Why a woman needs an MBA to succeed in business

Ideas are nothing. Execution is everything. While women may have many ideas for starting their own businesses, or for improving an existing business, the problem is that far too few of us can execute those ideas.

To succeed in business requires more than just a brilliant idea, or even the courage to execute the idea. It requires a specific skill set. As obvious as that sounds, too often women do not appreciate the value of an MBA degree. According to data collected by the Graduate Management Admission Council in 2011, women (23%) are nearly twice as likely as men (13%) to have considered pursuing any kind of master’s program, but men (61%) were much more likely than women (47%) to have considered an MBA.

The following are five good reasons why women should pursue MBA degrees:

1. An MBA offers a taste of the “real world.” Any good graduate program emphasizes practical skills, and a good MBA program is no different. To run a business, you need to know how to manage a staff, raise money, and obtain business loans. Whatever the need, there’s a class for that. There’s a class on corporate finance, another on global macroeconomics, another on venture capital fundraising, another on pitching your business and writing a business plan. Your professors will have done these things in the real world.

2. Networking is essential. Contacts are everything in the business world. When you meet a professor or any fellow student with real-world experience, you’ve opened the door to his or her network of contacts. These are the same people who you will turn to for help with accounting, legal structure, marketing, and public relations. It’s one thing to know how to sell cookies, but to sell them to distributors on a large scale requires lots of help. Only a well-functioning network can turn your biggest dream into a reality.

3. The degree pays for itself over time. MBA programs are inherently expensive. As a rule, women still make less money than men for the same job, so it’s only natural that cost would be a major hindrance. Here’s another rule: An MBA degree almost always pays for itself over time. Nothing compares to an in-person class, but an online MBA is often more affordable. According to GMAC data, the gender distribution was 50/50 among MBA candidates taking online or distance classes. If that’s the least you can do, by all means go for it.



4. Classes are taught at a higher level of instruction. When I took classes at the NYU Stern School of Business, two things struck me right away: One, I was surrounded by men. Two, the level of instruction was much higher than any (overwhelmingly female) education class I’d taken. Complex ideas were broken down in an easy-to-understand manner. Professors had résumés to die for. The quality of an education varies from school to school, but an MBA class is invariably the best, most practical business lesson you can receive.

5. The business world needs more women! Women know how to nurture. It’s our intuition. Men might lack the nurturing gene, but they’re more direct by nature. That’s a more useful skill in the business world. If anything, women should be dominating the MBA ranks in order to bridge the gap. So why isn’t this the case? Too often, the biggest impediment to success is a fear of failure. Maybe it’s a fear of the unknown. Knowledge conquers these fears. According to the GMAC data, men are getting the majority of MBAs — the majority of the knowledge — by a wide margin. Stop making excuses, ladies!

Frances Kweller is an education and testing standards expert and the founder and CEO of Kweller Prep, a learning incubator specializing in advanced test preparation. 

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