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Women Climb Corporate Ladder with Flexible MBA Programs

April 30, 2014 3:12 pm0 commentsViews: 392
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MBAs and Other Business Programs for Working Professionals

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For decades, the MBA and business school were mostly the domain of men, but this is starting to change. The statistics do not lie: businesses owned by women are growing at a faster rate than many others in the US. Meanwhile the percentage of women getting MBAs is rising.

Women do of course have a long way to go to achieve parity with men in business opportunities. But earning an MBA offers women many competitive advantages in the marketplace that did not exist a decade ago. Now, the MBA is an invaluable asset to women who want to move high up the corporate ladder, and we are starting to see the results in the numbers.

Women received 36.8% of the MBAs that were awarded in the US in 2010 and 2011, which was up from 34.5% in 2001. There are many possible reasons for this. First of all, many more women are going back to business school due to the weakened economy. Another is likely the result of intense efforts by business schools to bring more women into MBA programs. It also could be due to more success in women’s struggle for parity with men both in education and in business leadership roles. It also is due to more flexible MBA programs being offered.

More Women Going for Part Time MBAs

As women are starting to be better represented in MBA programs, it is interesting to note that women are more likely to go for part time and online MBA programs. Such programs make it easier for people to get their MBA without as much strain on personal lives.

Also, some online and part time MBA programs are being structured to make them more accessible to women. Many regular MBA programs are too time intensive for both men and women who want to have a family. Many traditional MBA schools want students for work for several years after they earn their bachelor’s degree, and then you must be in a rigid, in person MBA program for 2-3 years. This is simply too difficult for many women who want to have children at this time in their lives.

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That is why women enrollment in traditional MBA programs has been stuck at around 30% for years. But this is starting to change, as some business schools are offering what they refer to as ‘morning MBAs.’ These new graduate school offerings are not as rigid as a regular MBA program, and they offer better opportunities for family-oriented men and women to earn their MBA.

There currently are three MBA schools that have begun a ‘morning MBA program’ in the last two years. These programs are geared towards mom’s at home, self employed professionals and other people with unusual schedule requirements. About 50% of the people who are in a part time MBA program at DePaul University in Chicago, for example, are women. The program offers mostly morning classes to these part time students.

Another school that is offering a morning MBA program is the Rotman School at the University of Toronto. This program offers MBA classes from 7-9 am. Many students have reported that the program is a great opportunity for busy women to juggle their studies with family and work time.

Pepperdine University also has experimented with a morning MBA program. Once the school extended the time allowed to finish an MBA to seven years, women enrollment rose to 44%.

Even full time MBA schools are starting to offer more flexibility. At the University of Chicago, course work is being offered at more flexible times. Also, the required summer internship is now offered at other times of the year as well.

Other schools have focused on offering online MBAs for busy, working women. Georgia Southern University offers a strong online MBA program that is very convenient and inexpensive. Many women are able to continue to work full time while completing this online MBA.

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Overall, 37% of students in part time MBA programs around the country are women, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Part Time MBA Programs Gaining Respectability

These sorts of flexible MBA programs may not have been as highly regarded as regular programs a few years ago. But most part time MBAs have lost the stigma of the past, according to many headhunters. A part time MBA from a solid school has just as much luster as a full time MBA, if the classes, professors and so forth are the same. Women should note, however, that for a major career change, a full time MBA is probably a better option. Full time MBA students get more access to recruiters and networking for those high profile leadership roles.

Best MBA’s for Working Women

There are many excellent MBA programs that specifically tailor their programs to the needs of working women. Some of the best regarded programs include:

  • Indiana University: This is a relatively small business school, but the program takes a lot of pride in a very tightly knit community, especially among the women there. The average class is 30% women, and they tend to get to know each other well. The school has several programs year round that cater to female students, such as guest speaking events, holiday networking parties, and conference prep sessions.
  • University of Virginia: The Darden School of Business facilitates important conversations around the issues that most challenge women in their careers. The school has a Graduate Women in Business Club which sponsors women leaders to be speakers and mentors for students at the school.
  • University of Colorado Boulder: The Leeds School of Business is known to have one of the best evening programs for women. It has several programs catered just to women, such as the WILD Summit, Women’s Council and Women in Business club. The focus here is on the whole student – and the many programs here stress career counseling, mentorship and leadership development.

Given the success of these sorts of MBA programs geared towards women, we can expect to see more of them in the future.