When the traditional
two-year, full-time MBA program just isn’t in the cards, take heart. There’s a
growing contingent of alternatives for the career-minded woman, whether
considering an MBA in the near future or planning for it further down the
career path. From Pepperdine’s Morning MBA to MIT’s mid-career, one-year MBA,
these programs are very different, but they all have one thing in common: their
atypical formats provide the choices women are looking for when it comes to
fitting an advanced business education into their already eventful lives.


Goizueta Business
School Offers Alternatives in Atlanta


Emory University’s
Goizueta Business School offers two interesting programs that have their own
unique appeal. The Modular Executive MBA Program draws on recent advances in
Web-based learning techniques to offer about 30% of its content online. “The
program preserves 70% of the rich classroom interaction of a typical MBA
program, including teaming among students and faculty interaction,” says Joan
Coonrod, director of admissions for the program. The Modular format allows
students to earn their MBA by attending class in nine one-week “residencies,”
over a period of 22 months—or about once a quarter.


“The online portion
employs asynchronous modes of learning so that the students—some of whom come
from around the world—can be online when it’s convenient for them.” One of the
advantages of asynchronous discussion, or open chats, says Coonrod, is that case
discussions can go on over a two- or three-day time period. “Because of this,
students have time to think about everyone’s comments, and they have deeper
discussions than they normally would have in a four-hour class.”


The Modular
Executive MBA Format is about four years old, and is offered as an alternative
the to the Weekend Executive MBA format that is in its 27th year at the school.
Goizueta continues to look for ways to increase the percentage of women in the
program. “I have always felt, coming from a 20-plus-year corporate career
myself, that executive format programs would be more attractive to working
women who have concerns about stepping out of a successful career, but still
want to earn their MBA,” believes Coonrod. “And some of our students have told
us that it’s easier to carve out that one week, once a quarter, than it is to
give up every other Friday and Saturday for an extended period of time.”


Coonrod believes
that the format makes the MBA program accessible to a whole group of people who
would otherwise be unable to attain the degree. People coming into the program
typically have about 14 years of work experience.


Goizueta Business
School’s other distinctively formatted program is its one-year, full-time
program, which currently has an enrollment of about 30% women. Program
participants start in May, attend an accelerated summer session that condenses
a whole year’s worth of material, and join Goizueta’s two-year, full-time
students in the fall for their last two semesters.


“Our one-year
students typically have an undergraduate business degree or they have taken
many of the quantitative classes that enable them to go through the core at an
accelerated pace,” explains Katie Lloyd, director of the program. “Students
typically have about six years of progressive work experience.”


Lloyd emphasizes
that students accepted into the program must be very focused—they don’t do an
internship, so they typically are already in the industry that they want to
stay in, they have strong undergraduate coursework, and have had exceptional
on-the-job training. “I think this program appeals to women because at this
stage in their careers, women are on top of their game, they’re organized, they
can handle the rigors of the program,” Lloyd says. “The return on investment
for one-year programs is huge, and that’s important to women who already make
less than men and who typically take more time off for family.”


Pepperdine Program
Focuses on Re-Entry


University’s new Morning MBA Program is the first of its type aimed primarily
at women who want to return to the workplace after taking time off to have
children. It’s a 28-month program with meetings on two mornings a week, four
weekend modules, and a seven-week break during each of the two summer sessions.


Dean of Pepperdine’s
Graziadio School of Business and Management, Linda Livingstone, believes there
are tens of thousands of women in the school’s market who have bachelor’s
degrees and several years of business experience who left the workforce to
start a family. “The Morning MBA program will enable those women to re-enter
the workforce with their MBA and a new skill set focused on leadership and
addressing real-world business problems,” she indicated at the program’s launch
just this March. Importantly, the program also provides career resources that
ease students’ transition back to the world of work.


Livingstone says the
school is seeking scholarship sponsors to offset one of the biggest challenges
to this group of women: the lack of corporate tuition reimbursement, which is
commonly offered by many companies for their outstanding employees.


Long-lived MIT
Program Updates Itself for Today’s Realities


MIT’s Sloan Fellows
Program was established in 1931, and in 2004 merged with the Management of
Technology program to form the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and
Global Leadership. This venerable program targets mid-career executives with a
minimum of ten years’ experience. What really makes it successful is its unique
mix of high potential upper-level managers and entrepreneurs.


“I was fascinated
with a one-year program,” says Priya Iyer, who took advantage of a natural
career transition when the company she headed merged with another organization.
She decided to leave her firm, attended Sloan’s one-year program, and then
founded a new company, Anaqua, after graduation. “The timing was perfect for
me,” she says. “It would have been impossible for me to do a two-year program.”


Suzanne Frey also
felt the opportunity cost of a two-year program was too high. Like Iyer, she
had significant experience and didn’t think she would fit into a traditional
two-year program. “Through classical, on-the-job training, I had ascended to a
position in which I was hiring MBAs, so it would have felt weird to go into a
regular program,” says Frey. “When the average work experience of the people in
the program is 14 plus years, that changes the conversations you can have in
core classes--you don’t start at the beginning.”


The Sloan Program is
not an executive format program—it’s a full-time, one-year commitment, and
companies often sponsor the attendance of their up-and-coming leaders.
“Companies often consider this a one-year assignment, or they treat it as
educational leave,” explains Stephen Sacca, director of the program. “But
students do not have any responsibilities with their companies—we want them to
be focused on the program, and they need to separate from their company in
order to broaden their perspective.” Sacca points out that for corporations
that are trying to move women into upper management, the Fellows Program is an
excellent vehicle.


“The way I think and
the confidence I have are definitely byproducts of the program,” says Iyer, now
executive vice president of Anaqua. “I have better judgment, and my decision
making is more efficient and more convincing. People who work for me feel like
they’re learning a lot because I can now explain why I make the decisions that
I make.” Iyer says she has a phenomenal network and a five-year jump because of
the program.


MIT is currently
looking to increase the percentage of women in the program. “In any given year
we have between 10%-20% women in the program,” says Jane Deutsch from the MIT
Sloan School. “We’re looking to make that a solid 25%-30%.”


Republished with
permission from Forté Foundation, a consortium of major corporations and top
business schools, with the mission to educate and direct women toward
leadership roles in business.