Elissa Sangster knows that despite the gradual but unmistakable progress women have made in business schools in the last decade, much more work remains to be done.
“I think I’ll be old and gray before we see this number of S&P 500 CEOs change, and I’m sad about that. I’m sad that we haven’t seen this number grow in the same way we’ve seen this pipeline grow and improve. I think that begs the question of: What’s happening once women are moving into their professional careers? When we did our research into the pay gap for MBA women not long ago and looking at the number of people reporting to them and the number of promotions they had received and generally the pay they were receiving — when you start looking at all of those elements, even post-MBA, the number is not as good as you would want it to be.
“In my mind, the MBA still gives you opportunities you would never have had you not pursued that degree. The MBA opens doors that many other paths into certain careers can’t open. Some careers are kind of off-limits unless you have an MBA. Some careers, you don’t have the flexibility to jump into those careers unless you’ve gone through this MBA process.
“To me, companies still need to be looking at how they are advancing their leaders and whether they’re giving women the opportunities they need to advance — are they giving them the plum assignments, are they giving them the right groups to lead? And I think women are equally responsible for making sure that the choices they make for their own careers are also in pursuit of those opportunities. I don’t think we can lay it all at the women’s feet. I think the companies have to take some responsibility for monitoring the data, analyzing the data, doing some navel-gazing themselves and making sure that they are on the numbers game — and that they are making sure that those people are getting promoted because they’re recruiting them from 50/50 classes of MBAs. Then when you get five to 10 years out, all of a sudden it’s 30% women, and that’s not OK. That means something has happened, because they were willing to come to work for you, so what happened over that five- to 10-year period? It can’t be that all of them just decided to leave because of children, because there’s plenty of them working still — they’re just not working for you.”