International Women’s Day: How Online Learning Can Open Doors For Women In Business

In terms of female representation at board level, there’s still a long way to go. But 100%-online MBA programs can lift the barriers to career progression

The World Economic Forum last year predicted that it will take a further 217 years for women globally to earn wages equal to their male counterparts.

On top of that, a December 2017 report by financial services company MSCI suggests progress towards the 30% target for female representation on company boards has slowed—the latest projection puts 2028 as the year this goal will be achieved.

According to MSCI’s research, women hold 20.4% of all directorships in developed markets, and only 10.2 % on boards of companies in emerging markets—only seven of the 2,451 companies examined had majority female boards.

Clearly, there is a severe discrepancy between the sexes when it comes to salary and the number of women represented in executive roles. Rectifying both issues requires an exponential increase in the number of opportunities available for women to climb the career ladder.

Enter: distance-learning and the rise of the fully-online MBA. Now, professionals don’t have to choose between family and career—advanced graduate business education available online is helping lift the barriers that women have faced in the past.

In a white paper entitled ‘What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education’, published last year by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), having more control over their future and progressing quickly in their careers were among the top-five reasons women decided to pursue graduate management education.

Studying an online MBA hands over that control, giving women the flexibility to juggle work, study, and family life at the same time.

“There is absolutely no way I could combine campus study with a job, let alone with childcare as well,” says Harriet Jeckells, a current student on Birmingham Business School’s Online MBA program—the first 100%-online MBA program in the world to receive formal accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA)—speaking in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2018.

On Birmingham’s Online MBA, Harriet, who is due to give birth this summer to her second child since starting the online program in January 2017, is able to study and apply her learnings to her everyday work.

Birmingham’s Online MBA also gives female students that complete control over their own education that they’re after. The shortest you can complete the degree is two-and-a-half-years, says Harriet, but if external commitments interfere then there is the freedom to take up to five years to complete the degree.

Recognition by AMBA—as well as developments in technology and an immersive online learning environment—places the online program at Birmingham in the same bracket as its on-campus counterpart.

“It makes the choice easy when choosing where to go,” Harriet explains. “Being accredited gives the program that level of trust—it’s about having the stamp of approval by the industry.”

Harriet believes that means more and more female students in future will turn towards distance learning programs. And, from a company perspective, any professional who’s committed to pursuing further education and work at the same time is an attractive proposition.

Dr Michael Shulver, the director of online content for the Online MBA at Birmingham Business School, agrees.

“It’s a program of study that is equivalent both in terms of learning objectives and the quality of graduate,” he says.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that your degree is different because it’s been undertaken by distance learning. Actually, the hurdles that you’ve gone through whilst usually holding down a busy day-job are profound.”

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