Women’s Work, Post-MBA

A few months ago we blogged about the U.S. Department of Education reporting that women received 44% of MBAs in 2007, up from 39% a decade earlier, which translates to a 75% increase in the last 10 years.

Jenna Goudreau‘s intriguing article in Forbes from earlier this week looks at the issue from a different angle, focusing on the work women do after they get their MBA degree.

Certain industries attract more women than men year after year, she says, adding that post-MBA, women dominate fields like consumer goods, health care, retail, nonprofit and government. Men, meanwhile, are more likely to go into consulting, energy, investment banking, private equity and IT fields.

Research provider Universum surveyed 300,000 business students in 2009 and discovered that:

  • 22% of  women seek marketing and advertising jobs with their MBAs;
  • 20% go for management consulting positions; and
  • 11% are drawn to financial services.

“In the Universum survey, women reported wanting a creative and dynamic work environment in which they were intellectually challenged. While men also want a creative environment, they prioritize leadership opportunities, a competitive salary, the possibility for rapid promotion and performance-related bonuses much more than women.

In other words, women may be more likely to compromise on pay to enter fields that are stimulating, personally rewarding and in line with their values.”

Executive director Elissa Ellis Sangster of the Forté Foundation, a consortium of schools and businesses working to increase the percentage of women pursuing MBAs, believes the trend of female grads going into lower-paying fields like nonprofit and public service rather than higher-paying fields like finance may be due to a greater desire in women to “go out and make a difference in the world.”

Salary Gap: Real or Perceived?

A 2009 report by the Association of MBAs, a global business school accreditation group, shows that men’s average salary post-MBA is $82,300 and women’s is $42,500—a difference of 48%. Choice of industry partially explains these financial consequences. Sangster tells Forbes the high numbers of women going into lower-paying fields like marketing and nonprofit work may contribute to the gap in women’s earnings compared to men’s.

However, Goudreau cites a recent study by Catalyst, a nonprofit group that researches women in business, which revealed that women start out in lower-level positions and make $4,600 less than men in their first post-MBA jobs, even when experience, industry, location and parenthood were equal.

Another explanation for the post-MBA pay gap, says Hilary Sears, chair of the Association of MBAs, is women’s salaries before they received the degree. “If a women’s salary is lower than a man’s in her first job, she tends to be offered less in the next job,” says Sears, and the salary disparity may be carried over from innate bias or lack of negotiating pre-MBA.

According to the Association of MBAs report, women are much more likely to hold manager roles after earning a business degree. There’s no disputing the fact that on the upside, women MBAs do use their degrees to aid upward mobility.

For more on the ways female MBA grads are using their degrees to achieve business success, and to find out why some are opting out of the workforce, read the original article here.
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