Higher Education

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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42 comments for “Higher Education

  1. NormaJ
    July 9, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I’m troubled by the thorough examination of race and gender in this book…knowing only what Mr. J. says of it (I haven’t read the book). Why is the “gender concern” a woman’s concern about her marriageability? I understand that that may be a concern women have in higher education, but that is the “gender” problem the author spotted? I’ve been in a number of higher education institutions in this country, in grad school and am now in law school, and yes, the ever present “work-life balance” is something I think about, but I think there are other, systemic problems with academia and the professional schools that place women at a disadvantage. We need to make that the “gender question” not whether or not we will find a man. I still find, even at my super fancy very progressive law school, that women’s opinions and comments in class are not as valuable as those of their male counterparts. And there is definite gender segregation in the students’ study habits. I am sorry to say that this is the first time in my life I have felt my academic contribution was not valuable simply because of my gender (among the student body, of course. I have no complaints against the professors.) I also, increasingly, find myself thinking that “the law” is so much a product of the patriarchy that I’m not sure it is truly available to women. And that’s not saying anything at all of its availability to minorities, non-citizens and the like.

    Back to whether I can find a man: I am a highly educated woman, and I knew both when I went to grad school, and when I started law school, that there would be men no longer willing to date me because I was more educated and could make more money than them. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass. I’m with Mr. J. in that, I figured I didn’t want those dudes anyway. Plus, I’ve been known to speak my mind from an early age, and made the decision to attend a college known for its feminism, so I was “screwed” even before I started grad school. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Having said all that, people did treat me differently, especially when I went back to my “home country” – definitely off the marriage market there. No mamas want their precious men-children with a woman like me.

    And, finally, most of the women I know here (in law school), though legitimately concerned about balancing families and demanding legal careers in the future, have few reservations about doing what they are with their lives. Professional school, or grad school for that matter, is not something I (or my women-friends here) consider to be “hurting” my future.

  2. Isabel
    July 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    This sort of thing comes up every now and then at my school (a “big-name” school, which I would not mention except it seems relevant, since I don’t hear from my friends at other schools that these sorts of conversations happen there), mostly semi-jokingly about how guys will run once they learn where we go to school. Which honestly, might be true, just like some guys will run the first time they hear me describe myself as a feminist. Luckily for me, I don’t live my life trying to be dateable for schmucks, so this doesn’t really bother me.

    Though, I should also mention, I don’t want children, and I could see that I might feel a little more pressure if I did.

    What’s that anecdote about Janis Joplin–a reporter asked her once if she wasn’t worried no guy would want to date her because she always won at pool, and she replied something along the lines of “I wouldn’t want to date a guy who couldn’t handle being beaten by a woman at pool.” That’s more or less my philosophy.

  3. exholt
    July 9, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    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.

    None of the women I knew from my high school graduating class allowed that to stop them from pursuing their MBAs in droves, especially at Ivy-level institutions like Stanford.

    My college was different…but that was more due to the fact the campus culture was decidedly anti-corporate/business and pursuing an MBA would be seen by many classmates as “selling-out” and joining the “dark side”. This factor along with near certain probability of facing large student-led campus protests are reasons why most Fortune 500 companies until very recently did very practically no on-campus recruiting compared to our peer institutional counterparts.

    Interestingly enough, I have an older male cousin who married a woman who had an Ivy league undergrad and an MBA from the same school as the quoted author. Though they both are in a happy marriage, there has been a fair amount of snobbishness and crap heaped against him due to his comparatively “lower” educational background (State U BS, Ivy League M. Ed) and the fact he was the SAHD while his wife advanced her career.

    I’ve also dated a few Ivy-level MBA students during my time as a professional/grad student. Only negatives I’ve gotten was the same ones I’ve gotten from many MBAs on mom’s side of the family and from working with them….the seeming snobbish entitlement to put down others for “inferior” and “impractical” educational backgrounds defined as any major/degree which does not result in the possibility of highly lucrative careers upon graduation. I will admit that has made me a bit wary…though I am attempting to work through this as I know not all MBA students/graduates act in that manner.

    As for race not mattering, I’m not sure about MBA programs…but race and class definitely factored in admissions as it created a situation where Asian-Americans often had to attain much higher grades and standardized test scores than their White counterparts…especially at the Ivy-level institutions. This was only confirmed by relatives and friends who worked in Ivy-level admissions offices and admitted to such practices and viewing all Asian-Americans through the “model minority” myth.

