It isn’t fashionable – and surely not politically correct – for business school career counsellors to caution female MBAs about the professional compromises they may have to make for the sake of their families. Just ask Peter Giulioni, executive director of MBA career services at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.
It’s a tricky conversation to initiate, he tells me.
“There’s a certain PC factor. But I do believe that how a woman plans to merge her post-MBA career with her plans to start a family should fit into her strategy of how she looks for a job.
“It’s very attractive to tap into your entrepreneurial spirit, but it’s not always easy. This is why many women have a conservative strategy when looking for a job. They want a job with a Fortune 500 company that is a recognisable entity. This is good for their résumè, because [if they do happen to take extended leave for any reason] it will make their exit from and re-entry into the workforce a lot more seamless.”
Mr Giulioni, who himself has four children, says that once he broaches the subject with female students, “a light bulb goes on in their heads” as they start to think of themselves as both a future mother and a professional woman. He says:
“Generally the reaction I get is, ‘Wow, I have to be a lot more thoughtful all about this. I want it all, so I need a detailed plan in order to get it all.’”
“Having it all” – a hard-charging career and a home life where women are able to be the kind of mothers they want to be – is by no means easy, but it is doable. Mr Giulioni says that while most female MBAs he works with tend to take the conservative route by looking for jobs with blue-chip companies, some take a different approach.
“Some women have made a decision to defer children. They will usually give themselves a defined period – three or five years – to try to launch their businesses, or take a high-level position in a smaller company and try to make a name for themselves. But these women do this after an explicit conversation with their spouses or significant others.”