“Within a few years of graduation, women with MBAs earn lower salaries, manage fewer people, and are less pleased with their progress than men with the same degree.”
That’s according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which published an article last week that’s stuck with me: “The Real Payoff From an MBA Is Different for Men and Women.” It noted a pay gap between men and women with MBA’s, even with degrees from the same school, that widened over time.
The chart shows that by 6-8 years out, on average, employers pay women 80% of what men with the same degree take home. This trend was true at top business schools too – at Columbia Business School, women who graduated from 2007-2009 earned a median of $170,000 in 2014, while their male peers pulled in $270,000. The gap was also consistent regardless of what jobs they held – on average, the female investment bankers Bloomberg surveyed were paid $115,000 less than the male investment bankers surveyed.
Granted, the results are based on Bloomberg’s studies, so the sample sets might be skewed. But there have been plenty of articles like this published already. And as Jennifer Lawrence will tell you, there’s no question that a gender pay gap exists, across a variety of industries.
As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I’m in the process of applying to graduate school programs. Specifically, I’m applying for an MBA. So these figures hit a very personal note. I’m preparing to spend two years back in school, giving up my great job, and taking on a ton of debt at the same time. And apparently, for all of that sacrifice, I’ll be rewarded about 80% as much as my male classmates will be. Does that make me reconsider applying for an MBA? Not a chance.
You see, I’ve spent most of my life believing that these statistics just don’t apply to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I have three brothers, or just that I have an overly inflated ego. But I generally went after the degrees and jobs I wanted, ignoring the fact that I was a woman.
So far, this approach has worked well for me. My junior year in college I had offers from seven different banks for an investment banking summer internship, a male dominated field. That was followed by a fantastic experience structuring interest rate derivatives at a top tier investment bank, where I have to say, I found the sometimes bro-y jokes and culture fun (I quite enjoyed being referred to by my last name). Senior year, I realized I wanted to learn more about how to run a business, and made the switch to management consulting for my first post-college job. Most of my managers there were men, and yet I got top ratings on all of my projects.
I will note that I worked for Deloitte, which provided one of the only positive statistics in the article. The article noted, “For the 33 female MBAs at Deloitte who responded to our survey, the typical salary was $169,000—$4,000 more than the 65 men at the firm.” Go Deloitte!
Now I’m working in corporate development at a venture-backed education technology company. I constantly find myself as the only woman in a meeting – talking technology, or our new sales approach, or our financial figures. And it never feels like a big deal.
I’ll be honest, it isn’t always as easy as I just made it sound. Sometimes I drank beer to fit in, even though it’s not my first choice of drink. I love football, so I’ve had a few strategic bonding moments over sports. And many times I’ve put on a brave face when on the inside I was feeling crushed with self-doubt (case in point: I debated putting up this blog post for the past 24 hours, thinking it was too preachy and that I’m not accomplished enough to say these things).
But I was also on a project in Michigan, where my male manager knew that every Monday night I had a routine of Pure Barre class followed by a dinner from the Whole Foods hot bar. And he still offered to write a letter of recommendation for my MBA applications.
As an avid believer in “Leaning In,” articles like this affect me greatly. They make me mad, and sad, and frustrated. They make me want to support other women in business so we can change the world together. But they don’t make me change my dreams, or lower my goals. They don’t make me want to leave the game, even though it might be rigged.
My philosophy is that you can’t control what’s going on behind the scenes. You don’t know if the man sitting one cubicle over made twice the bonus you did last year. All you can control is your attitude, and how well you perform. Why worry about the rest that’s out of your hands?
Instead, work hard. Speak up in meetings. Act a little more confident than you feel. Get consistent feedback, and don’t take it personally. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise (it sounds a lot scarier than it is). Mentor younger women and brag about your friends. Read Lean In and The Confidence Code. Maybe drink a beer every so often.
But don’t stop being yourself. And most importantly, never let statistics like this keep you from trying. There’s no reason that you can’t be the exception to the rule. And after all, with enough exceptions, the rules start to change.