    On the other hand, wealthy well-connected White students with much lower grades and standardized test scores had no problem getting into Ivy-level undergrad and grad schools…..just look at our current esteemed President….the poster boy for the aristocratic relic known as Legacy admissions. :roll:

  4. July 9, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    My dad is a white Republican male who attended Stanford business school just three years before this Robinson guy. He’d tell you there was zero racism and sexism, but he also recently told me that Wal-Mart and similar corporations are responsible for diversity in America.

    I am an undergrad at Stanford, and the guys I hang out with there are totally into intelligent, ambitious women. More than one tech-nerd guy has mentioned how hot it is when a girl is better at math than he is. I also had a small stint at Oxford, and the English guys I hooked up with while there were all very impressed that I was at Oxford, even though none of them had attended university. Maybe it’s just sort of a self-selecting crowd, and flirting with dudes who might be intimidated by me never gets far enough for me to find out that they’re intimidated by me.

    Definitely, though, there are guys I’ve hooked up with who didn’t understand the feminist thing. There was one guy I (stupidly) slept with who was doing it for two reasons: 1) he thought I was the only girl he’d met who was smarter than he was (he was flattering himself with this one), and 2) the novelty of fucking a real live feminist.

  5. July 9, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Heck, yeah, but in a different way: My cohort was told by the Graduate Advisor not to get married during grad school or if we were married to get a divorce because we needed all our focus for studying.

  6. Cassie
    July 9, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I might be in the minority, but I married rather young and was already married when I decided to go to law school. Maybe it was because I was already married, but it was hard for me to make the decision because I was worried about how it would effect my family. My husband and I had a lot of talks about when we wanted kids, day care options, him staying home, etc., I felt a lot of pressure knowing I wasn’t going to be a stay-at-home mom like my mother and her mother before me. Everyone I know was extremely supportive of my choice in career, but it was still something I doubted for quite awhile.

    I think there still is so much pressure on women to be “Super Moms” and that is something that men don’t face. So I think it was harder for me to decide to go to law school then it would have been for a man.

    As for once I got to law school, at the school itself I never felt devalued because of my gender. I went to an amazing school that had 4 Deans who were women and an amazing faculty of women. The men were supportive and feminist for the most part. I was at the top of my class and was celebrated for that. Now, in the legal community at large, it was a different story. I do feel the effects of my gender there.

  7. UnFit
    July 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Ew, yea, I’ve had that novelty fuck thing happen to me too – both for being a feminist/radical leftist and for being “exotic” (read, endowed with part Asian genes)

    But funnily, being a nerd and having an okay education/carreer seems to either play no role at all, or they appreciate it as part of what makes me inetersting.

    But quite beside that, I can think of exactly one carreer choice for which dateability plays the most central role, and that’s stay-at-home mom.

  8. exholt
    July 9, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Heck, yeah, but in a different way: My cohort was told by the Graduate Advisor not to get married during grad school or if we were married to get a divorce because we needed all our focus for studying.

    Sounds just like the frequent stories I heard from friends in PhD programs where the advisors expect them to spend every waking moment on their thesis research, assisting Prof(s) with research, and other “duties” deemed important by them.

    Any time taken off to have a life was considered a sign a student was lacking in “dedication” and “seriousness” for the field….which often translates into being forced out of said program, bad recommendations precluding employment in field if said student manages to graduate with a Phd (Happened to a parent of a college classmate), and more.

  9. Mr. J
    July 9, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you for your insightful responses!

    charlotte, that made me chuckle. Getting a divorce would be more expensive and time-consuming than staying married. Also, your spouse could possibly provide love and support, instead of simply being the attention-sucking burden your Graduate Advisor thinks they are. :)

  10. Nia
    July 9, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I’m Spanish, living in Spain, with a degree in English. At times, I thought that wanting to be a professor in my own country diminished my chances of finding a partner, but I like teaching a lot more than I like appeasing men’s egos.

    I did worry about my chances of being financially independent, find a partner and/or have children when I accepted two scholarships abroad, with one year at home in the middle. I assumed that no one would love me enough to follow my pilgrimage across the English-speaking world.

  11. M
    July 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Yesyesyes darnit. I’m heading to graduate school in two months and terrified. I’ve been told by the (male) PhDs in my family for years to “not even look at a man until after graduate school” or “until after I get tenure” because taking time off for a baby would de-rail my career entirely. I get that view from everyone. Well, when am I supposed to have a family, then? And with whom? My longterm s.o. is of the “nothing is more important than my career” persuasion, meaning that if anyone is to make sacrifices to start a family, it’s darn well going to be me. I’ve almost got myself resigned to being the one who will have to sacrifice a career in order to have a family because, well, apparently you need to focus on studies in grad school, and then afterward, you don’t take a tenure-track job and then take maternity leave six months later, either. So I don’t worry as much about the “men won’t find me attractive if I’m educated” problem, since I went a pretty intense college as an undergrad and met plenty of straight men who, at least at 19, want to date smart ladies. But I do worry about putting off kids. A lot.

