Dr Neng Liang is Professor of Management, Associate Dean and Director of the Executive MBA Program at the China Europe International Business School more commonly referred to as CEIBS. Dr Liang received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in Bloomington, an MBA from The Wharton School, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University in 1984.
What advice would you give women who are wishing to do an Executive MBA?
They should realize doing an Executive MBA for female students is both more difficult and more rewarding. It is more difficult because females usually assume a caretaker's role in the family; therefore, they have to take more burdens for the family chores. Second, because of the reality in much of the world is that it is still male-dominated and a glass ceiling exists, so it's more difficult.
On the other hand, doing an Executive MBA for a female is more rewarding because for a male executive, usually their goal or motivation to pursue an Executive MBA is career development and for personal glory. For females because of their caretaker role, they tend to be relation-oriented and the MBA program is actually a very good community to belong to. For females, they will get more out of the program compared to their male counterparts in the emotional and social dimensions of the program.
Do you offer any special advice to women who may be hesitant to apply for an Executive MBA program because of those additional family responsibilities that they have to face?
I think they probably should do some lobbying within their company to get a top executive to support their studies and also make sure they communicate well with their family members understanding their needs, give them more time, and also manage the executive family life better. It's manageable, but communication with the family and with the corporate sponsor will definitely help.
At CEIBS, what are you doing to increase the number of women in your Executive MBA program?
At CEIBS we have the largest Executive MBA program in the world. We take 700-710 students per year. Of them, about 20% are female, which is about the average of business schools world over. In our international class we tend to have more females.
I don't know the reason exactly, but I think more international companies in China tend to emphasize more diversity in their management teams; therefore, we have more female executives from international companies participating.
From our side, because we have only limited seats, many times we have to make a choice between two very qualified, successful executives. If everything else is equal, we'll take the female student over the male one because there's a clear advantage to increasing the female quotient in class. Women contribute not only to the intellectual discussion of the class but also to the students' interaction amongst themselves. That's a very important asset.
How do you see the demand for women as Executive MBAs evolving in the coming years?
I think, based on communication trends, that this will continue to rise. We're already seeing that happen in our program. We have more and more applicants applying and also more and more qualified applicants. We take more women in each of our programs.
Judging from past female students' experience, what are the realities of juggling professional responsibilities, family commitments, and then adding in the academic pursuits?
It's very difficult. Women executives have to take more responsibility than their male counterparts. I can only talk about the experience I saw from women studying in our program in China. I see the trends in China very clearly that now our male students begin to take more responsibility in the family and the female students are also getting much better in managing their time and expectations.
I can give you one example. One of our female students is with IBM consulting service. After she joined the program, she used to work all weekend. After talking with all her classmates, she found a way to manage her job. She made arrangements with her boss saying From now on, I'm not going to take any e-mails or phone calls on weekends. Weekends are my personal time, family time. I'll manage all my business during business hours. Then her boss was very supportive. Initially, they all have to go through some adjustment, but after a while everybody found that it was a very good arrangement. That actually helped her to develop better delegation skills and also helped her develop a better upward managing capacity and made the boss understand her situation and her need for personal and family life. She ended up becoming a better manager and better caretaker. I think that's a very good example. More and more of our female students are taking similar approaches.