While women now comprise nearly half the enrollment in both medical and law school programs (49 percent in medical school; 47 percent in law school), female enrollment in full-time MBA programs hasn’t risen above 30 percent.
One reason for this disparity: women often take a few years off (or more) for full-time motherhood, yet they know that a career in business often demands keeping up professional connections in a way that law and medical careers do not. Going on the “mommy track” for a few years can therefore leave women behind current trends in their field, while also missing out on valuable networking opportunities. In fact, a study released in June by the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business of nearly 1,000 Harvard undergraduates found that 15 years after graduation, female business school graduates were more likely than doctors or lawyers to have left the workforce. Fifteen years after graduating from Harvard College, 28 percent of the women who went on to get MBAs were stay-at-home moms, compared with only 6 percent of MDs.
But a recent column in The Wall Street Journal about “Mommy MBAs” noted that many schools remain committed to attracting young women with more flexible, part-time MBA programs. These include “morning MBAs,” a distinct difference from most part-time MBA programs that hold classes on weekends or evenings only, and part-time programs that may allow up to seven years to complete the coursework. This flexibility is prized by many women, and probably explains why nationally, 37 percent of students in part-time, flexible MBA programs are female.
Part-time MBA students often have less access to recruiters than their full-time counterparts, but schools are trying to bridge that gap as well. The University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business now allows more flexibility not only with coursework, but also with the timing of internships. The Isenberg School of Business at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has worked to encourage networking between students and female executives and faculty. The result? Female enrollment at this school is now above 50 percent.
Two good resources for women interested in a business career are AACSB.edu, which lists accredited programs, as well as ForteFoundation , which offers fellowships for women pursuing full-time MBA programs, as well as non-financial resources, including a job database and resume posting service, a networking database comprised of MBA alumnae, webinars specifically geared towards the MBA student, and an annual MBA conference specifically for women at Forte sponsor schools. While these are not specific to the part-time MBA student, these resources can still help women establish their business careers.