Can MBA’s help women have it all? | INCAE

Can MBA’s help women have it all?

20 de Diciembre 2014
Olivia Ferris Laporte

A few years back, one of my bosses, a women’s rights advocate, stimulated my understanding of gender issues. Not only did she raise awareness but also she encouraged me to keep learning, reading and understanding this complex social issue. As a woman interested in business, it is another reason why I decided to enroll in an MBA. I am interested in witnessing and being part of the new generation of women reaching top corporate positions or becoming bold entrepreneurs. I believe that if men and women work together, we can break the glass ceiling.

One of the reasons I chose an MBA is to strengthen my network since many graduates will be doing incredible things through their professions in Latin America. Among these, will be a talented pool of women who will change the way business is done, creating new pathways for those who wish to excel in their professions. An increment of women in leadership positions can provide flexible work hours for working moms and it can also change the leadership metrics, so they do not only evaluate male characteristics but also give equal importance to female traits. For example, in leadership positions, men are considered to be assertive, competitive and self-righteous while women are multi-taskers, collaborative and democratic.

Today, professional women have dual roles that can be perceived as either negative or positive, depending on your perspective. If a woman choses to be a working mom, she will have double shifts: one at work and one at home. Corporations and governments are slowly making adaptations for working mothers, such as providing a more flexible schedule. Others are going a step further and instilling quotas on the board of directors and in high management positions.
However, achieving gender equality needs to start beforehand. Business schools in Latin America, for example, can promote gender equality so that the region can become more tolerant of gender diversity, inviting talented and educated women to stay longer in the work force. Some business schools place high value on class participation, yet, in this scenario, males are more likely to speak up. Therefore, women need to be encouraged to be more confident as well as professors need to be more conscious.  Likewise, students and professors should also be mindful of their language, so it is constructive rather than destructive.

Still, it is not all about adapting women to a male-led environment. It is about creating synergies and integrating feminine qualities into public and private enterprises. For example, providing flexible work hours for parenting for women as well as men. Sometimes, long demanding work hours have not allowed women in positions of power to have a balance with their family life, therefore some have opted out to focus on their families.

I would like to create my network of men and women interested in promoting diversity in the work force. Increasing diversity not only makes us more tolerant of differences but it also helps us handle change and challenges better. INCAE’s faculty and students have already taken steps to create and strengthen gender equality, through courses, research centers and student clubs.

It would be encouraging and inspiring to see women also engage and lead in fields such as finance, technology and engineering. I’m looking forward to have more than one woman listed as the year’s top executives or entrepreneurs in Latin America.

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