On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to Harvard Business School’s MBA program, the authors, who have spent more than 20 years studying professional women, set out to learn what HBS graduates had to say about work and family and how their experiences, attitudes, and decisions might shed light on prevailing controversies. What their comprehensive survey revealed suggests that the conventional wisdom about women’s careers doesn’t always square with reality.
The survey showed, for instance, that:
- The highly educated, ambitious women and men of HBS don’t differ much in terms of what they value and hope for in their lives and careers.
- It simply isn’t true that a large proportion of HBS alumnae have “opted out” to care for children.
- Going part-time or taking a career break to care for children doesn’t explain the gender gap in senior management.
It is now time, the authors write, for companies to consider how they can institutionalize a level playing field for all employees, including caregivers of both genders. The misguided assumption that high-potential women are “riskier” hires than their male peers because they are apt to discard their careers after parenthood has become yet another bias for women to contend with.
- The vast majority of women anticipated that their careers would rank equally with those of their partners. Many of them were disappointed.
HBR Reprint R1412G