Work-Life Balance, Sponsorship and Value: Online Women’s Chat Covers Wide Range of Topics

For those who might have missed it, we covered a lot of ground during our online women’s chat on Jan. 4th. Participants discussed everything from work-life-school balance to the value of an MBA for women to asking for sponsorship.

Adjunct Professor of Management Monica McGrath kicked off the talk with some encouraging numbers. Pointing out that 40% of the global workforce is comprised of women; she also noted that women are earning professional degrees in record numbers and starting businesses at faster rates than men.

The downside, she said, is that women don’t tend to have as robust networks as men. However, a significant benefit of Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives is that it is a great opportunity to really broaden your network, she said.

As for the decision to spend two years while working to earn an MBA, McGrath acknowledged that it can seem like a long commitment. “But when you look back over the course of your entire career, it will have been a meaningful degree for over 40 years so it’s really a short period of time to invest.”

When asked about timing school with starting a family, Rachel Cervantes, a 2011 graduate of the East Coast EMBA program and director of business development at Merck in West Point, PA, offered some advice. “Don’t put off an opportunity for a promotion or [school] because you think you might have kids. It’s not easy to do an EMBA program with kids, but it is completely doable. There were a few women in the program with me who were pregnant.”

She added that her own kids were young when she was at Wharton. “If you have kids, you need to make sure that your family understands that there will be demands on your time,” she said. “And you need to be organized, taking the time to plan everything on a calendar and share it with anyone who helps care for your kids.”

Kathy Lilygren, director of admissions at Wharton | San Francisco, commented that another benefit of the program is a higher sense of confidence in what you can achieve. After balancing life, your career and school during your two years at Wharton, there is nothing you can’t manage after graduating from this program, she said.

Cathy Molony, director of Wharton’s MBA Exec program in Philadelphia and director of admissions for both coasts, added that during her 22 years working in Wharton’s EMBA program, she’s noticed that women tend to face a higher hurdle when it comes to asking companies for sponsorship. “Women are often reluctant to put themselves first and ask about this, but we can help connect you with alumni in your industry, from your background or even from your company who can offer support and talk you through the process.”

When asked if the lower numbers of women in Executive MBA programs – in comparison to full-time MBA programs – made a noticeable impact for alumnae on the panel, Cori Johnson, a 2009 graduate of Wharton | San Francisco who is now a senior global platform manager at Covidien in Boulder, Co., replied that it wasn’t a significant factor for her. “The numbers are driven by how many women in the midlevel of their careers believe they have the time and energy to take this on while dealing with other events in life.”

Cervantes agreed, noting that her main considerations when applying to the program were her children and how she would balance the personal, professional and academic aspects of life.

“You need to recognize that there are going to be some sacrifices. You can’t be Martha Stewart and Warren Buffet at the same time, but if you are OK with that then this program is definitely a doable proposition,” she said.

Listen to the full discussion here.