We recently shared with you the report on gender at Columbia Business School produced last year by the Columbia Women in Business club.
Since we’re on the subject, we thought we’d pass along some insights from a female graduate about her experience – and all you guys out there, don’t quit reading here because you think this post is only for girls. It’s not.
I would also add one more lesson I hadn’t really learned before business school. While we’ve heard a lot about women being afraid to speak up in the classroom, I’m not sure I struggled with that challenge. (stay with me, this requires a bit of explanation)
My mother says that the “#1 trait [of this family]” is being confident that you’re right all the time (according to her, it started early, roughly as soon as I could talk, I became the most stubborn child on earth). And, to her annoyance, it is more often true than not true that I (and my family members with this similar trait) are, in fact, right, which only encourages the belief that we are inherently right all the time. I would like to think I have tempered that inborn trait with age, that I can listen to both sides of an argument and that I learned to question what I believe to be true before insisting that it is. Part of the blessing of this inborn trait is that I found I was not as hesitant to speak as some of my female classmates in the classes where it was possible to be “right”, in quantitative classes like finance and economics. I did learn, however, that I struggled to speak up in the classes where I was offering an opinion that could be dissented with, especially if the professor was known to debate a point made by a student. For whatever reason, I think this is especially hard for me in a classroom setting, where I may not have the chance to “redeem” myself with follow-on comments like I might be able to in a smaller work meeting where I offer a dissenting opinion.
In summary, I think I learned a few key things:
- The women who struggle in business school (read: all of them, in my opinion) will struggle for different reasons! I don’t know if enough emphasis was placed on that in all the pieces that I’ve read in the media.
- My own personal struggles had more to do with a fear of conflict and my own perceived inability to defend my opinions in front of a large group. I’m not sure business school really taught me how to manage those struggles, but it did help me realize that I have them, which feels significant, I guess?
- I think I believed that business school would naturally create time for me to change and reflect. It didn’t. I finally realized that life doesn’t make space for you to develop personally and change on purpose. You change anyway, because life throws things at you that force you to adapt. But the change that comes from self-reflection and self-enlightenment (geez, I sound like a yoga teacher or a guru…) only comes by making space for it in life.
Somehow I always thought that would get easier as I aged, but the opposite has turned out to be true.
Interesting insights; and we tend to agree! Thank you to this long-ago BSer who has kept in touch with us to share value about the experience. Bschool can be a catalyst for change – but only if that’s what you want in the first place – and Life brings plenty of that sort of thing whether you do or you don’t! (sheesh, who’s sounding like a yoga teacher now?!??)