Gender and the MBA

Financial Times profiled an unusual business school this week–unusual because the Simmons School of Management is an all-women MBA program located in Boston’s Back Bay. One of only two MBA programs targeted specifically for women (Mills College in California also has one), Simmons’ course of study includes the usual b-school curriculum with lessons woven in of how gender affects organizational behavior.

The state of female enrollment in business school has made headlines of late in both BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal, and B-school bloggers are weighing in, too. So why does Simmons feel the need to cater solely to businesswomen?

“Gender dynamics are real and they do impact your career and your opportunities,” says dean Deborah Merrill Sands. “If you don’t understand them, you can be sidelined and end up paying a serious cost in terms of how your career progresses. This knowledge is a key piece of what you need to have in your toolkit in order to succeed in business as a woman.”

But not everyone in the MBA community feels that an all-female business program would adequately prepare students for an office environment in which men and women must work together. Stacy Blackman,  interviewed by Financial Times, worries that the program is “not reflective of the business world as it is” and believes that some prospective employers could have reservations about a graduate who perhaps had not learned to “swim with the sharks”.

In the working world, “you might be in a position where you’re the only woman at the table, or you’re in the minority”, Stacy says. “You would want to feel comfortable and confident about that.”

What do you think? Does this type of program better prepare women for management in the real world, or potentially hinder them? Leave us a comment below with your take on all-female MBA programs.

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