  12. tenacitus
    July 9, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    What the writer had to say abou race & gender issues at Stanford sound very ridiculous to me.

  13. timothynakayama
    July 9, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    This just ties into the conventional tradition that women marry up, men marry down…

    The way I see it, women should rejoice that there are men out that that feel threatened if the woman has a higher background (education/job)…since these men are self-identified by them not being interested in the woman, than that means that already excludes them and leave the remaining, secure men in the dating pool. This saves time from going out with insecure men!

    Not that I agree with the whole notion of needing to get a man….women dont need men and vice versa. People can live quite happily without ever being with a partner.

  14. July 9, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    I get the “I’m overwhelmed by your intelligence” bullshit excuse all the time with just a Bachelors. Thus, I can’t even consider not continuing my education (when I have money, time, have finally decided exactly where and what to study) based on Landing a Man when the situation now is [total bullshit] utterly preposterous. (FYI: I don’t believe it, by the way.)

  15. VMB
    July 9, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    It’s not a concern at school, but I have to admit that the kid thing is a HUGE personal concern. I started my undergraduate late, and graduated at 27, almost 28. I was putting off kids until I finished undergraduate + graduate, but I’m realizing that I’m not going to finish graduate work until after I’m 30. Then I’ll need to establish myself, become financially stable, pay back student loans and buy a house before I feel prepared for kids (which I really want!!).

    I may not start parenting until my late 30’s, which is pushing it. I really wanted to have kids in my early 30’s! It’s honestly got me thinking about striking out into business without that graduate degree – I’ll get less $, but I can start the process of getting stable, paying back loans, and getting ready for kids!

    BTW, my 10 year s.o. is a WONDERFUL guy with an AA degree and a great union job. He was the one encouraging me to go back to school, and is still suggesting grad school. I think you just need to find a man secure in his own self-worth – then the levels of education don’t matter!

  16. archdiva
    July 9, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    As a 40 year old single woman with a master’s and a great career in higher education administration, I struggle *constantly* with the push/pull between my career and my personal life. Somehow I always thought I would meet my partner through work — I spend a lot of time there, meet interesting people and since I tend to have reasonably high standards for the intelligence and education level of my partner, it seemed like the logical place to meet. I want someone I can talk with as an equal, for Pete’s sake! But I haven’t met him after 12+ years in the field and have zero prospects.

    Yes, I want to be married (again) and have kids (for the first time), perhaps more than anything else at the moment. At the same time, I’m seriously considering getting my Ph.D because it will help me take my career in some interesting directions. And frankly, because I don’t have any marriage prospects and because the dating scene sucks for a well-educated, independent woman, why not?

    But I seriously worry having a doctorate will put me in the Untouchable Caste as far as men go. It’s hard enough now! And I’m not interested in being perceived as the crazy cat lady or the hauty intellect. I’m neither (though I do have cats and am pretty damn smart), but perception can be reality in this world of ours.

    Classic Catch-22, methinks.

  17. July 9, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Not remotely a consideration for me. Never even occurred to me that men I would actually want to spend time with might be threatened by my education. And once I did hear such a thing was possible, I was only thoroughly disgusted with those men. I do feel bad for other women who have to deal with it though. I was lucky enough to find a guy who thinks I’m cool cuz I’m more educated than him! Go figure.

  18. July 9, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    On a personal note, when I was finishing my BA in Criminology last year, my (now ex) husband decided that he didn’t like the focus being off him. I was so busy between full time work, full time school, and keeping the house above demolition status that he felt out of the loop. Boo hoo. He noticed my efforts by turning to drugs and leaving me a note in my car one night during finals week saying he was leaving me. My car, BTW, was in the parking lot where I was working. He couldn’t even face me to tell me he was leaving. So, yeah, the paper I did for my feminism class on how many marriages break up during the wife’s continuing education was as much a personal journey as an effort for a grade (I got a good grade). My ex boyfriend, who never got past high school and he was 38, said that I was smarter than he and he never knew what to say to me. I, realized in turn, that I never knew what to say to him because when I did start talking about stuff, he would glaze over like he had no idea what I was talking about. I wasn’t talking about astrophysics or quantum mechanics or anything really complicated and deep (maybe philosophy), but he just wasn’t getting it. Needless to say I’m still single and couldn’t care less if I ever got into another relationship.

