Women deans in a tough guy's world

by By George Bickerstaffe

Why are so few of the deans of the world’s leading business schools women? In fact there are just three of them: Laura Tyson at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley;Carolyn Woo, at the newly namedMendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana; and Sandra Dawson, director of the Judge Institute of Management Studies at Cambridge University in the UK.p. “Why? Because I think business school is still very much a man’s world,” saysProfessor Woo. “There’s a whole concept of fund-raising where you reach into a male network and where one of the primary audiences is CEOs and executive and senior vice-presidents. Those positions still tend to be dominated by men.”p. The Judge Institute’s Professor Dawson agrees: “The obvious point about women deans is that we are working in two worlds that are largely populated by men – the world of business and the world of business schools. I also think there are so few because it’s a supply-side problem. There just aren’t the young women coming through who are at the time in their careers when they could be deans.”p. One reason may be that MBA programmes, a traditional starting point to a career in business academia as well as a high-salary job in management, tend to have disproportionately few women. Most undergraduate programmes tend to be 50-50 men and women.Many business schools struggle to raise the percentage of women MBA students above 25 per cent or 30 per cent.p. “The current trend, certainly in the US, is for declining numbers of women students,” saysProfessor Woo. "This is for a number of good reasons. We now look for four years of experience from our students, which puts a lot of women at the age of 27 or 28 to start a program and then start a career. And that’s usually when they are making decisions about marriage and a family. The second reason is that now there are a lot more professions open to women. "p. Both women are concerned about the problems of generalising about the different management styles of male and female deans. But both say, while they are tough and dem-anding, they manage in a non-hierarchical, consultative way.p. “We tend to operate in an open manner between myself and our management team, department heads and programme directors,” says Professor Woo.p. The job of a business school dean has been called one of the toughest in the world. Lots of male deans would agree. But professors Woo and Dawson do not. “I think it is difficult, but there are pretty tough jobs generally in the world and being a dean is just one of them,” says Professor Dawson. “I wouldn’t say it was the toughest job in the world.”p. Both women believe that the numbers of women deans will increase, though Professor Dawson believes this will need encouragement: “I would certainly hope some of the young women I know who are beginning their academic careers in business schools will go through the system and become deans. I think it will come earlier in the US than it will in the UK because the proportion of women active in the business school world is higher there.”p. October 2, 2000

TopicID: 322