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The benefits of an MBA for women

September 28, 2016 by Helen Eckmann, Ed.D.

As an executive coach and consultant in business and a faculty member in a business school (and a woman) I often hear thought-provoking stories from women in business.  As an executive coach I have worked with an equal number of men and women, titles including; CEOs, vice presidents and department heads.  Coaching is often about listening to stories, finding the patterns in experiences and helping the person craft new “ways of being” or confronting the “sticky” parts of the professional and personal lives. As I help those I mentor make better (or at least different) choices (Einstein: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”), I have noticed a pattern in the stories of the women.

These patterns often surround three themes: women being “left out” of decision-making (even when it is in their field of expertise); women being put in charge of something after it is already broken (like Mary Barra, first female CEO getting a shot at the helm at General Motors after GM’s major recall); or women feeling targeted by others for any mistake that is made, by them or any other woman in the organization.

Fighting the Pay Gap

It often occurs to me that women are in a bit of a bind when it comes to business. According to full-time, working women make approximately $11,000 a year less than their equal male counterpart in business [1].  Women are full of great ideas and more than likely what I hear is that smart, sophisticated and hard working women want to be taken seriously.

I have also heard from the men I have coached that they don’t like it when women try to “act like a man” in business. I can never stop myself from asking what “acting like a man” means. What I most often hear from the executive or C-Suite men is they don’t like it when women swear, act too aggressive, or try to take over a meeting. This answer always causes me to pause If women can’t act like men, what can they do?

One way that women can stop being left out, of getting only “fix-it” jobs is to become known as the “go-to-person” for new ideas, for opportunities and options and providing a fresh look at a persistent threat (like declining sales). Women make up more than 50 percent of employees. How can women establish themselves as thought leaders in business?

MBA Programs Can Help

I have found that an MBA for women means they are more likely to find that they can have a seat at the table. MBA programs focus on critical-thinking skills, complex problem-solving, financial expertise, and improves business communication skills. When a woman holds the MBA credentials she can present her good ideas with more confidence and back up her good ideas with data-driven decisions. Nothing turns the head of a CEO more than ROI (return on investment).

According to a 2015 article in Forbes Magazine people who get an MBA should expect a $45,000 bump in salary. I’ve never met a woman who could not put that to good use [2].  Forbes also reports 88 percent of companies in a new Graduate Management Admission Council study [3] say they plan to hire graduates of MBA programs in 2016.  According to that same article, this year is the best year for getting an MBA!

Will getting an MBA solve all of the problems of women in business? Heck no! But it is a start and perhaps as more women get an MBA, women can lead the charge for getting business (and maybe even politics) to improve.

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