  19. misskate7511
    July 9, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    On men being intimidated by intelligent women: been there, done that. However, I found it the case that a man I dated, while claiming to be a feminist and into smart women, eventually realized I was as smart as/smarter than he was, and his egalitarian view of relationships seemed to start to fall apart. He would end up becoming more and more defensive in simple, non-combative discussions and debates, more or less demanding I supply a verbal bibliography on a regular basis. So sad, and so tedious. Then again, I think I have a little bit of the internalized play-dumb-at-first, don’t-scare-the-menz thing, so I kind of set myself up for that sort of thing.

    But with the current bf… he’s smart, he loves that I’m smart, and I don’t think he would want to be with a woman who wasn’t at least very nearly his intellectual equal and also in academia. So yay! And, btw, he went to Stanford for undergrad, so go figure.

    I am a bit freaked out about when the hell I’m going to have kids, and how the hell I’m going to manage keeping my career from nose-diving as a result. All the all-stars in my dept have no kids (this goes for both men and women). It’s almost an understood that having a family will put your career on hold, and put you at high risk for losing face in the field for taking time off. We’ve even had a prof dev about this, and no one had good answers. I am so fucking scared that all my work will be for naught, and that I’ll end up hating my [future] kids for it. So. fucking. scared.

  20. exholt
    July 10, 2008 at 12:03 am

    BTW, my 10 year s.o. is a WONDERFUL guy with an AA degree and a great union job. He was the one encouraging me to go back to school, and is still suggesting grad school. I think you just need to find a man secure in his own self-worth – then the levels of education don’t matter!

    Cannot agree more with having supportive husbands…or wives as applicable. What’s the point of having any sort of relationship with people who aren’t going to be mutually supportive?

    I am a wondering a bit, however, about whether having higher-ed credentials….especially graduate degrees in any academic or pre-professional field automatically indicates higher intelligence.

    Though it makes one highly educated and may correlate with a higher likelihood of higher intelligence, that may not always be the case as our current esteemed President and those similarly situated prove. Having marginal intelligence is not necessarily a great barrier to higher-ed access…even to the Ivy/Ivy-level institutions provided one has enough socio-economic privilege in wealth and connections to pave one’s way in.

    Though I myself have fallen into the fallacy of automatically assuming being well-educated/having access to higher-ed with being intelligent, I’ve encountered too many exceptions in the workplace/academia to automatically equate being well-educated with being highly intelligent. Conversely, I’ve worked with many high school/college dropouts who can easily run rings around most college graduates I’ve worked/attended school with..including Ivy/Ivy-level graduates, yet were denied higher-ed access because the lack of financial resources and life circumstances got in the way.

  21. dananddanica
    July 10, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Theres a lot of this in my workplace. There are really two groups, people with masters and above and people with little formal education who got years of experience in the field and proved their worth that way. It is definitely harder for the more educated women to find a dating partner if they are seeking het males but this only seems true within the educated group. I know its just an anecdote but my wife is the one with the all the letters behind her name and I’m just a guy with a high school diploma and scattered college credits but that works well for us. Its the guys with their masters who seem to be more easily intimidated but the thing is I cant put it all on them.

    They should be strong enough to not care what others think but there is a lot of pressure from both women and men and lots of the men either get derided for having less in the way of credentials than the woman theyre dating or even sometimes the women use a college education as a filter and simply will not consider anyone less educated than themselves. Quite the pickle really.

    I agree with what exholt said as far as intelligence. An education is one of many indicators of intelligence but not the primary one in my experience. As exholt said it also shows a certain degree of access that many of us didnt have.

  22. dananddanica
    July 10, 2008 at 1:15 am

    I’ve had a problem as well, though not to the same degree, with my spouse telling me I was smarter than her and having a hard time talking about things. The issue, at least for us, wasnt really one of intelligence but more one of speaking skills. I can talk circles around her and am very quick, people too often mistake that for intelligence or a greater intelligence. We figured out how to change things so that each of us felt better when talking, many people regardless or educational or intelligence level simply cannot speak well extemperaneously but that can be worked with.

  23. mistymorning
    July 10, 2008 at 2:49 am

    I just graduated from law school…like two weeks ago (still excited)! I’m lucky enough to be living with a 26 year old guy who dropped out of college to work as a freelance artist, and doesn’t give a shit that I’m two degrees up on him. He seems to be the only one though. There’s always a raised eyebrow and a joke about him being a ‘kept man’ when people hear what his girlfriend does. And when I tell other men I’m a lawyer, I can actually see the flicker of distaste as the smiles freeze on their faces.
    The only thing that worried (and still worries) me about law school was the children question. I don’t want to be squeezing them out then running back to the office. My clock is ticking but I’m hungry to climb quickly in my career, too. In the back of my mind I’m quietly planning to start the first family- and female-friendly law firm in my city…but I gotta work my ass off to build a reputation first. And who knows how long that will take.

