Women MBAs - how to keep them at work

A survey of Stanford MBAs who graduated from 1970 onward reveals that 64% of women say they left a high-flying job to concentrate on raising a family.

by Stanford Business Magazine
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Only 5% of men put this as a reason. They were more likely to say that they had left to retire (18%) or because they were financially independent (20%).

Generally, the women managers said that they found they had to make a choice between work and family once they had children. If their husband/partner also had a high-earning job, they were likely to opt for one of them staying at home (this may, for instance, be the one with the best prospects at the time).

One of the reasons for the starkness of the choice was the fact that companies generally did not make it easy for high-flyers to opt for a slower pace for a while to balance out their lives, until they were ready to return. Coupled with this is the fact that women managers don't believe they can leave highly qualified jobs in sectors such as finance and management consultancy for five years or more without losing touch with key contacts and knowledge.

There is a middle way for some. This involves working fewer hours or arranging a part-time alternative. This has the advantage of keeping the networks going. Catherine King, a Stanford MBA 1982, for example, negotiated a job share with a business associate (Ken Weiss) and the pair managed to get a joint position as VP-investments at Oppenheimer & Co.

A graduate from '97, Kirstin Hoefer was promoted from director to senior director at EBay, after having negotiated a part-time contract measuring 80% of her time. Some progressive employers make this kind of transition easy. Booz Allen Hamilton, for instance, have a rotation programme which enables workers to opt into jobs that don't require much travel and then rotate back into the regular track later. Most don't. However the benefits to the employer are obvious. Highly successful and motivated women are kept in the workforce and  help maintain a diverse management structure at the company that has kept them on board.

One on-going problem is the fact that managers' performance is measured by the number of hours they work. This makes it hard for women to roll back their hours and convince their employers that this is a good thing. Lacking a better means to measure success, this is the reality many women face.

Therefore, there is no motivation for women - or indeed men - to reduce the hours they work by becoming smarter and more efficient at managing their affairs.

Stop out, hunker down, move up?
By Margaret Steen
Stanford Business Magazine, February 2007
Review by Morice Mendoza

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