Saturday, August 25, 2007

If We're SOOOO Smart.

U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics:

  • Women represented the majority of the enrolled population at undergraduate schools ever since 1978.
  • Women today represent 57.5% of the total enrolled undergraduate population.
  • Women represented the majority of the enrolled population at graduate and professional schools ever since 1984.
  • Women today represent 60% of the total enrolled population at graduate and first-professional schools.

  • Between 1976 and 2005, female enrollment in graduate programs increased 112 percent (from 619,000 to 1.3 million).
  • Male enrollment fluctuated but increased 23 percent overall (from 714,000 to 877,000).
  • Between 1976 and 2005, female enrollment in first-professional programs increased 207 percent (from 54,000 to 167,000).
  • Male enrollment fluctuated but had an overall decrease of 11 percent (from 190,000 to 170,000).

  • Women now make up only about 30% of the enrollment at graduate schools of business in the U.S.

Council of Graduate Schools:
The most popular graduate degrees (male and female, combined) are earned in:

  • education,
  • business
  • social sciences
  • health sciences
  • engineering
  • physical sciences

For doctoral degrees, the most popular field (since the early 1990's) has been:
life sciences.

  • Women account for 74 percent of education students.
  • Men account for 57 percent of enrollment in business programs.
  • The fields of engineering, physical sciences and business enroll the highest percentages of men.
  • The health sciences, public administration and education attract the highest percentages of women.

Today, women earn:

  • 67 percent of education doctorates
  • 26 percent of physical science degrees and
  • 18 percent of engineering degrees, according to a federal survey.

Women are also the majority of doctoral candidates in the

  • social sciences
  • humanities and
  • life sciences, for the first time ever.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It is a Supply Problem -- Not a Demand Problem

There is a disconnect between the demand for versus the supply of women as director candidates on corporate boards.

According to Julie Hembrock Daum, the practice leader for the North American Board Services Practice of Spencer Stuart, the leading global executive recruiting firm, there was almost a 40% gap between demand and supply for corporate directors in 2006:

54% of top corporations were seeking women director candidates (S&P 200) yet
16% of existing corporate directors were women. [1]

The gap was even larger (47%) for minority candidates: 62% of top corporate boards say they were seeking minority directors, 15% of existing corporate directors were minorities.

It is not a demand shortage. The problem is not that corporate boards hesitate to bring women directors forward for nomination and confirmation. Since 2000, Spencer Stuart has place 338 women and 192 minority board directors. The firm placed 90 women in 2006 alone (or 23% of all of the new directors added to top S&P 500 firms -- 391).

There is a supply shortage. The problem is that too few women are making themselves available and that too few women are willing to accept the challenge of service on top corporate boards of directors.

Some women argue, aggressively in fact, that “it’s all a hoax: the male, pale and stale boards of directors really don’t want women on their boards.” Other women academicians scare their business peers with anonymous surveys concluding that the solo or first female on a board is intimidated and overwhelmed by her male business peers; that it is only when boards reach “a critical mass” of three women directors that they have the courage or comfort to speak their minds, opinions and have a chance to be heard.

These specious arguments probably do the greatest possible harm by spreading unsupported myths and rumors that discourage capable and competent women from being “willing” as well as “able and capable” candidates for board roles.

Companies in California lead all other states in their addition of women to corporate boards, according to which tracks press release announcements of women in leadership including those promoted to CEOs, COOs, CIOs, CTOs, CFOs and GCs; other senior executive positions; women in philanthropy, arts and education; women in science and math, and women named to corporate boards of directors.

In 2006, reported that 278 women were named to corporate boards, of which California firms were responsible for 16% (45) and New York firms had 9.7% (27). For the first eight months of 2007, there were 188 women named to boards, and California firms were responsible for 30% (or 56 women directors) -– about 3.5 times the number nominated by New York firms (16 nominations or 8.5% of the total).

Recall that the largest number of business cases generated about women in any one year since 1975 was 21 in 2005. The Alfus/Committee of 200 Women Business Case Initiative generated 75 new cases between 1998 and 2003. All told, Harvard Business Online lists only 207 cases with a female protagonist.