  24. Kaija
    July 10, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I’m in a science PhD program and a lot of the comments here echo what I have felt and heard from my colleagues and friends. Many women are not worried that they won’t find someone to partner with, but they are worried about the dreaded “two body problem,” i.e., how to find good jobs for both people in the same place, how to negotiate tenure track vs. starting a family, and balancing work/family obligations. Women are still assumed to be not as motivated or committed to their careers b/c they are allegedly distracted by first finding a man, and then having babies.

    I don’t want to have children and I get tired of the assumption that it is right around the corner for me, that some inevitable ringing of a biological clock that I wasn’t even born with is going to cause me to derail my plans for my career and future. Female =/= dying to be a mother. That being said, I’ve dated guys with more or less education than me, and the success or failure of those relationships usually came down to issues other than who had the higher degree.

  25. July 10, 2008 at 9:59 am

    I’m getting towards the end of my PhD (in a humanities field), and this was never a concern for me. I’ve been partnered for 10+ years to a lovely fella w/ a BFA, and and he’s been nothing but supportive. My field is among the more liberal of the liberal arts, so that may have something to do with it, but I know that in general, the academy does not embrace professor mamas with open arms. I can’t/won’t have kids, so it’s not a big deal to me personally, but it matters to a good deal of my colleagues. Many of my male peers are married w/ kids, very few of my female peers are. That ain’t coincidence.

    However, the even bigger issue in my field (and esp. my department) is the lack of racial diversity. It is white white white up in here.

  26. Mnemosyne
    July 10, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I’ve been told by the (male) PhDs in my family for years to “not even look at a man until after graduate school” or “until after I get tenure” because taking time off for a baby would de-rail my career entirely.

    I have friends who were told this by their academic advisors so, sadly, it’s true. You wouldn’t think that linguistics was the kind of super-fast-paced field where taking 3 or 6 months off meant you would never be able to catch up, but apparently the professors at UCLA think so. :-p

    I read that same book and the one defense I’ll give of it is that it was written 20 years ago. It also cured me of any interest in getting an MBA since he and his fellow students don’t exactly come out sounding great.

    As far as relationships go, it seems that it’s better to have an established relationship when you first start grad school. When my now-husband and I first started dating in January, he knew I was going to start graduate school that fall (MFA in screenwriting) and had no problem with it. My best friend met her now-husband shortly before she started her MBA program and got married halfway through. My (male) friend and his girlfriend met their first year of graduate school (different programs). It sounds like meeting someone after you have the degree is the problem.

  27. Ismone
    July 10, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Yeah, my husband hasn’t finished his BA yet, and I have my JD. He is wicked smart. I think sometimes people underestimate the intelligence of people who don’t (or don’t yet) have their degree(s). The smartest person in my mom’s family, according to my mom, is her youngest sister who dropped out of h.s. One of my mom’s brothers (who may have an AA, but I’m not even sure about that) has finally risen through the managerial ranks enough to get stock options and buy a place, which is great, because his kids are now college-age. My husband is much better-read with regard to a lot of subjects than I am (and has a vastly better understanding than I do) of the human endocrine system even though I was a techie in undergrad. and he was a fuzzy.

    I think that the pressure on men to be the higher earner is pretty significant, which may explain the degree thing somewhat.

    I do think it is funny, tho, when I go somewhere like Above the Law, and men say all this crap about “women are golddiggers” and me or some other woman point out that we make more than our men, or pay for every other date, and then they’re like, well your husband/boyfriend isn’t a real man/is emasculated, whatever. They fail to see the upside of this, which is that WE DON’T WANT YOU FOR YOUR MONEY. Which has to mean, WE REALLY LIKE YOU!

    Ah, sexists on the interwebs.

  28. Nemohee
    July 10, 2008 at 11:50 am

    My entire family treats me differently now that I’m in graduate school (they either are so proud of me that they’re bursting buttons, or hate my guts, which unfortunately, the latter is the majority), and I’ve found that complete strangers seem to view me differently after they find out that I have one degree, and am working on my second. Somehow, I become a different person than the one they were speaking to mere seconds before – an apparently unapproachable, or sometimes reproachable, being. I am seen as either rising above my station (see comment about family above) or as careless and irresponsible. Compound all this with the fact that I’m getting my degree from a well known (though infamously so, due to events that happened here a little over a year ago) university, and telling people that I’m getting a Master’s degree becomes a less than desirable occurrence.

