Bye Bye MBA.

by Lauren Young


Forget MBA, MD, or JD: More professional women are adding SAHM to their resumes.


A recent study from UC-Berkeley, which tracks Harvard graduates with MBAs and other advanced degrees, finds that a surprising number of women drop out of the work force to become stay-at-home moms. How do I define “surprising”? Of those women surveyed, 28% of the participants with MBAs became stay-at-home moms within 15 years of graduation.


UC-Berkeley professors Catherine Wolfram and Jane Leber Herr tracked the careers of nearly 1,000 women who graduated from Harvard between 1988 and 1991, using data gathered from 10th and 15th anniversary reunion surveys. This BusinessWeek story examines some of the reasons why women leave behind careers in the business world for days filled with diapers and Dora. To be fair, the number of women actually enrolling at 25 of the top U.S. full-time MBA programs is stuck at 31%, so there aren’t that many women in B-School to begin with, the article notes.


But another problem is burnout. Judging by the experiences of my own friends, I’ve found that many women work their way up the corporate ladder, only to find they can’t have it all.


Yet while MBAs opt-out of the professional world in the highest numbers, lawyers do not fare much better: 21% of those surveyed left the legal field by the 15-year mark. However, a mere 6% of the women with medical degrees fled medical careers to stay at home. My BusinessWeek colleague Cathy Arnst notes that this refutes a common worry in the medical profession that woman doctors aren't committed to their profession.


Sure, there are days when I consider leaving my career as a journalist to stay at home. But those moments are far and few between. In fact, I’ve been watching the television show “Mad Men” like a madwoman lately. And I have concluded that nothing could be more boring or frustrating than being a stay-at-home mom in the 1960s. Most of the female characters on the show are trophy (or wannabe trophy) wives, and even for the few women who are trying to get ahead in advertising, work is more like a cocktail party with an emphasis on the first part of “cocktail.”


Even so, I think Cathy’s idea is genius: “Why not start a company that hires out ‘professional wives’ so everyone can get themselves a happy homemaker? If wife is such a great career, let's at least get paid for it.”


Amen, sister.