The women who are in leadership positions today at corporate America understand the potential that the business marketplace offers. They understand what is required of the women themselves in order for women to achieve positions of influence and decision-making. There is a tremendous variety of options that the women pursued along their career paths. There are about 1,100 exemplary female business role models serving as corporate directors at Fortune 1000 firms.

These are business-savvy women. Yet their stories are untold by the academic business case marketplace. We seldom read about these exemplary women in the Mainstream Media.

The female graduates there are saying, “We don’t want to see superstars” and “I want sessions on fashion, hair and makeup … how to present myself physically for this.”

The following words are inscribed over the stage at Royce Hall, UCLA:

“Education is the preservation of that which [society] deems worthwhile.”

If society is ignoring the lessons from the experience of our top female business leaders, if our media is ignoring the insight to be garnered from these intelligent women, then how will the next generation of young women rise to meet tomorrow’s more demanding global economic expectations?

The exemplary women who serve on our corporate boards, today, learned about governance the hard way: by their own initiative in an era when few women even knew the meaning of the word governance. Who is better qualified to inform today’s female graduates about the international business environment with its tougher new financial regulations, its stronger expectations of ethical business behavior and its more transparent and public access to internal financial information?

If we want to increase the supply of women on corporate boards, certainly we need to increase the supply of women in graduate schools of business: women who understand the value of that education and its application and potential in the real world today. If we want to increase the supply of women graduate business students, then a prerequisite is that we face the fact that women need to learn more about

• how businesses are created
• how businesses are legitimized and regulated by federal, state and local entities
• how, when and why businesses create boards of directors
• what are the appropriate roles and responsibilities of directors
• what are the resources and knowledge-bases that can be tapped to become educated about boards, directors and their functions

Have we given these tools and this education to young girls? Have we provided this information to the women who have “opted out” for the sake of their families and children?

Is it incumbent upon us to hand-feed this knowledge to young women, to make it easy for them to learn it or it is incumbent upon the women to pursue the educational opportunities that are available to all investors in the financial marketplace? Or should today's young graduate women take the initiative to learn from those who did succeed before them?


[1] Spencer Stuart US Board Index 2006, October 2006

See also: Spencer Stuart 2006 Board Diversity Report, Julie Hembrock Daum, Tom Neff, Julie Cohen Norris, February 2006

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Fashion, Hair and Makeup?

Dr. Myra M. Hart developed two executive education curricula designed especially to meet the challenges that Harvard Business School MBA alumnae said they faced upon trying to re-enter the business world after taking time off for children. In addition to the Case Study Initiative, (described in an earlier posting here), Dr. Hart developed two new female-oriented entrepreneurial training initiatives:

(1) Chart Your Course (2000) to help female alumnae develop new strategic career plans for the women who just stepped off the career tack and

(2) New Path: Setting New Professional Directions (2006) for the women who had been out of the market for a longer period.

The female alumnae who participated in the 2000 initiative were asked to give feedback on ways to improve the program:

“They asked for a session on fashion, hair and makeup … ‘I’ve been out of this game and I don’t know the right way to present myself physically for this.’” [1]

Are the Harvard Graduate Business School women looking at the business world as if it were getting back into the date-game? Are they looking at the business world only from the limited perspective of a consumer? Did the alumnae miss the introductory business school classes on demand AND supply?

Warren E. Buffet said that he and his partner look for director candidates “who think like a business owner” as he announced the nomination of Yahoo! CFO Susan Decker to his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. board of directors in March 2007. [2]

Those women who limit their perspective to only “thinking like a consumer” will not develop the skills, competencies and experiences demanded by contemporary business leadership roles.

Women today represent a majority of all graduate school enrollment, but women represent 30% (or less) of the enrollment at graduate schools of business. If women bring their consumer-only penchant into the business school, as did the women who were interviewed for Harvard’s New Path program, they will not develop an understanding of what contemporary businesses require.

Nan Langowitz, Professor of Business at Babson College, writes that “Women need to change the frame through which they view business.” Women need to acknowledge the contributions that business makes to society: it creates jobs, generates incomes from which taxes are paid; revenues in turn provide opportunities that cannot be provided elsewhere other than the open marketplace.


