Is an MBA Worth the Investment for Women?

Is an MBA Worth the Investment for Women? main image

The number of women in top positions around the world remains a fraction of the total, with men continuing to dominate in c-suite roles and boardrooms around the world.

So, is an MBA a worthwhile investment for businesswomen? Can it truly help them shatter the glass ceiling and earn a place at the top table? We spoke to some of INSEAD’s female alumni to find out how their MBA experience changed their lives.

Women who empower women

Tu Ngo – founder of Yola, Vietnam’s biggest English learning platform – credits her MBA experience at INSEAD with helping build her confidence as a business leader.

“While it’s normal for women to be business leaders in Vietnam, there is always an expectation that she will also support her husband and family, and put her spouse before her,” she says. 

“To put it simply, a man is happy reading about women at top professional positions, as long as she is not his wife.”

This is the cycle she wanted to break, and after finishing her education at Stanford University, California, Tu chose an MBA as her next step. 

In 2014, barely six years after she started Yola, she was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the 30 under 30 in her country and counts over 10,000 Vietnamese students in her programs. 

“It was intense,” she says about one of her courses at INSEAD. “For two weeks, I acted as CEO of a company that we, the team, had to turn around. It gave me the confidence to take on challenging organizational problems."

In London, Ophelia Brown founded Ambitious Ladies in Tech (ALT) in 2016, a mentor network that endeavors to help women in tech start-ups achieve their career goals. 

“I guess my career trajectory would have been very different had I not done an MBA at INSEAD,” she says. 

Today, Ophelia is seeking to bring women to the forefront of the tech revolution and is able to rely on senior executives from some of the world’s leading tech companies as part of her mentor network.

Transformational experiences

“The MBA changed the way I thought,” says Zornitza Hadjitodorova, who founded Our Breathing Planet (OBP) — an NGO that seeks to inspire positive action on climate change — in 2016. 

“I wanted to be part of an international network of capable people from many different backgrounds. I’d spoken to many INSEAD alumni and wanted to be part of the experience they spoke about so passionately.” 

She remembers her classes being fun and informative. “If you’re hungry for knowledge, INSEAD gives you a feast,” she adds.

An MBA has the power to transform your career, even if you already hold a top position. Haif Al Hammadi already held a private equity job before enrolling at INSEAD, but she credits the MBA program with helping her grow both professionally and personally.

The courses she opted for were mainly financial, but she also dabbled in entrepreneurial electives, which helped her to start a business with her husband four years later. 

“It was the idea that I could take courses just to try them out that led me to move away from my comfort zone, which was finance,” she says. 

Today, she is the Project Manager at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Her work there also ties in with the larger developmental agenda within the country, putting her at the forefront of the new wave of women making their presence felt in a society thought to be conservative for decades. 

“In the last five years, there has been an explosion of women in higher positions across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For example, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, who is the leader of the Federal National Council. About one-third of the UAE’s cabinet members are women.” 

So, is an MBA worth it? “As long as you’re sure of what you need out of an MBA, I would say go for it” says Ophelia. Your experience could even surprise you, as Haif discovered by pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Whatever happens during your studies, there’s a clear space in MBA programs for talented female students who are ready to develop their skills and take a big step forwards in their career.

Learn more about studying at INSEAD.

Written by Craig OCallaghan

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