Photo courtesy Marco Arment/Flickr Creative Commons
HALIFAX (CUP) — Experts say women are at a disadvantage when it comes to studying business. The standard path to upgrade skills—a master of business administration (MBA)—is much more popular for men. Female enrolment is below half at most Canadian universities, according to enrolment numbers from 2013, with women surpassing barely a third of classes at most of the bigger schools.
Most MBA programs require several years of work experience in order to apply. Unlike a law or medical degree which offers a professional certification, an
MBA does not guarantee career advancement. Universities are challenged to convince women to go back to school, spending upwards of $80,000 for tuition alone.
Schools have tried a variety of women-only programs, including a recent initiative by a Texas-based organization that has partnered with Toronto universities. That program, MBALaunch, offers 10 months to boost applications for $500. The universities agree to waive application fees and offer several $20,000 scholarships.
Dara Gallinger, a marketing MBA student at McGill University, said she enrolled because the timing was right. At 31, she had years of experience as an entrepreneur and marketing contract. McGill’s reputation and international focus drew her in, despite its high price tag. She now works full-time while in her second year, still finding time to volunteer with the student society.
“MBA programs are really just a mirror reflection of what’s going on in the workforce,” said Gallinger. “For whatever reason, more men than women seem to be a little bit more ambitious and looking to build their careers.”
Managers promote men ahead of women, according to a recent report by the non-profit think tank Catalyst, despite equal education and experience. Women also make more than $8,000 less than men in their first post-graduation job, according to the report.
“It’s a bit of a gamble,” said Jeanne Martinson, owner of the diversity consulting company Martrain. “There’s no guarantee,” she said, that an MBA will “make a difference in your economic future or your promotability.”
The result is slow job progression causing women to believe advancement is out of reach. The Women Shaping Business survey by Randstad Canada found that close to 30 per cent of women were undecided on whether they’d seek senior management jobs, and almost 50 per cent felt those positions were unattainable. Randstad Canada, for example, found women fear that taking time for family commitments will hold them back professionally and that senior managers have little confidence in female leadership ability.
The Harvard Business Review followed its MBA graduates, and found more than half of male, married students expect to put their careers over their wives’. Two thirds also expect their wives to handle all childcare, according to the report. In Canada, almost 65 per cent of women with kids under age three are working, more than double from 30 years ago. Harvard also found men are “significantly” more likely to take on senior management roles.
At McGill, Gallinger balances working full-time with a highly demanding MBA program. She says she’s all set up to progress in her career, but she’s aware of the inequalities.
“I think MBA programs’ demographics is a reflection of women in management positions in the workforce.”