I've had the opportunity in recent years to speak with younger women (young women? does that mean I'm older ? argh) about going to business school. And despite the great time I had at Stanford GSB and I'm sure the many doors it has opened for me, I'm not an enthusiastic cheerleader. Why? Well, it comes down to a few reasons, but this NY Times interview (Sunday 6/18) with Linda Livingstone, dean of the business school at Pepperdine University offers some insights, including this one:
Q. Why aren't business schools attracting more women?
A. You typically go to medical and law schools immediately after you finish your undergraduate work. But with traditional business programs, we encourage students to get three to six years of work experience before they come. That can bump up against the time when women want to start families. Another reason is that many business schools have a culture of being cutthroat and competitive. But we here are trying to create a very collaborative, team-oriented learning experience with smaller class sizes. So we've seen an increase in the number of women.
I do buy Linda's first reason - the timing of business school around the child-bearing years. I had my first child within a year of graduating and in the first year of my post business school job (at Clorox in brand) and it was very very tough. Not only because of the impact (new mom, high demand job, etc.), but we were broke. Lots of debt from school made it much harder and I didn't take one of those high paying consulting gigs (and a kid in that situation would not have worked).
An additional reason that I don't encourage business school is that I don't think the payoff for women is as great because of the time out for kids (of one kind or another) and the still persistent glass cieling. Where are the women CEO role models in significant numbers? Why do Stanford GSB Women (working full time) make 70% to the men? (this may be an outdated stat). And of course, I do note that women do not leverage the networking as much as the men.
My typical advise to twenty-something women thinking about business school is this: If you have a sugar daddy (or in other words if paying for it won't totatlly debilitate you and your parnters), if you have the passion (you really really want to learn the stuff), and if you think it'll make a difference, go for it. But only if its a top school. Otherwise, think about local night programs (of which there are many).