‘Money & Love’: Stanford Prof, MBA Team Up To Write A B-School Must-Read

'Money & Love': Stanford Prof, MBA Team Up To Write A B-School Must-Read

As an MBA student at Stanford, Abby Davisson took Myra Strober’s class 15 years ago. Now they have co-authored a book, “Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions,” available at Amazon and all major booksellers. Courtesy photo

When Abby Davisson was a second-year MBA student at Stanford, she signed up for a class called “Work and Family” taught by Professor Myra Strober. At the time, Davisson did not realize how much the course would impact her life — and she had no idea that, 15 years later, she’d be writing a book based on it with her former professor.

Their book, Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions, is based on the central idea of Strober’s course: Our personal relationships and career trajectories are intertwined; when making big decisions, we should always take both love and finances into account. “All of life’s biggest decisions involve both money and love,” Davisson says, “And when you look at the big picture and consider it holistically, you’re able to make better decisions.” The book offers a five-step framework, the “5Cs,” for making these choices.

Money and Love is filled with real accounts from people, including the authors, about the tough decisions they had to make and how they made them. Strober says she knew from the start that the book would contain many stories because the course had always been structured around the stories students and guest speakers shared in class every year about the difficult decisions they had to make. “Stories have always been at the heart of this work,” she says.


'Money & Love': Stanford Prof, MBA Team Up To Write A B-School Must-ReadDavisson took Strober’s course along with her then-boyfriend. They had been together for less than a year and, with graduation fast approaching, were trying to figure out how to balance their relationship and their career aspirations.

“When I was in my early and mid-20s, I really struggled with how to make big life decisions,” Davisson says. “It wasn’t until I took Myra’s class that I had this lightbulb moment, which was, ‘Oh, the reason why these life decisions are so hard is that the way that the conventional wisdom teaches us about how to make them is all wrong,” she explains. The decision-making strategies and research into variables that influence relationship and career success helped Davisson and her partner approach the big decisions they were facing with prudence and confidence.

They stayed together and are now married with two children and successful careers — Davisson spent nearly ten years at the Gap Foundation, Gap Inc.’s philanthropic organization, and was president of the foundation by the time she left the company last year, while her husband recently started his own investment company.

The class “really has guided all of the decisions that we made,” Davisson says. “It changed our lives.” The couple returned to Strober’s class as guest speakers many times to talk to students about how they implemented the lessons of the course in their lives. Over the years, Strober became a mentor and close friend to Davisson. So when Strober asked her to help turn the course into a book, she jumped at the chance.


By the time Strober retired in 2016, she knew she wanted to turn her course into a book. Yet in 2019, when Davisson asked her former professor how the book was going during lunch on a sunny summer day in Menlo park, Strober admitted that she hadn’t written anything. “You need an accountability partner,” Davisson told her. But Strober had other ideas: “I looked across the table at her and I said, ‘Nope, I need a co-author.’” Davisson said yes right away. “One of the themes of our book is don’t make decisions in haste,” Strober says,

“But I violated my own principle and made a decision in haste and asked her. And she equally violated the rule, and she accepted in haste. And we’ve just had a wonderful partnership ever since.”

Davisson says she and Strober bring “complementary perspectives” to the book, with Strober having spent her career in academia becoming an expert in the intersection between career and personal relationships while Davisson spent hers in the corporate world “putting the teachings and the lessons and the wisdom of the class to work in the trenches, so to speak.”


With the book, both authors wanted to make the lessons of the class accessible and applicable to as many people as possible. “It shouldn’t be a best-kept secret just for the people who had the opportunity to take it at Stanford Graduate School of Business, it was material that could be so helpful to many, many more people,” Davisson says. For the book, the authors spoke to “people who were not well represented in the class in terms of ethnic diversity, in terms of age, and so on.”

The authors used the central takeaways of the course material to develop a decision-making framework that readers could easily utilize in their own lives, which consists of “5Cs”: clarify; communicate; consider a range of choices; check in with friends, family, and other resources; and explore likely consequences. “The goal was to give people something that they could follow that would help them slow down their decision-making,” Davisson says.

She and Strober put the 5Cs to the test in their own lives as they worked on the book — especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and brought on changes and new decisions for both writers.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different topic, ranging from dating to divorce to caring for elderly relatives. “We really hope it will be helpful to people across a wide set of years,” Davisson says. Strober says the framework “Money and Love” offers is useful for young people as they make choices about higher education, such as choosing a college and if and when to go to graduate school. Davisson says the book is “for anyone who intends to combine a career with relationships with people that they love.”


Strober began teaching the first iteration of the course the book is based on at UC Berkeley in 1972. She was inspired to create the course after a frustrating and eye-opening experience. Strober noticed that two of her classmates from graduate school at MIT were assistant professors on the tenure track, while she was still a lecturer. “This didn’t sit well with me.” She asked the chair of the economics department why this was. At first, he told her it was because she lived in Palo Alto, but when she soon realized this answer was “totally ridiculous” and asked him once again why she couldn’t be put on the tenure track, he admitted it was because she had two young children. Strober explained that this moment exemplified an important component of the deep-rooted misogyny that plagued the professional world at the time: For women, having a family and having a successful career were seen as mutually exclusive. “There were no women assistant professors, virtually none, at Berkeley. All the women at Berkeley were lecturers.”

She got permission to teach a class about work and family and started putting together a class called “Women and Work” right away. At the time, “nobody else was teaching a course like that,” Strober says. She later left Berkeley and started at Stanford as the business school’s first female professor. She continued teaching the course, and eventually changed the name to “Work and Family.” In her course, students examined how personal and professional lives are closely connected and looked at research on how to make the best decisions about both.

Born out of Strober’s frustration with the sexism ingrained into the professional world, the class evolved into a popular, one-of-a-kind course that covered topics and ways of thinking rarely found in business school curricula. With this class, Strober rejected “the conventional wisdom that you make love decisions with your heart, and therefore, an academic program has nothing to say about it.”

Strober proved otherwise, as Davisson — and the thousands of other students who took the professor’s course over the nearly 50 years she taught it — can attest. Yet, according to Strober, the interconnected nature of career and personal life is something rarely covered in business school courses. In fact, when she retired, Stanford did not get another professor to teach the course “even though students have written to me for years telling me it was the most valuable course they took at the business school,” she says, adding, “our business schools are not into teaching courses like this.”


Strober says one of the biggest changes she saw over the years teaching the course is that “men are now interested in these issues,” which she attributes to men being more involved in raising children now that so many more women are in the workforce.

“For women, the biggest change, I think, is that if a woman leaves the workforce to care for her children full-time for some relatively small number of years … she can now get back into the workforce with a lot more ease than has been true in the past,” Strober says, explaining that while it is still difficult, “now there are more organizations designed to help people get back in and it’s seen as less of a bad mark.”

While being actively involved in both a family and a career is not the rare feat it once was, both authors feel more changes are needed on a systemic level. The last chapter of Money and Love is devoted to discussing these broad issues in our society, and how individuals can make a difference.

“It isn’t until individuals push against the systems that are currently constraining our money and love choices, that those systems will change,” Davisson says, “And that’s very much what we hope is a legacy of our book.”

Buy Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions here.


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