The "Why Simmons?" Series: Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote part 1 of a series on why I chose to come to Simmons to get my MBA, and described the special community that exists here.  And now I'm back for part 2!  

You might already know that Simmons is ranked the #1 MBA for women by the Princeton Review.  Just this February, Noodle.org named Simmons one of the "Great MBA Program Options for Women" (take a peek here).  I love how these rankings help to capture and communicate what makes up that Simmons....well, special sauce.  But have you ever wondered what it really means for an MBA program to be a great opportunity for women, what that looks and feels like day-to-day?  Well, read on for my perspective as a student!

Part 2: Because of the Gender Lens

Being a student at Simmons means you're taking classes with faculty who are researching, writing, and publishing on the topic of gender and organizational effectiveness through affiliation with the Center for Gender in Organizations at Simmons.  This research has helped me to develop an understanding of gender equity as a business imperative and a source of competitive advantage.  I've also learned how to use a gender lens to view a variety of business topics, and developed tools to help me navigate the gendered aspects of professional life and to help me succeed.  For example, I remember in my first semester at Simmons in my Leading Individuals & Groups course, we read a CGO article called Invisible Work: The Disappearing of Relational Practice at Work.  This article outlines how relational work (like behind-the-scenes collaborating and sharing information) tends to get devalued in the workplace, how this work is often done by women, and how strategies like naming the work can help women ensure that their work gets the recognition it deserves.  

Many people worry that women-only educational programs shelter women such that they won't be able to interact and succeed in co-ed work enviroments.  I find that the opposite is true - being in a women's MBA program has given me the tools I need to be even more successful at work.  Because ultimately, we all "do gender" in our work lives, and if we can unpack it and understand it, we can all be more successful - men, women, and transgender folks alike.

However, it's not just about gender.  In many of my Simmons classes, we've talked a lot about other aspects of identity such as race, nationality, and sexual orientation.  We've also talked about simultaneity (the combination of multiple social identities such as race and gender) and intersectionality, and discussed the challenges that various aspects of identity can bring to organizational life.  In a sense, starting with a gender lens also equips us to move beyond talking just about gender.  As managers in business (or any other sector), we need to be able to effectively work across difference, and leverage difference to build strong, high-performing organizations.  Being in a MBA program designed for women has equipped me to do just that.

I believe that gender lens and commitment to gender equity is also what makes Simmons so focused on providing a flexible learning environment for its students.  I think flexibility is important for all students and all employees, but women tend to lead the push for flexibility as our family and caregiving obligations necessitate.  I know that for me, the ability to transition between part-time and full-time at Simmons has been the key to making going back to school work.  I've been able to take on more coursework when my personal life allowed it, and ease off when other obligations took over.  Many of my classmates have done the same, and I think there are many of us who would never have been able to complete the program otherwise.  And I must say, it's very comforting to be surrounded by other women who are facing similar challenges, and finding creative ways to integrate work, life, and school.

Lastly - and maybe most importantly - being in a women's MBA program means that I'm constantly seeing women raise their hands and speak up in class, take on leadership roles, dig into work that challenges them, and just generally show how smart, talented and capable they are.  In a world where men still hold the overwhelming majority of leadership positions in business and society, the benefit of simply seeing that it's possible for women to be leaders (and internalizing that on a gut level, not just an intellectual one), is invaluable.  

What about you? What excites you about an MBA program designed for women? What worries you?