Does an MBA help women? : a comparative study of the career progress and labour market position of part time male and female MBA graduates.
The Open University.
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This thesis aims to assess the extent to which an MBA helps women and to ascertain whether significant barriers persist, despite their qualification to their career development. It takes as its frame of reference the sex difference approach within liberal feminism, which argues that key differences between men and women explain their differential career progress, and the organisation- structure approach within radical feminism which emphasises the detrimental effects of structural features of the organisation and of power relations. To this effect a survey of 221 male and female MBA graduates was conducted. Results suggest that the extent to which an MBA helps women depends on the type of benefit in question. The MBA is beneficial to women in terms of intrinsic career factors such as credibility and confidence. The qualification also gives them higher personal status within the context of the formal organisation. However, men appear to benefit more than women in terms of extrinsic career factors such as pay and management level in that they progress further in their careers subsequent to the MBA. In terms of the sex difference approach, differences in individual characteristics between men and women were not found to be sufficiently strong to be able to explain their differential career progress. Instead women MBAs were found to experience hidden barriers relating to attitudes and culture and to be particularly disadvantaged within the informal organisational context. The thesis argues that the way these hidden barriers located within the informal context impact on women's progress within the formal organisation (the informal externality effect) explains their slower career progress subsequent to the MBA in relation to men. The level of disadvantage within the formal context created by these hidden barriers are likely to be greater if the organisation is male dominated, if the gender imbalance occurs at senior levels and if women occupy traditionally female and non powerful roles.
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