Course Spotlight: Stanford’s “Work and Family”

myra_stroberBalancing career and family commitments can seem like a constant struggle; the Winter issue of the Stanford Business Magazine explores how both male and female MBAs walk that tightrope successfully in Myra H. Strober‘s “Work and Family” course at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

According to the catalog, this elective course covers such topics as the plusses and minuses of becoming a stay-at-home mom or dad, the economic value of unpaid labor, the career trade-offs necessary to balance two high-powered careers and children, the economics of marriage, fertility, child care, and elder care, the gendered division of labor in the home, time-management and work/family conflicts, strategies for making change at the work place, and the role of public policy.

Male enrollment in the course has grown to 40%, and Strober, professor emerita of education with a courtesy appointment as a professor of economics at the Business School, says the men who take her course are fully engaged–motivated by the desire to be a good father and/or understand workplace barriers that affect their wives, friends or employees.

Second-year MBAs make up the bulk of the participants in this 10-week course. Students write two group papers, one on combining work and family and one on elder care, plus one individual paper on a topic of their choice. Through readings, lectures, class discussions, and talks by guest speakers, students look at the challenges and explore strategies for dealing with them.

“A lot of women and men in the class have very, very strong career goals,” Strober said. “They want to be successful at their careers, successful financially, and also have a family.”

The course has broadened in recent years to include the discussion of elder care, a subject that resonates across the board as students come to terms with the idea they may one day have four aging parents to care for.

Students in Strober’s course ask themselves, what does it mean to be leading a team or company where some workers are juggling family obligations? They study all of these issues, not just from a personal perspective but through the eyes of a manager.

For a deeper look at the Work and Family course, and to see Strober’s cost calculation of taking a break from paid work, click here.

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