Do Women Benefit from an MBA?

In recent years, with education costs skyrocketing and entrepreneurialism growing trendier, serious questions about the necessity of business school have arisen. The arguments against business school are simple: the debt is crippling, and these days people are as likely to find success starting their own companies right out of college as finding jobs in existing corporate structures. You can pretty easily find data both supporting and countering these arguments, though Bloomberg might have done the most objective analysis, looking specifically at the return on investment numbers at several top MBA programs.

 

The reality, though, is that there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to the question of an MBA’s value in modern society. There are some cases in which it will be useful and worth the investment, some in which it may be unnecessary, and some that probably fall somewhere in the middle. But in this post I want to address the same question specifically with regard to women entering the workplace with business aspirations.

 

A couple years ago, a fairly thorough article in Forbes put forth five reasons that women should consider MBAs, despite some of the skepticism about business degrees mentioned previously. To summarize, here’s a look at those five reasons:

 

1. Preparation For Male-Dominated Culture

This is probably the fairest point made in the Forbes article. Simply put, business school can be a pretty “fraternity-like” environment (as the article put it). While that might not sound appealing—particularly after undergrad—it’s not the worst preparation. Business culture is still pretty male-dominated in a lot of cases, and by putting yourself in the same situation for school you can develop thicker skin and a stronger voice in the face of a cult of business bros.

 

2. Increased Comfort with Risk

Forbes wisely points out that business school teaches students that risk is always present in the professional world. You’ll learn when and how to take gambles on companies, proposals, investments, etc., and it will all serve you well in a professional capacity later on. But it may be most helpful of all to women, giving that boldness and quick decision-making can be strong assets when you’re outnumbered by men.

 

3. Lessen Your Inner Perfectionist

In assisting prospective MBA students with their applications, the Menlo Coaching program focuses a great deal on honesty, introspection, and admitting personal failures or shortcomings. Indeed, these are all important aspects of a good application, but as demonstrated by countless successful businesspeople, they’re also valuable traits moving forward. The Forbes article agrees, pointing out that “strong is better than perfect,” and that the ability to accept limitations in the name of finishing tasks is a vital one in business. This is something you’ll certainly learn in the schooling process, though it’s more generally useful than specific to women.

 

4. Preparation For Competition

This goes somewhat hand-in-hand with the first point. Business school will undeniably increase your comfort level with competition and leadership, but there’s an argument to be made that this is more important for women than for men. Unfortunately, a man who doesn’t learn competitiveness from business school is likelier to be accepted anyway in a business environment, whereas a woman who shows any level of discomfort with this aspect of business school might just not make it.

 

5. Become More Numbers-Savvy

This too is more of a general point than one that’s specifically applicable to women, but it’s worth noting nevertheless. Sometimes we forget that there’s actual education involved in pursuing an MBA, rather than money spent and a degree earned. The numbers side of business is one that needs to be learned patiently and comprehensively, and business school certainly helps with that.

 

None of this is meant to answer the question definitively, because the merits of business school and the MBA are best determined on a case-by-case business. However, it is clear that as long as we live in a world in which men still largely dominate business, there are some additional considerations for women in the MBA debate.


Patti Conner

Patti Conner is a freelance blogger based out of Seattle, WA. She focuses on topics related to business and finance.

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