Friday, April 10, 2009

Woman, Help Thyself (or the real story of MaB, and, I Quit)

Haven't been blogging much this week because I've been preoccupied and behind in sleep but also because I've been a bit low in spirit and I don't like to blog when I'm in a bad mood.

Quite predictably, on Friday evenings I find myself frequently anxious and unsettled about various Booth happenings in my life, largely related to student parenthood. And I thought perhaps finally coming clean with nearly two years of frustrations might help me sleep.

I've had many good experiences at Booth but nearly all of my bad experiences have been tied to being a student parent. I naively entered Booth thinking that I could turn my experiences into constructive feedback for the school and contribute to making the program more friendly for moms and moms-to-be. I had some facts to share and thought the feedback would be welcome. And all the strange set-backs and dead ends and unexpected politics and meaningless lip service just made me all the more stubborn and more determined about the mission. But I certainly didn't mean for it to become a core part of my MBA identity and such a huge expenditure of time and energy. And as an unrepentant cost-benefit calculator, I have to admit at this point that it's all cost and no benefit to me.

Selfishly, I want to see the world change. I want to see Booth in 10 years have a graduating class that is 50% women. I want to see 50% of the top ranks of the business world populated by women. I want "work-life" balance to no longer be considered a "women's issue". I want to see pay parity by gender. I think all of these things are interrelated. I think all of these things matter. And I think until business schools address the baby factor that no true progress will be made. (Hint: women's ROI on bschool is substantially less than that for men ... largely because they have babies. Apparently the women can do the math but the bschools cannot. And Bertrand gets it but Becker does not ...)

I'm tired of the lip service business schools and women's organizations pay to the issue of low representation of women while trying to ignore the fact that women have babies and it changes their lives in important ways. And I am astounded by how politically controversial such a relatively matter of fact issue seems to be.

MaB should not be a student group. It should be an administrative initiative. It should have been taken on by CWiB. (They refused.) (Which btw should not be a student group either but also an administrative initiative - but more on that later.) The success of this endeavor should not live and die by a few overtaxed students trying to scrub up pennies for a lunch and learn while the school doles out free booze every Friday afternoon. Student moms are an extreme minority at business schools by design not by coincidence - schools do an abysmal job of attracting women at all, let alone women with children. At least at Booth, student moms are reminded time and time again, sometimes subtly and sometimes outright, that fitting into the pre-existing mold is much preferred to falling outside of it. (Pregnant during recruiting? Try to hide that. Have a 10 week old during LOE? Please leave him at home, thanks. Drinking beer and climbing ropes is critical to your peer bonding experience. Need to pump between classes? We have a nice storage closet for you. Not able to do a summer internship for family reasons? You are messing with our numbers!)

Women between 28 and 30 have babies. Even well-educated, high achieving women have babies. It's not a coincidence that they shy away from business school, it's the result of systematic failure on the part of business schools to address the root issues which make business school an incredibly poor investment for many women if they are not fully prepared and informed for/about the ramifications of childbearing. Most women in business school these days will go on to have children after graduation. And they are in for some nasty surprises.

So I thought I'd like to do something about all of this. But I can't do it alone and it's been an incredibly lonely trek. I hear over and over again from alumnae and students how important this issue is to them but no one seems to want to do more than talk about it. Greater than my disappointment with the institutions is my disappointment with my fellow women. If the women who cared about this issue would step up and help, we wouldn't need to rely on the institutions.

So I quit. I need to turn my time and attention to my career and my family. I certainly don't need help. I've figured it out for myself. I'm going to have all the kids I want. I'm going to enjoy my life. I'm going to make a hell of a lot of money. (Sorry so crass, but that's absolutely top on the agenda.) And gender and family status is certainly not standing in my way. I thought it would be valuable to make this a shared learning experience but it looks like women prefer to learn on their own and the school is happy not to stand in their way on that.

So fine. Good luck to all. I quit.


Anonymous said...

I have read your blog for two years now and have welcomed your point of view on bschool and motherhood, I am over 30 and thinking about Booth(part time) and motherhood, which will be at the sametime. So your thoughts were refreshing and welcoming.

Unfortunately, as someone who has planted the seed for change, you may not receive the intended benefits, that will be the ladies behind you. Your work was not in vain; Your son's wife will benefit from this when she juggles motherhood and bschool.. 28yrs from now.

Good luck and Thank you!!!!
Our future daughters thank you

Anonymous said...

Business school programs are a tool of the establishment! And the way our culture deals with parenthood and careers right now is seriously fucked up, especially for women. Sucks for all of us, especially those that don't want to fit into seriously old-school gender roles. :(

Props to you for trying to make a positive change against great odds. You probably made more progress than you realize.

MaybeMBA said...

Well I thank you both for your comments. Definitely what I needed to hear today. Though I guess I still worry that I won't make any difference. Feels like 2 steps forward and 1.95 steps back ... but then it wasn't that long ago that women weren't allowed to get credit cards in their own names. So I suppose patience is still warranted.

MBA Podcaster said...

Wow, this is well said and I couldn't agree more with you. This is definitely a universal issue and not a "moms" issue. Part of the solution will likely come from dads taking on a bigger role in their kid's lives. Not sure what you're doing after graduation but maybe you should think about setting up a think-tank!

Kaco said...

yeah. I'd like to do the same..

-MBA 2011 with a baby

La Coguette said...

I just discovered this blog while writing my own post about women/moms and MBAs... look forward to seeing you continue blogging, you have a great blog here.

and I LOVE that your goals include "have all the kids i want" AND "make a hell of a lot of money". They dont need to be mutually exclusive. Keep it up girl.