programs teach skills outside corporate structure
By Marilyn Bowden
More women are enrolling in graduate business programs, educators say often with an eye to opening companies rather than climbing the corporate ladder at an established firm.
As faculty adviser for the Women in Business Group at the University of Miami School of Business, Assistant Dean Sharon Brown said she thinks young women are interested in exploiting both areas, but lean toward entrepreneurship as an ultimate goal.
"Being part of a large organization isn't their career goal," she said. "But they recognize they have to get experience somewhere. Becoming an entrepreneur right out of the box isn't necessarily the best idea."
Today, Ms. Brown said, 40% of undergraduates in business school and 45% of graduate students are women.
While the number of women students spiked five to 10 years ago, she said, "this is a pretty healthy number."
Among recent changes, she said, are an increasing interest among women in the area of international business and e-commerce.
"One of the advantages that has come with e-commerce and the Internet," she said, "is that people can have successful businesses through alliances without having to have a physical infrastructure.
"The more they can do that, the less need they have for heavy investment in bricks and mortar."
The down side, she said, is that with e-commerce it's also easier to be unsuccessful.
"But if it's not too bad a fall," she said, "they can bounce back and be the better for it.
"In years past a woman would be personally devastated and not get back in the game easily again."
The biggest conflicts young women pursuing careers in the international business arena seem to face today, Ms. Brown said, concern personal relationships and family issues.
"Relationships may be more difficult to develop and sustain," she said. "Geography is a big factor. Also, I know that some women aren't sure of the types of relationships that will be supportive of that."
Vincent Daniels, director of the international MBA program at Florida International University, said more than 60% of the 59 students from 27 countries enrolled in this year's program are women.
"Last year it was just more than 50%," he said, "so it's very obvious the numbers are increasing in this program.
"I went through a similar program in the 1970s. The percentage of women was miniscule."
Mr. Daniels, who also teaches entrepreneurship in FIU's School of Business, said women attend business school courses "in good numbers.
"From the data I have," he said, "there is nothing to stop women who start their own business from doing whatever they want, whereas in established companies there is still the glass ceiling."
In new companies, he said, women are more likely to be in executive and management positions.
At Keller Graduate School in downtown Miami a corporate graduate school offering degree programs in management, telecommunications, project management, information systems and human resources more women are opting for advanced education, said Director Mark Woodall.
"About 58% of our students are women in the workplace," he said. "In the past it has been considerably lower, about 30%-35%.
"Now it follows the population split."
Female enrollment is up across the board in all the courses Keller offers, Mr. Woodall said. "The average age is 34. They are professionals with at least five years of executive experience and a bachelors degree in some field."
Details: UM, (305) 284-4607; FIU, (305) 348-6880; Keller Graduate School, (786) 425-1113.