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What do women want?

April 1, 2009

Last year several Booth students surveyed female MBA students, primarily at Booth, to find out more about how family choices intersected with their academic and career goals and what they wanted from programs. Although not completely scientific, we thought some figures and anecdotes were still worth sharing.

Who did we talk to?

Responses were collected from 299 students, 186 from Booth and 51 from the Columbia Business School and the remainder from Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, NYU? and Harvard. The average age of respondents was 27 years and 11% of respondents had children. Among women without children, 58% planned to have children in the future and 29% were undecided. Although there is some degree of self-selection in responses, it seems reasonable to believe that the majority of women in business school expect to have children in the future.

The interaction between family and academic choices

When asked to evaluate the statement that plans to have children influenced the timing of their MBA, 28% chose “strongly agree” and 18% chose “agree”.

Women responded similarly to the? statement “pursuing an MBA influences my decision on when to have children” with 28% answering “strongly agree”? and 21% answering “agree”.


What we take from these figures is evidence that a significant number of women are thinking about how children fit into their professional lives. Many women are trying to fit the degree around their desire for children and, once attained, the degree impacts the timing of children. What we cannot ascertain from our survey, but would be very interesting to know, is the degree to which women choose not to pursue the MBA because it conflicts with their family goals. Part of Mothers at Booth’s mission is to minimize such conflicts through better information and resources and attract women who might have otherwise chosen not to pursue the degree.

What women want

When asked what they would like to see implemented in their MBA programs, childcare for students with children was a popular response (34%) as well as events showcasing alumnae mothers (30%). Career programming addressing work/life balance (34%)? and information about how to solicit work/life balance information from recruiters (40%) was also on women’s minds.

While childcare is a more serious undertaking, facilitating information flow that addresses these unique concerns for women is not only easily done but fits naturally into the type of career development programming that institutions already offer. For many women, their desire for children or the fact that they already have children can feel like a dirty secret that contributes to a feeling of alienation. Work/life balance is certainly not a “women’s issue”. Men and women, with and without children, are often seeking post-MBA careers which make room for a myriad of personal goals. However, the impact of bearing children on female parents heightens the importance of providing women with the opportunity to speak more freely about these issues and find role models from which they can learn if they are to fully maximize the value of their degree and achieve personal satisfaction.

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