Pay & Promotion Concerns for Graduating Women MBAs

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As graduating MBAs enter the workforce, money is definitely the talk of the day. And, despite the strides made by women MBAs, average overall pay is still lower for female professionals vs. their male counterparts. According to Christine Silva, director of research for Catalyst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to women's advancement in the workplace, pay disparities start at the very beginning of a woman MBA's career. "It starts much, much earlier than many would suspect," she says.

Silva notes that Catalyst's research has looked at the age-old debate-the impact of having children on a woman's career. "We sought to do a bit of myth-busting in our research, so we controlled for having children, taking time out from work, and for those not aspiring to a top level position."

Women MBAs Still Earn Less

Their findings show that women MBAs earn about $4,600 less than male MBAs for their first job post-graduation, taking into account experience level, industry and region. A salary gap continues on throughout a woman MBA's career.

Besides pay concerns, women looking to rise up the ranks are still talking about the glass ceiling in financial services and being locked out of certain sectors, like M&A and private equity. Other bad news: the number of senior level women in the investment banking and securities space are on the decline. According to Catalyst research, women made up 15.3 percent of executive and senior managers in the U.S. investment banking and securities industries in 2009 vs. 17.8 percent in 2007.

The overall downturn in the sector and layoffs can certainly be blamed for some of the drop. But Catalyst research also found women senior leaders were more prone to downsizing than their male counterparts.

What women can do

What can women MBAs do to change the situation? Having a key exec on your side, once you're inside, can help to level the playing field. But it seems a mentor can only do so much for women MBAs, finds Catalyst's report titled "Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement". The data revealed "mentoring paid off more" for men MBAs than women MBAs, in terms of first job placement, pay, and promotion.

Getting a key decision-maker on your side remains a much more essential piece of the puzzle. Silva makes a big distinction between mentoring and sponsorship. She notes, "A mentor is someone who provides career advice-someone important to your professional development. A sponsor looks to recommend you for advancement. This is the person who can pull you up the corporate ladder."

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