Megan McArdle is a Chicago Booth alumna, & Bloomberg View columnist who writes on economics, business & public policy. Below is an excerpt of her response to Jodi Kantor's piece in the New York Times about Harvard Business School's attempt to promote gender equality.
I am apparently the perfect person to commentate on Jodi Kantor's piece in the New York Times about Harvard Business School's attempt to promote gender equality. I say this because any number of people have asked "Are you going to write about this?" or simply issued the second-person imperative: "You should write about this!" You see, I have an MBA from the University of Chicago. Also I have two X chromosomes.
As it happens, I have read the piece. And as it happens, I have a lot of thoughts about the piece. Some of it accorded with my own memories of school -- the alcohol-soaked social life, for example. Some of it was very far from my own recollection, in part, I think, because Chicago does not have the same attraction for international jet setters. I don't recall a huge class-divide between the folks who were popping off to Gstaad for the weekend, and the folks who were staying home with a couple of beers. We'd all worked for an average of five years before going to school; we all had credit cards and generous student loans. Most of us traveled and had a perfectly good time -- too good, for those of us who ended up making $40,000 a year as journalists after graduation. But there was no obvious gap between mind-bogglingly rich and merely upper middle class.
Then, as now, women were less likely to go into finance, and much more likely to go into marketing. Judging by my reunion, ones who went into finance mostly did not stay there, especially if they had kids. That was also true of a lot of women who went into consulting. A pretty substantial percentage of the women I went to school with were home with kids or working on small home businesses. And seemingly pretty happy with the choice. I mean, perhaps they won't be in 10 years, when the kids are well settled in school and they want to get back into work, but I have no particular reason to think they'll regret their choices any more than the rest of us regret having to make trade-offs with the limited span of years and opportunities we're allocated.
Running through Kantor's article is the implication that these are bad choices, ones that the women who made them will regret -- or at the very least, ones that will make it harder for other women to break into male bastions like finance. Because those who share that view are powerless to make men want to date women who are assertive and focused on schoolwork, instead they end up fighting the choices. At one point, Harvard forbid its students from wearing Halloween costumes to class, because it didn't want the women to dress up as sexy pirates. On the one hand, I understand that it's trying to send a message that business school should be about school, not finding a spouse.
See the rest of Megan's response here. Let us know your thoughts on gender inequality in the business industry & b-schools.