The effect of being put under the pressure by combining jobs, family life and the program is amazing. It works like a pressure cooker: it accelerates; in this case it accelerates individual learning processes. I have seen that happening to others during the program but especially I have felt it for myself: my ability to multitask and to stay in control even when I lose it has increased tremendously - Katharina Schmidt, Managing Partner, Krauthammer- Kellogg-WHU EMBA student 2008
For years now, EMBA programs have been struggling to attract as many women as law school and medical school, which reached parity some time ago, whereas the average percent of women in EMBA programs is closer to a quarter. One of the most commonly cited reasons for this is that medicine and law are clearly defined professions which women decide to embark upon in their early 20s, before planning families, whereas EMBA programs try to recruit women as many are thinking of starting families.
Several EMBA programs are now looking to accept highly qualified women with slightly less work experience than they have traditionally targeted. Dean Ethan Hanabury of the Columbia Business School Executive MBA program sees MBA demand trending younger as women check the MBA box while advancing professionally before they start to think of children and other family obligations.
Making choices and getting support
The difficulty of maintaining a healthy work/ life balance is a common reason women are sometimes put off by EMBA programs. In many cases, it is simply more difficult for women to clear their plate, and make time for the serious commitment studying for an Executive MBA represents. Many of our female s t u d e n t s have childcare responsibilities whilst they are enrolled on the EMBA, and we even have students who are pregnant or on maternity leave during the program. We've found that it's useful to connect female applicants with current female students who are in a similar situation, so they can discuss the pros and cons of enrolling on an EMBA whilst juggling work and family commitments, states Rachel Waites, Associate Director, Corporate and Student Recruitment at Chicago Booth.
Jaki Sitterle, Managing Director of Executive Programs at the NYU Stern School of Business sums it up nicely, and even cites a possible advantage women have in all this:
Deciding to do an EMBA involves balance, prioritizing, multitasking and time management. I had a recent conversation with a woman in the Executive MBA management faculty who said that women were better at multi-tasking than men. She referred to research stating that the part connecting to the hemispheres of the brain differs in structure for women and men; brain mapping shows women can think on parallel tracks and men tend to think sequentially. So as such, juggling a family, work and an Executive MBA may actually pull on this ability to multitask for women. An Executive MBA is certainly an issue of prioritizing, multi-tasking and making choices.
Francis Petit, Director of Executive Programs at Fordham University believes: Familial support from either the spouse or other loved ones is essential. If that does not exist, it will be even more difficult for women to obtain this degree in such a condensed format. Familial support is key! Talk to your spouse and loved ones. Make sure you have full support at home. Once that occurs, take full advantage of the experience. Dive right in. You will become a different person and it will energize you! Bernadette Conraths, Head of Executive Education at WHU, adds, The one thing we tell all of our candidates every year is to make sure your support system functions. Make sure everybody you care for and love and are responsible for is in the loop and supports you in this. Otherwise, you will add a burden to an already quite heavy pressure time.
Technology = flexibility
To differing degrees, depending upon the nature of the program, the flexibility of mobile technology is making it easier for women to take the plunge. According to Patricia Marcaida, Director of the International Unit within ESADE's Executive Education Department, We do know from participants' feedback, that the internet is certainly almost a given, a must for them right now because a lot of them in their high positions are used to working remotely. They travel a lot. Also, those with families with small children have to sometimes work from home. They're used to this remote lifestyle. I think there is almost an expectation that if we are catering to this level of executive that internet technology has to play a significant role in the program.
At IESE, says Maria Puig, one of the Executive programs they offer has achieved parity, and much of the credit goes to technology: Definitely, technology has played an important role by facilitating mobility, which allows participants to deal with such an intensive experience while they are close to their work and families, considering that our Global MBA lasts for nearly 500 days. 17 percent of the time is residential and therefore full-time; and 68 per cent of the time is between individual preparation and team work, which is possible thanks to the global campus platform. So during this time when participants are working and are with their families, they keep connected to this platform via the internet. We wouldn't have been able to launch this program without technology.
For the growing number of increasingly flexible EMBA programs like these, one can argue that EMBA programs are the most accessible of all business education paths for women, because unlike full-time MBA programs, they allow students to stay with a job, and earn their MBA in a part-time format, where they can still dedicate attention to their personal life. And the MBA is a qualification that makes it easier to return to work, or find another job after a leave of absence. Indeed, the juggling act of work/home and EMBA can provide lessons in itself. Joan Coonrod of Emory University points out: The biggest hurdle for many TypeA personalities is letting go of the 70 hour work week. The EMBA is an excellent opportunity to look around the organization and begin grooming a successor by delegating appropriately. It's what leaders do!
You can do it!
Another commonly cited reason for the deficit of women in EMBA programs is a lack of female role models. Many programs are now trying to address this issue head-on. Ken Robertson, Director of MBA Marketing and Admissions at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University says, Every participant has at least one mentor or advisor throughout their time as a student. Some of the most active are female alumni who use their development process as a pattern for helping others. Female alumni are an important part of the overall recruitment and counseling process as they provide positive role models. Many programs have indeed formalized this with buddy systems: In addition to our own advice, we usually put candidates with other women who have done the program before to give them advice and experiences and it usually works very well, says IESE's Maria Puig.
Finally, women often lack confidence in their math skills. Many deans talk about how women discover that finance, or other quantitative disciplines are for them during their coursework; how their EMBA experience opens paths they never anticipated taking. Dean Hanabury, Columbia, remembers one particular student: It's interesting because she only discovered her interests in finance when she began to take courses in finance in her program. I think that we hear stories like this all the time and it makes it very rewarding for those of us who work with and teach Executive MBA students to see that they are able to benefit their career in this kind of way.
Without exception, all EMBA programs are working hard today to bring more women into their programs. In the past three years we've doubled the percentage of budget we spend on media directed to women. In print we target print media that specifically targets businesswomen. Online, we use demographic targeting that's similar to geo-targeting, where we try to target online properties where the demographic is heavily women, says Joan Coonrod at Emory, and they are not alone in undertaking such measures. Coonrod thinks women are simply not selfish enough sometimes. They need to put their own development on the front burner. This is often really the hardest part for women with careers and family.