Management for the boys

The Unesco Global Education Digest shows that in Europe and North America, women have outnumbered men on undergraduate courses for five years. In US medical schools, women make up half of students – and 47 per cent of law schools. Not so when it comes to business schools, though.

The Economist’s ranking of full-time MBA students shows under 33 per cent are women, a percentage that has remained fairly consistent over the past eight years. (Click to enlarge.)

The article looks at the reasons why there are so few women MBA students. Is it because MBA courses demand five or six years’ prior professional experience, which may be awkward for women who might want to have children? Is it because of the macho, competitive culture of financial services firms where most MBA grads head? Or is it because women are more concerned to see a pay-off for the time and money invested in an MBA?

These are all good questions, but perhaps it also reflects something about the nature and content of MBA programmes. Every two years CrainerDearlove, the consulting firm, publishes its Thinkers 50 list of the top management gurus in the world, based on a survey of 3,500 people and a panel of experts.
The last edition, September 2009, was headed for the second time running by the University of Michigan professor, C.K. Prahalad, who died in April.

The list includes a number of working chief executives such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ratan Tata and Eric Schmidt as well as academics, consultants and writers. What is conspicuous is the lack of women on the list. London Business School’s Lynda Gratton makes a good showing at No 18 ahead of fellow academics Rosabeth Moss Kanter (28) and Barbara Kellerman (48). Just three of the 50 Thinkers are women.

A quick glance at Amazon’s bestseller lists for business books confirms this is male territory. The books here are universally authored by men: Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen R. Covey, Tom Peters, Stephen D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Michael Lewis … the list goes on.

An MBA student will need to look long and hard to find a female guru or management thinker who is at the leading edge of business theory. In academe, as in real companies, we need role models.

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