I am an "MBA mom”, at least according to one economist that is, and a study that was done recently on University of Chicago MBA’s. It is the coined phrase for women, with MBA degrees, who "seem to actively choose jobs that are family-friendly, and avoid jobs with long hours and greater career-advancement possibilities”.
Similarly found, this study of University of Chicago MBAs, with Marianne Bertrand, found that, a decade after graduation, women with children work on average 24% fewer weekly hours than men. (Women without children work about 3% fewer hours.) Only half of them work full-time. Many strike out on their own, establishing consulting practices that permit flexible, project-based work. Again, that’s me!!! … AND also scores of other women I know with not only MBA degrees but other graduate degrees including law, medicine, occupational therapy, psychology, journalism… the list goes on and on …
While I am proud of the work I have chosen to do and am not at all surprised by the statistics, my reaction to this catchy little phrase is two-fold. One, the use of the phrase “avoids jobs with long hours and greater career advancement possibilities”, to me, implies that I don’t work hard. That I coast and don’t care at getting better at something, learning new things, personal advancement. Sensitive, probably, I usually am (another post)…. But it is just not true, not for me for me and not for so many women. We work hard. Juggle more hats than I can count and it is not easier or more carefree. And secondly, this assessment only refers to paying work. How many women do you know that use their skills and degrees in other non-paying ways? To sit on Boards, work with non-for-profits, manage events, offer friends and family legal advice, accounting services, tutoring, or late night medical advice for or sick children because not only do they have the skills and expertise to do so but also know that they are needed and can make a difference in people's lives.
Rachel Emma Silverman in her Wall Street Journal article, “Is the Mommy Track Still Taboo”, as always, does an awesome job in describing the history of the “mommy track”. Beginning with its origination in 1989 in the Harvard Business Review article by Felice N. Schwartz called “Management Women and the New Facts of Life.”
Mrs. Schwartz was the founder of Catalyst, a national organization that was and still is dedicated to helping women choose and advance careers and now promotes the participation of women in corporations and their recruitment on corporate boards. She remained its president for 30 years, retiring in 1993.
Schwartz started with the premise that not all working women want the same things. (BRAVO!!!!) Some are chiefly career-focused, making “the same trade-offs traditionally made by the men who seek leadership positions.” However, most women want children, Schwartz wrote, and “are willing to trade some career growth and compensation for freedom from the constant pressure to work long hours and weekends.” Schwartz said that companies should recognize such women as a “precious resource,” and to retain them, should offer more flexibility and part-time work.
Now this was the 80’s, imagine the outcry from the women with the shoulder pads, power suits and heavy leather briefcases. It was considered an affront to educated women who where diligently trying to break through the infamous “glass ceiling”.
But fast forward a decade or so and Felice N. Schwartz was right on the money. Companies are trying harder to retain women, women themselves are conscious of the" female brain drain" and trying to use these skills to the best of their ability, lots of times in everyday life situations. Sites like Blooming Betty, research companies, like Catalyst, dedicated to women’s work issues, and blogs galore, are committed to helping women find the path that is right for them and at the same time making the workplace more friendly for Mothers.
This is all great and I think Schwartz, if she had lived longer, would be thrilled to see the progress, but we are still not there yet. There is more work to be done, more voices to be heard from and more definitions of success to include. And I for one, am going to keep striving towards my own definition of success. For I am not JUST an “MBA MOM:, I am an MBA and a Mom and a million more things on any given day, sharing a journey with similarly situated women unwilling to let the way it was limit our vision, our options or our happiness. Life is long and fortunately getting longer. Sacrifice or being sidelined is just not on the table for me. How about you?