I spent much of my 4th of July weekend reading Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA by Peter Robinson. It’s a novelization of Mr. Robinson’s first year at Stanford Business School in 1988.
Chapter Twenty of the book is titled “Race and Gender”. The chapter is seven pages of a 286-page book about business school, so it’s clearly a thorough analysis of the issues. Mr. Robinson surmises that “at Stanford business school race just didn’t matter very much.” This is coming from a self-described conservative white Republican man who, before entering Stanford, wrote speeches for President Reagan. So grain of salt.
Mr. Robinson then notes that “Gender did matter”. His friend Jennifer “had started hoping she would meet someone at business school.”
“But you know what? The guys here just aren’t into it.” Business school men preferred to go out with undergraduates. Even when they did date business school women it was only that, dating. “What MBA men are in love with is their careers.”
“But, Jennifer,” [Peter] said, trying to make her feel better, “there are plenty of men in the world who aren’t MBAs.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t really think about it before I came here.” Jennifer said. “But now I think about it lot. All the women in business school do. It’s like there’s this rule. A woman is allowed to marry a man who has more education than she has. But no man wants to marry a woman who has more education than he has, especially not a woman who might make more money.” . . .
. . . Jennifer had another sip of beer. “Sometimes I think that when I graduate, the only guys who won’t feel threatened by my Stanford MBA with be Harvard MBAs.”
The chapter continues,
Listening to Jennifer I reached a conclusion that I never had any later reason to amend. Business school was a lot hard for the women than for the men. The men only had to worry about getting the work done. True, a poet like me might also agonize about whether coming to business school had been a sensible step, but even I took it for granted that I wanted as big and demanding a career as I could get, and that even if coming to business school wasn’t the best thing I could have done with two years of my life, it couldn’t hurt, either.
But for the women in our class, the doubts were of a completely different order. Maybe they could be hurt by business school . . . Would a Stanford MBA scare off men they might want to date? Would business school imbue them with harsh attributes of aggressiveness or competitiveness? Would it harden them? What about motherhood? Stanford was clearly delaying their chances of becoming moms by two full years, and probably much longer. You didn’t take a job with Goldman Sachs, work for six months, then go off on maternity leave.
When I graduated from college, I made the decision to go to business school in five years. The only things I considered were where I wanted to go and whether I would have to move. I didn’t even think about the difficulty of taking the GMAT, how the schools were ranked, or even how much business school would cost (P. S.: It costs a lot). I never thought about whether it would make me too competitive or aggressive, or whether boys would like me after I got my MBA.
I have read various articles about why women are only about 30% of the business school population. But I still don’t think about those things as deterrents to my going to business school. I figure if a man is going to be scared off by my MBA, then he’s not the kind of person I would want to date anyway. Plus, a graduate degree provides more opportunities to be able to feed and clothe the children that I plan to pop out and raise.
For those of you who have considered going to graduate school, or even to college, were the views expressed in the above paragraphs factors in your experience? Did you see your education and career advancement as a challenge to creating a family? Did the people around you treat you differently after you earned a degree or two?
BT-dubs, I also read The Blushing MBA by Feddy Pouideh, which I liked much better. I related to the author and the characters more. Next on my reading list: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
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