    As for my decision to go to graduate school, it was made primarily out of my own thirst for knowledge and frankly, a desire to make more money. Worries and concerns about being able to raise a family didn’t enter into the picture, mostly due to two reasons: 1) I was already engaged to a man who is completely comfortable with the fact that I am more educated and have the potential to make more money than him, and 2) I can’t have kids, and somehow the idea of adoption seems less stressful than physically bearing a child (sometimes I wonder why). I did it for me first, and for the comfort and well being of my fiance and me (a very close) second.

  29. little cabbage
    July 10, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I have an almost PhD (defense in two months, yay!!!) and my husband doesn’t even have a BA. He left high school a year early and went into an apprenticeship at a community college for computer technology. He’s now an IT guy and makes a lot more than I do. I may end up making more than him eventually, as I’m going into a non-academic field with my PhD, but who the hell cares? He loves the fact that I’m smart and is proud as hell of me and my intelligence. And I’m proud as hell of him, because he came from an extremely poor home with an absent father and a mentally ill mother and got where he is out of sheer determination. And because he’s just as smart as me, just not the kind that uses big words and writes obscure stuff in obscure journals.

    BTW, part of the reason I’m going into non-academia with my humanities PhD is because I’ve gotten the same advice as so many of you have: don’t settle down/have kids until after tenure, don’t ever have a family life, etc. Fuck that noise.

  30. Ismone
    July 10, 2008 at 12:21 pm


    About the “rising above you station” thing–my dad had the same experience. His dad owned a gas station, and was a mechanic (had to opportunity to go to college through the GI Bill, took a pass.) One day, my father was walking across campus, and ran into an old customer, a woman. She asked if he was there to jump start someone’s car. He said, no, I’m a student here in the doctoral program of (hard techie field). She said ‘oh,’ and never spoke to him again.

    Because sons of mechanics aren’t supposed to go to top schools and get doctorates, they’re supposed to take over daddy’s gas station.

  31. Dawn K.
    July 10, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    This is a problem of privilege, but worth discussing.

    I have a masters’ degree in English and a JD. I’m 40, with two kids (6 and 3) and a husband.

    I was married when I hit law school at age 27, but was planning on having kids. The field of law is more accepting of women lawyers, than business but there are still problems.

    Here’s what worked for me: I was in the top 10% of my class at a top 10 law school. In every interview, I asked “What benefits are there for working mothers in your firm? What are your provisions for maternity leave? What about part-time work while my children are small? etc., etc., etc.” A couple of firms had poor answers and I turned down additional interviews with them. I just made it an expectation that 1) I was an awesome hire and so were the other women in my class and 2) if you want us, you have to make provisions for us to have a family/work balance. That kind of pressure works. Law firms and businesses need the talent pool these women respresent — we have to tell them that they either make changes to accomodate us or we’ll go elsewhere.

    I took a judicial clerkship and then a big firm job straight out of law school, but left it for a more family friendly, mid-size firm environment. My firm is less prestigious but a healthier place to work. (We do good work, too.)

    As far as dating goes, I think women break some of their own preconceptions. Guys might be intimidated by a JD or an MBA, but they haven’t necessarily met YOU and the wonderfulness that is YOU. If you meet a guy who you like, but who might be a little intimidated, find a way to show your interest. If you ask him out or pursue him a little, he is likely to decide that he likes YOU, whatever letters are hanging after your name, and any education differences won’t matter any more.

    And I empathize with folks who’ve been told that graduate school means “gettin’ above your raisin’.” Class is difficult in the US, and one background in the birth family and another in your professional life can be a nightmare. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel completely comfortable.

  32. ClassicsGrad
    July 10, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Good grief, none of those things ever entered into my mind as factors for why I might want to continue or not continue graduate education. I wanted to go into my PhD program because I love what I do, and the thought of not doing it made me die a little inside.

    Sure, I’d had the problem of dating men who were threatened by the fact that I was smarter than they were – but there were plenty of other problems in those relationships, of which that was only a symptom. I figured I was better off waiting for someone to turn up who didn’t have the issues which materialised in, among other things, that sense of inferiority. Thankfully, this appears to have paid off :)

    The assumption that everything women do is somehow driven by the need to find a mate is incredibly disturbing. Thankfully, I’m part of a faculty where there are young female professors, one of whom is now expecting her first child, so the discussion of ‘when is a good time?’ is one that actually happens (usual answer – there is no good time, but some times are better than others). Actually, we’re a surprisingly domestic department overall, which makes my gender feel like much less of an issue; I know friends in other disciplines who struggle with it far more.

  33. catswym
    July 10, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    being a white lesbian with no aspirations of children certainly has made my life easier. I just finished my PhD in biochemistry and although I decided to not go the academic route I know things would have been less challenging work/life wise for me than for those women hoping to get married to a man and have children.