[1] “Women Find New Path to Work” by Mallory Stark, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for Business Leaders, May 15, 2006.

[2] Warren Buffett Annual Letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Shareholders (February 28, 2007) announcing she would be up for election at the annual meeting, May 5th, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

We Don’t Want to See Superstars

Young female alumnae of the Harvard Business School were surveyed to determine the types of exemplary women to be featured in a new professional career education program, Charting Your Course (which began at the Graduate School of Business in May 2000). Women from the classes of 1981, 1986 and 1991 were asked for their input; they replied:

“We don’t want to see superstars.” [1]

At best, this response is un-informative. At the other extreme, it ignores the question asked, which was “Whom do you WANT to study?” The question was NOT “Whom do you NOT want to study?”

Because they failed to elucidate their actual educational wants and needs, we are now stuck trying to interpret what the women of the Harvard Graduate School of Business meant to say. Did they mean: “We don’t want to read about champions? About women of excellence? About women of achievement who would make us feel guilty (fat? incompetent? dummies?) by comparison?”

The women said they “want to hear more about each other’s experiences.” They wanted to hear more about their peers who “opted out” of “a traditional Harvard Business School career path.” The majority of these women said they want flexibility, no more than 9 hours a day, only work that was challenging, only work at organizations whose goals were compatible with their own values, and only organizations that allowed them to have control over their calendar and the clock.

If the superwoman idea is a myth, then this job description is an even bigger myth.

The fundamental lesson of a business case study is to learn from someone else’s experience. The more complicated and intricate the business problem being presented, the more enlightening the potential lesson. Are the women afraid of reading about challenging cases? If the Harvard GSB alumnae were saying they only want to learn from someone else who is “just like them” or someone who has “the perfect, if nonexistent job,” then they could simply continue to read Vogue, Cosmopolitan and O. Why bother to even to attend Harvard Business School in the first place?

Guys look at champions on the playing field, in the business world, on television, or on a box of cereal and feel inspired. Some women look at anyone of achievement and tell themselves, “I could never do that.” The women who actually did reach levels of achievement seemed to do so on their own terms, without selling out on themselves or their souls. How is it that the Harvard GSB women are so sure they know the stories these women have to tell? How is it that they know everything about those women of achievement? How come the women of Harvard are so damn smart and know it all?

Let those who are so afraid of the business world stay at home where they can be safe and comfortable. Give the rest of us the stories of women to inspire and teach us. We know the difference between “human” and “super.” We are not intimidated by great women –- we are encouraged by them. We learn from them. We admire and respect them and appreciate their hard work and accomplishments. We don’t buy into the belief that they came by their success through magic potions or gifts from genies. We chose to hear and read how they put one foot ahead of the other, dodging obstacles, charting new courses, to reach their positions of leadership.

So, Harvard, bring ‘em on: give us the Super Women, the Exceptional Women, the Nails Sticking Out, the Hestor Prynns, the Zealots and Harlots. Give us the women who dare to compete in the business world. We’re not afraid of great women -– we are enlightened by them.

Challenges -- Some see mountains and say they are too high. Others wait until they reach the top before they decide.


[1] “Getting Back on Course” by Martha Lagace in Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for Business Leaders, September 4, 2001

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Another Woman in Leadership –- Colleen Barrett

The September 2007 issue of The Costco Connection, “A lifestyle magazine for Costco members,” has a great article about another outstanding woman in business – Colleen Barrett, President of Southwest Airlines. In “Flying Off into the Sunset: An Airline Icon Plans to Slow Down” by Steve Fisher, we meet the third leg of a partnership that has kept Southwest Airlines flying since 1971. Rollin King and Herb Kelleher were co-founders, and Kelleher continues as Chairman of the Board today. Ms. Barrett served as Mr. Kelleher’s assistant and Southwest corporate secretary until 2001 when she became the first woman to head a major airline.

While the title suggests a focus on Ms. Barrett’s plans to step down next year as President, the heart of the story is how significant a force she has been in the development of Southwest’s unique brand of employee empowerment, customer service and shareholder value.

For more information about “Colleen’s Corner” see:

And the history of Southwest Airlines, see:

The article will be available later this month in the magazine’s archived pages: