For Women, Doubts About The MBA As Economic Mobility Engine

Business schools have been getting closer to the parity threshold for years, with one major school — USC Marshall — achieving it last fall. But a new report from the Forte Foundation shows that women should be concerned with what happens after their MBA experience when they rejoin the workplace. File photo

How do women combat the pay gap when they realize they are on the wrong side of it? The top survey responses were: “I have not taken action and do not intend to,” and “I left the company.” It’s a recipe for inaction, Sangster tells P&Q. 

“I think women need to take action and call attention to these inequities and not walk away from an organization without being clear about why you’re leaving,” she says. “And I think as they’re exiting we saw that they weren’t addressing that necessarily with their employer and I think it’s on the onus of the company as well though to ask those questions and to have a good understanding of why they’re losing talent and not just assume that it’s about something that’s work/life balance or stepping out of the workforce or whatever assumption they might be making but that those employees are choosing a different path because they didn’t see that path open to them at their company. 

“When we asked women MBAs how they intend to address the gender pay gap they’ve experienced, it’s more common for them to leave the company rather than speak about it with their manager, human resources or company leadership. This is a wake-up call — companies need to take proactive steps to lessen the pay gap, or risk losing highly skilled women employees.”


Additional research insights and data include:

  • For minority women and men, the return on investment for an MBA is even greater than non-minorities in their first post-MBA job in terms of a salary bump: women (minority 70%, non-minority 63%); men (minority 84%, non-minority 70%). Meanwhile, the pay gap narrows post-MBA between minorities and non-minorities: (24% pre-MBA, 16% first post-MBA job, 12% current role).
  • In addition to compensation, the Forte study examined other typical measures of career progression, including a number of promotions and direct reports, plus level-title, since the first post-MBA position. The outcomes revealed that, on average, men have received 2.3 promotions since completing their MBA program, while women have only received 1.8. Men have an average of 3.3 individuals reporting to them; women only have an average of 1.8. And men have achieved, on average, the equivalent of the Director level within their organizations, while women trail behind one rung on the career ladder with an average level of Senior Manager. However, the study found no statistically significant differences in these areas for minorities versus non-minorities.
  • The research also examined six elements of career satisfaction: current role, company, level within the organization, the number of direct reports, current compensation, and career progression to date. It found that men have achieved higher levels of career satisfaction than women across all six elements. The number of direct reports women have, and their current compensation, are the biggest sources of career dissatisfaction for women.

“I really always thought that the MBA kind of leveled the playing field, and I think it still does in some respects because I think the opportunities that are out there are different post-MBA,” Sangster says. “But it doesn’t necessarily level the playing field in terms of the salary and I think that gap persists and it’s kind of related to the women making choices to go to other places. Maybe they’re not asking to address the issue within their own organization and see that pay gap go away or their pay increase. And I think that ultimately, in their post-MBA careers, they are still they’re faced with a lack of flexibility. Many of them are entering into a time in their career when they are thinking about work/life balance, and so if a company has not structured opportunities so that it’s flexible and it allows them to do both of those things, and you’re in a two-MBA household perhaps and you’re both out pursuing your careers and then you’re confronted with how to balance work and life, somebody usually steps back and I think often that is the female in the relationship.

“And so I think that’s part of what’s playing out, especially knowing where MBAs are going in their career path into these financial firms, the consulting firms that require some sacrifice that potentially women are not able to make because of other reasons, family reasons, or they’re just not willing to make because that’s not the most important thing to them. These firms haven’t really figured out how to structure a professional career leadership pathway that accommodates these kinds of choices.” 

Source: Forte Foundation

Source: Forte Foundation


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