The news is excellent, and
it’s spreading quickly. WashU Olin’s first-year MBA enrollment this year is 49%
female–putting Olin ahead of other elite business schools.
In other words, Olin is the
closest school to achieving gender parity, according to Forté Foundation, a nonprofit focused on women’s advancement and gender
parity in business school.
The Financial Times (subscription required) notes that for several years, Olin has run a women’s ambassador program, equipping students and alumni to encourage other females to apply. Olin also markets MBAs as a tool for getting an edge in interviews over male candidates without the degree.
“It is that extra
qualification that will help to smash the glass ceiling,” Olin Dean Mark Taylor
As applications to US
business school decline, the percentage of women enrolled in full-time MBA programs
continues to rise, climbing this fall to an average of 39% at more than 50 of
the top programs in the US, Canada and Europe, Forté Foundation’s new data
While Olin came closest to an
even split between male and female students, others with high percentages of
female students include the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Each had 45% or more
Nineteen Forté schools reported 40% women or more, up from 13 schools five years ago.
“Every year we see women’s
enrollment inch up at business schools,” Elissa Sangster, CEO of Forté, said in
a press release. “The progress over five-year intervals, in particular,
demonstrates a significant shift in gender parity at top business schools.”
Maxine Clark, founder of St. Louis-based Build-A-Bear Workshop, kicked off the semester’s first Women & Leadership class with a story of her childhood. This is a selection of my three takeaways from her talk.
It’s OK to make mistakes
Clark explained that her first-grade teacher, Mrs. Grace, was responsible for imparting a lesson Maxine has carried with her throughout her life: “Learn from your mistakes.” Every Friday, Mrs. Grace would hand out a red pencil to the student that made the most mistakes that week. Maxine Clark noted the uniqueness that for once it wasn’t the brightest or quickest student that was rewarded, but one that had made mistakes.
Taking this lesson forward, Clark was pleased to see that the retail industry also embraced mistakes. At her very first job in the executive training program at the May Company, she had the responsibility of marking down prices with a very similar red pencil. She thought, “Wow, I’m made for this job!”
As a student, whose value is measured often by test scores and grades, it’s refreshing to remember that making mistakes leads to growth. Looking around the classroom, I saw many young women also relieved by the idea that mistakes can lead to success. Clark’s words came at an important time as many of us are soon graduating and starting a new life chapter.
Know what you don’t know
Clark proudly admits, “One of my strengths is I know what I don’t know.” This acknowledgment helped her snag one an incredible promotion. As a new employee for the May Company, she was tasked with the job of traveling to Asia to pick out products for all of the May Company stores. Maxine knew immediately that she didn’t know what the other stores would need.
Without the support of her supervisor, she had to take it upon herself to travel to the Pittsburgh store to see their assortment. There, she ran into David Farrell, who would soon become the CEO. Impressed with her initiative, he continued a professional relationship, eventually promoting Clark to chief of staff. Knowing what she didn’t know both allowed her to prove self-initiative and feel comfortable asking for help.
Enjoy the journey
Clark emanates passion. With exuberance, she described every project she was involved in. She ascribes much of her success to her passion and her ability to “enjoy the journey.” Starting with Build-A-Bear, she felt that she could pour all of her energy into the company’s success and growth because she felt so passionate. Today, she invests her energy in projects surround education, women in business, and the St. Louis community.
Pictured above: Maxine Clark, founder of the Build-A-Bear Workshop, speaking in 2013 during Olin Business School’s Defining Moments lecture series. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.
“There’s this myth out there that women aren’t as good negotiators as men,” says Hillary Anger Elfenbein. “And I want to try to shatter that myth.”
Elfenbein, The John and Ellen Wallace Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior, shatters that myth on a regular basis in the Olin courses she teaches on negotiation. On October 18, she will share highlights from her research on gender differences in negotiation and how women can confidently approach the process in a free webinar, “Women at the Negotiation Table,” sponsored by Olin’s Executive MBA program.
“There are differences in the way women approach negotiations versus men and there are often differences in outcomes, but these differences can be overcome, especially with a few very simple changes in frame of reference that are easy to accomplish without necessarily changing one’s overall personality,” explains Elfenbein.
Elfenbein also advocates for a broader definition of negotiation. It’s much more than haggling over the price of a new car or a promotion, or a new job’s salary. While those are extremely important negotiations, Elfenbein says it’s helpful to recognize that we are actually negotiating all the time, and can improve our techniques on a daily basis.
“The most accepted scholarly definition of negotiation is that it’s a mutual decision-making process to allocate scarce resources. And if you take that definition seriously enough, we’re negotiating constantly. This definition is as true for who does the dishes and who stays late on the weekends. Who has to come in to the office, what roles are you going to take, how are you dividing labor in your team. All of those things are a negotiation, just as much as the price of a car.”