    As far as partnering goes–both most of the men and women in my program (students and profs) were partnered with other men and women in graduate study. So in that respect both the men and women were facing the “two body problem”.

    Children is the more tricky issue and a lot of the women in my program were struggling with when was the right time to have kids (maybe the men were too but I didn’t hear them talk about it, at least to me).

    My girlfriend right now is in a PhD program for physics (about to start her third year) and is undecided what track she wants to take. But at least we don’t have to worry about the two academics problem. And we may end up wanting/ adopting children but that can be at our ‘convenience’ rather than biological necessity.

  34. Bookwoman
    July 10, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    When it comes to when to have kids – don’t make assumptions about “having to” wait until after “X”. Do it when you’re ready. There are ways to make parenting work with both work and school. Sometimes – and I mean only sometimes – you might have to slow down your schedule. It is worth it. A colleague of mine once put it this way, “If you wait until everything’s perfect before you have kids, you’ll never have kids.” You should see Bitch PhD’s writing about “why kids are not a lifestyle choice.” http://bitchphd.blogspot.com/2004/07/feminism-101.html

  35. Manju
    July 10, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    The newest thing an wall street is to not hire mba’s, but rather focus on those with a hard science background or anyone with a rigorous academic backgroud. the top hedge fund managers, like james simmons’ renaissance technologies, actually refuses to hire them, considering the degree worthless and w/o intellectual rigor.

    ditto for the related venture capital industry, where the rule of thumb is the more mba’s a start-up has, the less likely they are to be successful. technical backgrounds rule.

    this represents one of the great shifts in the history of american finance, turning the once exclusive wasp-prep school club into one that resembles the ethnic make up of an mit campus. science is the great racial equalizer, though it hasn’t had the same effect on gender.

    it all began at salomon bros under the legendary john merriweather, who was the first on the street to hire scientific genius’ to trade based on mathematical formulas, eschewing th e old boys club of harvard mba who went to choate. there are other factors that have led to the increased diversity on the street, globaliztion of course, milken’s junk bond rev (opening finance to those once excluded) the advent of the mortgage backed security (for the same reson as junk bond), the rise of jewish banks like goldman at the expense of exclusionary white shoes like morgan, merrill lynch/charles schwab and the rise of retail brokerage, and of course the IT revolution and the rise of a brand new type of capitalist…one that’s interested in destroying old-line companies in favor of new more efficient, globalized, and subsequently diverse like google.

    so i’d be careful about the mba. the age of the relationship baker, when the M&A specialist ruled, is long gone. the new world order cares less about who you know.

  36. July 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Going way back to NormaJ’s first comment – in my top ranked law school, there were far more pressing issues than whether or not we could find marriagable men (which, no surprise, many of us did). The relative treatment of women by classmates and even some professors was of much greater significance. Although, evidently the complaints several of us made about a particular criminal law prof for our first year section (who liked to pick out a vulnerable looking woman in his classes and use her as a victim object lesson for rape cases) did get him sanctioned. And race was hardly a non-factor either.

  37. cherylp
    July 10, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I finished my Masters in a science-y field last year and am now working in academia – I plan to pursue my PhD once I pay down a bit of debt. My partner is a poker player who never finished community college. No beefs between us, but don’t get my mother started on it…

  38. Ismone
    July 11, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Wow, Emily, one of the profs. in the school I transferred from did that too—he would say to a female “suppose I raped you”—and it couldn’t have been the same guy, b/c my first school wasn’t highly ranked.

    The odd thing was, he strongly backed a friend of mine, also a woman, and did his best to help her out and clearly respected her intelligence.

    But he was still a creep who should have been fired.

  39. Mel
    July 12, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    I’m in graduate school, and also in a LTR with a man who has a high school diploma. I have been more educated than him since we met, and the gap has grown. My main worry is that I may grow to resent carrying a greater financial burden down the line if he doesn’t figure out a long-term career (in his case, it will probably require starting a business). That’s a bridge we are both aware of and will cross when we get to it.

    I’m not all that worried about intimidating men with my education–there are plenty of men who have been to grad school, and I’m not limiting myself to ones in my field (actually, I actively want to avoid partners in my field, because competing with your spouse for jobs sucks). The men who wouldn’t date me now would be just as intimidated by my intelligence and mouthiness with or without education–and honestly, I don’t meet a whole lot of men like that, probably because I hang out with geeks.

