For many years, women have been underrepresented in the top tiers of the business world. Companies have used various tactics, such as offering childcare and flexible working hours, to encourage women to take on these jobs. However, colleges have taken a different approach. They have been working from the bottom-up by getting more women to enroll in M.B.A. programs and teaching their students about diversity and family-friendly working environments in these programs.
Sadly, these efforts have not had quite the effect that those who work in academia have hoped. This is evidenced by the fact that fewer women are enrolling in business-school than men. Additionally, fewer women are picking an education in business than in other professional schools, such as law or medical schools.
One school that seems to be doing it right is Insead, a business school that is located outside Paris, France. The business school has recently seen a drastic increase in the percent of females who attend it. In 2005, only 17 percent of the students were female; this year, the female population has increased to 33 percent.
“When women are only 17 percent of the group, they are far less likely to speak up,” said Herminia Ibarra, an organizational behavior professor at the school. “When they are over 30 percent you can be sure they are raising the issues important to them.”
If women are able to voice their opinions about issues that are important to them. By asking women these questions, Insead has been able to learn what interests women about earning their M.B.A. and what factors were discouraging them from doing so. The results show that women need financial assistance, such as scholarships, in addition to a thorough understanding of how a M.B.A. can be used and what career paths it could lead to.
Not surprisingly, the biggest factor that has kept women from going to business schools has been a lack of time. Many women who are ready to start working on a M.B.A. have many other responsibilities in their lives, such as a job, family life, and personal interests.
“[Time]’s going to continue to be an issue,” Ibarra said. However, she also said that focusing on the long-term goal of educating women in this field is the most important thing. “We get women students from the younger and higher end o the age spectrum, but we’re trying to educate women about the career paths that an M.B.A. can prepare them for.”
Another factor that is keeping women from pursuing a higher education is this field is a lack of mentors and role models in the field. At Insead, the women are already creating a strong support network to help each other to stay motivated. They also motivate each other and attend events together.
“They invite women speakers and hold events,” said Ibarra. These events are relatively new to the campus and help to give women a feeling of belonging.
Via The NY Times
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