Research shows that men and women may end up with similar outcomes in a negotiation, but they often get there in different ways. In very broad generalities, women are more apt to find trade-offs and compatibilities in the process, while men tend to engage in more assertive haggling. Elfenbein says these kinds of stereotypes can create psychological obstacles for women.
“If you survey people after a negotiation, and ask people to self-report their scores, women will, by and large, self-report that they did worse. That feeling matters, because even though you might say, ‘It’s all in your head,’ well, a lot of things are in our heads, and that makes them real, that makes them consequential. If you go through life feeling like you’re not good at something, you’re going to avoid doing it. And if you don’t enter a negotiation, then you’re not going to be able to advocate for your needs.”
In her Olin courses and the upcoming webinar, Elfenbein shares ways for women to shift their frame of reference and attitude when approaching negotiation. It takes practice, but they can be changed and make a difference in how to negotiate with confidence and success.
“The kinds of techniques that you learn in the negotiations workshop are as applicable outside of work as they are at work. I like to think that the tools that we that we teach here are useful and adaptable to negotiations of all types.”
Hillary Anger Elfenbein has been a business school professor at the Olin School of Washington University in St. Louis since 2008. She holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior, a Master’s degree in Statistics, and undergraduate degrees in Physics and Sanskrit, all from Harvard University.
Examples of Dr. Elfenbein’s research on negotiation:
Elfenbein, H. A., Curhan, J. R., Eisenkraft, N., Shirako, A., & Baccaro, L. (2008). Are some negotiators better than others? Individual differences in bargaining outcomes. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1463–1475.
Curhan, J. R., Elfenbein, H. A., & Kilduff, G. J. (2009). Getting off on the right foot: Subjective value versus economic value in predicting longitudinal job outcomes from job offer negotiations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 524-534.
Curhan, J. R., Elfenbein, H. A., & Eisenkraft, N. (2010). The objective value of subjective value: A multi-round negotiation study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 690-709.
Women are on the rise at Olin Business School. Five tenure-track female professors join the faculty this fall in the areas of marketing, organizational behavior, and finance. Olin also welcomes a female visiting professor in economics from Carnegie Mellon. And on the student side of the desk, the MBA Class of 2019 is reporting an uptick in the gender category with 39% women.
“We are pleased to welcome so many talented newcomers to the Olin community,” said Vice Dean Todd Milbourn. “We will all benefit from the talent and knowledge they bring to our educational mission.”
Pictured above left to right, front row: Kang, Huang, Hardin; center row: Perfecto, Liao, organizational behavior postdoc; top row: Scott, Ruttan. Photo by Jerry Naunheim.
Ashley Hardin, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavioral
PhD, Business Administration, 2017, University of Michigan
Prior to Olin: Instructor, University of Michigan
Research Interests: Quantitative Social Research, Quantitative Social Research, Social Psychology
Xing Huang, Assistant Professor of Finance
PhD, Economics, 2013, University of California at Berkeley
Prior to Olin: Assistant Professor of Finance, Michigan State University
Research Interests: Behavioral Finance, Asset Pricing, Investor Behavior, Market Efficiency, Information Acquisition, Mutual Funds, Household Finance
Karam Kang, Visiting Professor of Economics
PhD, Economics, 2012, University of Pennsylvania
Prior to Olin: Assistant Professor of Economics, Carnegie Mellon University
Research Interests: Political Economy, Industrial Organization, Environmental Economics
Zhenyu Liao, Postdoc for Organizational Behavior
PhD, Management and Organization, 2017, National University of Singapore
Prior to Olin: Research Assistant, National University of Singapore
Research Interests: Leadership Behavior and Dynamic, Event Perspective, Interpersonal Interaction
Hannah Perfecto, Assistant Professor of Marketing
PhD, Business Administration, 2017, University of California, Berkeley
Prior to Olin: Teaching Assistant, 2017, University of California, Berkeley
Research Interests: Consumer Behavior, Behavioral Decision Theory, Metacognition, Field Experiments, Research Replicability and Reliability
Rachel Ruttan, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior
PhD, Management and Organizations, 2017, Northwestern University
Prior to Olin: Instructor, Management and Organizations, Negotiations, Northwestern University
Research Interests: Compassion and Prosocial Behavior, Values and Moral Judgment, Emotion
Sydney Scott, Assistant Professor of Marketing
PhD, Marketing and Psychology, 2017, University of Pennsylvania
Prior to Olin: Teaching Assistant, 2017, University of Pennsylvania
Research Interests: Morality and Consumption, Judgment and Decision Making, Preferences for Natural Products
As part of their Best & Brightest nomination process, Poets & Quants asked students: “If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?”
Olin’s Markey Culver advocates for the minority of women in most business schools where most of the case studies focus on companies managed by men when she said she would “push for more cases and discussions that address international and female-focused topics.”
Other students called for more international experience. “A Georgia Tech grad would tackle the issue by purchasing an airline ticket voucher, good for one international trip, for every student.”