    I’m not currently planning on children, and if I were it wouldn’t be until my late twenties to early thirties, which gives me plenty of time to finish school and get a job. I really boggle at people being worried about “delaying” children from age 22 to age 26 or whatever–that’s not that long, and extra maturity when you have kids isn’t a bad thing. And academia, while still by no means perfect, has become MUCH more friendly to women having children–I have role models of women who manage to be academics and have families. And I realize that I’m lucky, because things were a lot worse not so long ago, but it’s encouraging to see how far things have come.

    I’m sort of puzzled by the woman in the example thinking only Harvard MBAs wouldn’t be intimidated by her education–there are plenty of men with Master’s and PhDs in non-business fields out there…or are they too low-earning for an MBA?

    The assumption that everything women do is somehow driven by the need to find a mate is incredibly disturbing.

    I’m with you, ClassicsGrad.

  40. exholt
    July 12, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    I’m sort of puzzled by the woman in the example thinking only Harvard MBAs wouldn’t be intimidated by her education–there are plenty of men with Master’s and PhDs in non-business fields out there…or are they too low-earning for an MBA?

    There seems to be a tendency among many with topflight MBAs to thumb their noses at those with undergraduate and graduate degrees in “impractical” fields of study. Though my cousin received his M.Ed from an Ivy league university, the fact his wife has a BS from an Ivy and an MBA from Stanford meant that many acquaintances saw him as the “less educated” and “less intelligent” of the two…and gave him some crap over it…especially when he became a SAHD for a time. Thankfully, she is strong and secure enough in her own competence and abilities to not subscribe to such offputting snobby attitudes.

    I’ve also experienced the same dynamic when I dated MBA students because among many B-school students/graduates, the MBA student is considered far superior to all other graduate students…especially one studying something “impractical” as a field straddling the humanities and social sciences. Exceptions I’ve heard to this snobby attitude among many B-school students/graduates are Med school and Law school students…and only because both are associated with highly lucrative prestigious careers.

    Despite this dynamic, most reasonable people are secure in themselves and their own abilities to tune out all this noise.

  41. Andrea
    July 13, 2008 at 10:51 am

    It’s funny that the MBAs would be looking down on everyone! I’m getting my PhD in Art History right now, and everyone I know in grad school (people in the humanities, mostly) think of the MBAs as the dumb jocks. I wonder why everyone even cares about ranking the relative merits of different grad programs.

  42. exholt
    July 13, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    It’s funny that the MBAs would be looking down on everyone! I’m getting my PhD in Art History right now, and everyone I know in grad school (people in the humanities, mostly) think of the MBAs as the dumb jocks.

    The stereotype of MBAs among those at my progressive radical-left leaning private liberal arts college was that they were self-absorbed uncouth greedy money-sucking scum.* To some extent, some also had this perception of our econ major classmates, especially considering we did not have an undergrad business major and many end up going into the pro-liberal/neo-liberal econ grad departments and/or related corporate occupations. Kind of amusing to see this level of dismissive skepticism among my undergrad classmates when many of them will also, at some point, end up working for the very same types of corporations they vehemently detested and protested against as undergrads.

    Friends in the humanities and social science departments looked upon the MBA students in similar ways as your grad school acquaintances do. Friends in the natural, mathematical, and technical sciences tend to view them with jealous contempt as attendees of the grad school equivalent of a “party major”….especially with their seeming tendency to throw frequent long “networking” parties nearly every week…including ones when midterm and final exams are held.

    From knowing a lot of MBA holders among older members of my family and from working with MBAs professionally, many of them will judge an academic degree by how they perceive it will translate into a potentially lucrative job/career upon graduation.** As far as they are concerned, if your degree cannot be directly parlayed into a highly paying prestigious career, it is of lesser worth*** than their beloved MBA.

    To be fair, I’ve seen similar attitudes among those in the natural, technical, and mathematical sciences…though that was more because they tended to privilege a more mathematically heavy academic field as more “rigorous” and “proof of one’s intelligence” than an academic field with less mathematical/practically no mathematical content. Interestingly, in their view….an MBA is as rigorous as a “non-rigorous” field such as english lit, history, or any other humanities/social science field.****

    *Yes, those were the exact words used by my undergrad classmates.
    ** Had a manager who was quite skeptical of my undergraduate history major implying it was useless and irrelevant for a professional career beyond teaching and academia. Thankfully, he came around when he saw my computing technical skills in action.
    *** And thus, practically worthless/useless in their eyes.
    **** IME, those in the natural, technical, and mathematically heavy sciences…especially those in Engineering/CS tend to have the most contempt for MBA students/degree. The fact many of them will end up working for “party hearty” MBA graduates, earn less than them later in their careers, and will remain at the lower end of most non-technical corporate hierarchies adds to this contempt.

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