Mommy MBAs Hampered by a Career Interrupted

by Vault Education Editors | December 07, 2010

  • My Vault

Your local pharmacist, is this person a woman? Ever notice that most of the white coats behind the counter are on women? I haven't, but new research says they are and it's so because highly educated ladies know what's best for themselves when they have children--best financially and for their work-life balance. The MBA, the study suggests, is not it.

Women MBAs who take maternity leaves earn significantly less--41 percent, on average--than male MBAs, according to "The Career Cost of Family," a study written by two Harvard economists. The reason is that the long and grueling hours needed to suceed in professions that MBA grads enter into aren't flexible enough to allow people, mostly women, to work and care for their children at the same time, despite their trying. The ones that do return are hit with the "mommy penalty," their incomes a fraction of their male colleagues'. And with children at home, many work shorter and shorter hours, a further hindrance to their long-term careers. The fast lane is not the carpool lane, it seems.

The combination of a career interrupted, lost work experience and lower work hours severely limits a female MBA's earning potential. Using a survey of graduates from Chicago's Booth School from 1990 to 2006, the study found that men and women earned nearly the same salaries intially, but as soon as five years after school, their incomes were just 74 percent of men's. Ten to 16 years out, women made only a little more than half of what men made.

If one occupation is inflexible to women, it only makes sense that ambitious women would begin to flock to those professions which are flexible. Which is exactly what's been happening. "In general, women appear to be moving in the direction of choosing professions and specialties within professions that are consistent with their greater desire for workplace flexibility," the study reads. What are those occupations? Veterinarian. Pharmacist. Dermatologist. Psychiatrist. These are jobs where there are set hours or it's possible to schedule your own hours; they allow parents to flourish in their careers and their family life.

So my question for female MBAs: Knowing that the cost of family is so high in the business world, how did/does that affect your reasons for applying to b-school?

 

["The Career Cost of Family"] PDF

[via NYT Economix Blog]

 

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