fewer applicants aim to study for a b-degree with better pay in mind. Reaching new horizons in business and expanding one’s opportunities seem to be the key motivators for both men and women.

Career growth potential. Unlike single men and women in their 20s who are still on the verge of corporate success, it is assumed that EMBA students already enjoy much of that. So unless your employer is strongly encouraging you to obtain a business degree as a key factor to your further growth in their company as well as paying for it, it is important to consider how you can actually grow further in your company as a working mother, and if you could use your hard-earned diploma to reach new heights in new fields. After all, it is still your time, your children and your future which have to be the end beneficiaries of your efforts. Even in the A-class of business knowledge, feeling happy is key. So embarking on an EMBA programme with a clear view of the future will provide rich rewards. An increasing number of women have been putting their business degrees to use in fields such as public relations, education and advertising, all fields generally considered to be for the creative types. A business degree is also becoming increasingly sought-after by top international law firms advising corporate clients, so the sky is the limit for the less fearful of you.

Networking. While both the MBA and EMBA programmes entail very heavy studying, the latter requires a less academic and a more business environment where your fellow students are fellow executives. Mingling and being socially active in your class makes up a great part of the EMBA’s value. Thus, women enrolling in EMBA programmes should consider the social aspect of their business education. They need to dedicate part of their precious time to networking in addition to family, work, and extended family obligations, health and well-being. EMBA should not be a first choice for loners.

Scholarships. Considered how powerful women have become over the past two decades and despite loud cries for gender equality worldwide, amazingly there are still plenty of opportunities in the Western world for women to receive education scholarships for just being… women. EMBA and MBA programmes are no exception, especially in the US where a number of organisations working to empower women in business have invested great efforts and resources to secure funding for promising and ambitious women in business schools. Some of those include the C200 Foundation aiming to support women’s business leadership, the Business Professional Women Foundation, the American Business Women’s Association, and many more.

Whatever a woman’s attitude to the five issues mentioned above, she will surely benefit greatly from enrolling in an executive MBA programme. All of the five women interviewed for this article shared that they had the most positive experience out of their EMBA studies regardless of whether they chose to continue growing with their old employers or venture into their own businesses. Their executive MBA programmes gave them the opportunity to expand their business choices immensely. Interestingly, some women said that going through business school during the past couple of years helped them maintain healthy enthusiasm for business in general, in today’s difficult times. The EMBA could be useful in many wonderful ways.

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