For generations, business schools have been seen as male-dominated environments filled with aggressive overachievers. While the focus on achievement and new ideas is probably true, a new generation of advocates say that more women should seriously consider pursuing MBAs in order to achieve their career goals.
“It’s interesting, I think the thing that deters women from getting MBAs is often a misunderstanding of what an MBA is,” says Elissa Sangster, the executive director of the Forte Foundation, which encourages and supports women in business schools.
Sangster shares these five misconceptions that she says many women have about pursuing an MBA.
There aren’t any scholarships. While some students might not think of scholarships and grants when planning how to pay for their business degrees, there are several scholarships and other sources of funding available. Some of these scholarships are earmarked for women or people of color interested in pursuing business school. Prospective students should research their options and use networking opportunities to investigate leads.
You feel like you won’t fit in. It’s crucial to take the time to find the program that is the right fit for you. Not all MBA programs are the same, and it’s important to see if the current students in the programs you are interested in are taking classes and getting internships (and jobs) at the companies you’re interested in working for. Doing this legwork is especially important if you want to go into a specialized field.
You have to know exactly what you want to do. Sangster observes that many prospective female students may think that getting an MBA means that you automatically have to go into the stock market or into a corporate job. “But an MBA can help you get where you want to go, whether that is in nonprofits, media and entertainment, or whether you are an entrepreneur or want to go into consulting,” says Sangster.
You won’t have any support. One of the biggest advantages of getting an MBA or any other graduate degree is that as soon as you graduate you will be a member of your school’s alumni network. “The attention paid to the alumni network and having them as coaches and mentors [can be a key to success],” says Sangster. She advises students to begin attending events featuring alumni while still a student in order to make those connections.
It’s too expensive. “Women are very risk-averse,” says Sangster, noting that many women balk at the hefty price tag attached to most MBA programs. She reminds students that organizations such as the Forte Foundation provide assistance for students as they navigate the financial aid process and decide on the best program for both their academic needs and their wallets.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.