New thinking is needed to help women climb the business school career ladder, according to Sally Blount, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management, in a recent article in the FT, in which she decried the fact that only two of the top 25 FT ranked business schools had female deans. (Her suggestions on propelling women to the top in business schools will be helpful to women in business per se.)
According to Blount, first we need to rethink the business school curricula that currently see finance and economics as ‘serious’ subjects, but studying management or marketing is less so, a bias that favours men over women, as female academics are more likely to focus on management or marketing. (36% of faculty in management and marketing departments are currently women compared to only 22% in finance, operations and economics, according to data from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).
All of these subject of course matter. The question is one of balance and also one that takes account of our new understanding of the importance to psychology as a driver of human behaviour in a business context. Recent discoveries in neuroscience and behavioural economics have shown that individual decision-making is not driven solely by information and logic but also by deeper psychological factors.
We now see that the journey to senior leadership is not just about mastering particular business functions or technical skills, but as much about personal ‘psychological’ development — enabling leaders to take responsibility for, and earn the respect of, employees and other stakeholders from different backgrounds and cultures.
For this reason granting greater status to subjects in business schools that rely on psychology and emphasise the importance of human interaction is essential and timely. It can also improve the prospects for women passing through business schools either to become academics and prospective deans or to follow successful business careers.
Secondly, Blount says we need to rethink the professional development of business school academics. The traditional apprenticeship model, whereby working alongside experienced academics is supposed to be enough to train a new would-be professor, has a low success rate and one that seems to favour male academics. And when it comes to leadership development many academics do not have an understanding of what it takes to run an organization, so any prospective dean has to learn on the job. According to Blount “we need to practise what we teach and actively invest in developing leaders — both male and female.”
Thirdly business schools need to encourage more women onto their degree programs. Women currently represent 30-40% of MBA and PhD participants, and this deficit along with structural problems, e.g. those associated with child-rearing, is reflected later on as fewer women than men become senior academics.
“To have any hope of more balance at the highest levels, we need to feed the pipeline with more women to overcome the structural seepage, break down implicit biases and get serious about professional development for faculty.” says Blount
Relevant executive programs at Kellogg:
· Women Director Development Program
· Women’s Senior Leadership Program