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WANTED: More Women in Executive MBA Programs

How can Wall Street get itself out of the current financial crisis? They can start by putting more women at the helm. According to the latest research, companies with female board members traditionally outperform those without, and 80 percent of purchasing decisions in the U.S. are made by women.

If this is true, why aren’t more qualified women attaining business leadership positions? To date, only 15.7 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officers are women.

This may be partly due to the dismal enrollment among women in Executive MBA (EMBA) programs. So business schools are actively courting women, by addressing some of the stumbling blocks that have traditionally kept women from pursuing the degree.

The Work/Life Balance
The Wall Street Journal reports that the nation’s EMBA programs are only comprised of 20 percent females. EMBA courses generally run full days on weekends, to accommodate those anxious to complete degrees while managing full-time work schedules. For many women who see weekends as family time, the EMBA is fairly unappealing.

It’s a work/life balance that women are increasingly seeking and, perhaps mistakenly, believing that EMBA programs and the corporate fast track won’t offer. However, the EMBA may offer more of such a balance than traditional programs, because it can prepare women for career advancement more quickly, without causing them to lose ground at work.

Other reasons many women cite for shunning EMBA programs include: difficulty finding money to cover the cost of the program, the perception that the glass ceiling may keep real advancement at bay, a lack of female role models, a lack of encouragement from peers, family or employers, as well as a lack of confidence in their own math skills.

What Women Have, B-Schools Want
Universally, businesses and business schools alike agree that a diverse population of men and women is extremely valuable. This diversity can enhance fellow students’ experiences by increasing the pool of skills and ideas available, enabling greater networking opportunities, leveling the playing field in the workplace, and producing qualified candidates who may be more likely to identify with businesses’ intended consumers.

Traditionally, the “feminine” traits of emotional engagement, altruism, and cooperation have been perceived as weak and therefore less valuable in the profit-and-loss corporate world. Yet it’s these traits that, in a struggling economy, are vital to finding and building relationships with customers.

Because it pays to draw women to EMBA programs, many business schools are making themselves more attractive. They’re recruiting more female faculty, featuring more women in advertising materials, offering flexibility through online courses, and trying to make more EMBA scholarships available.

A Return on Your EMBA Investment
There are numerous reasons why it can pay to earn an EMBA, not the least of which is that it can enhance your ability to identify with and court clients. The MBA credential offers a boost to your confidence and credibility with colleagues, which can ensure others that you have the expertise needed to take on more responsibility.

Not to mention the salary boost. The Executive MBA Council says that in 2007, students surveyed reported a 21 percent salary increase after completing their EMBA, and 43 percent of students received promotions while still enrolled in their EMBA programs.

An EMBA can provide you with numerous valuable tools, including the know-how to assess risk, harvest innovative ideas, forecast market behavior, and effectively market products. Plus, those female entrepreneurs looking for investment capital or angel funding may likely find that investors are far more receptive to those backed by an MBA education.

So while the sacrifice of time and money may at first seem overwhelming, EMBA programs are becoming more and more accessible and attractive than they’ve ever been, and with the return on investment this degree provides, now might be just the right time to look into it.

Executive MBA Council
Management Issues, “A new blueprint for business” by Pauline Crawford
Microsoft Small Business Center, “Can an MBA help women in business?” by Joanna L. Krotz
Newser.com, “Female Perspective Sorely Lacking at Davos”
The Daily Pennsylvanian, “Executive MBA program recruits women” by Steven Allen
The New York Times, “Wall Street’s Women Face a Fork in the Road” by Jenny Anderson
The Wall Street Journal, “A Female Face on Executive M.B.A.s” by Alina Dizik


Publish date: February 22, 2009