The Penalty of Maternity begins in Business School

Tamar Schamroth Liptz became a mother in the Stanford MBA program

Stanford is proud of the diversity of its MBA class. However, when I started in the fall of 2020, in line with the top 436 MBA class ever at Stanford, one demographic was completely missing: moms. None. I was the first to give birth in the last week of my first year. And I hardly attended business school.

Many factors can explain the lack of a mother in MBA programs. Many women choose to delay motherhood until their careers progress, others are still looking for life partners, and for many the financial burden of motherhood and an MBA is too heavy. But the biggest factor may be that many don’t know that they can combine an MBA and a motherhood, and recognize that joining a class that doesn’t “look” like you or that someone else can’t empathize with you is scary and isolating.

After an abortion and with the goal of starting a family forever, it seemed to me that the opportunity to have an MBA was behind me, without knowing a single model. I refused to apply my husband’s suggestion. “You can’t be a mom and do an MBA,” I protested. My husband doesn’t take it lightly ‘’ no ’’ and sets up calls with a few women who were mothers in business school. Driven by discussion, I made the request.

Taking GMAT days after abortion

After a second abortion and five days of writing the GMAT entrance test, IVF and first trimester at the first trimester at Stanford, and after giving birth in the week of the exam, I can reflect on one of my loneliest journeys. It could have been easier if someone in my class had been in a similar situation.

The “punishment of motherhood” is not new. Much has been written that mothers are paid less than non-mother members, or that pregnant women see less commitment than their non-pregnant co-workers. (I was told by the MBA consultancy I used not to mention mistakes in my business school application attempts, that they might question my knowledge that I was trying to start a family in order to learn.)

One less obvious punishment is the shortage of mothers who apply (and are accepted) in business schools. Kirsten Moss, assistant dean for Stanford MBA Admissions, says they represent “a small portion of the 7,000 applications” that mothers receive each year. This returns the class profile. In Stanford’s early 2022 class, there were no mothers while eight fathers made the cut. The 2023 class is no different: zero mom and 11 dad.

As an MBA mom, I had a very different experience from my classmates

That scarcity isn’t the only thing at Stanford. Harvard Business School mothers make up 1 percent of the student community, with fathers and mothers in the five-to-one-year ratio. The lack of a mother has been determined by the MBA mothers at Wharton, Kellogg and Darden, to name a few.

Since I was a mom in business school, I had a very different experience from my classmates. My internship was childbirth. This meant that it would be more difficult to get a job after business school without a summer job. While class members spent most of the night “networking,” I was at home spending some valuable time with family and doing some work between feeds. I became a de facto expert on motherhood in class, asking questions about fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding rooms.

Schools and teachers were very helpful, and it was understandable when I had to take my son to a class or miss a class to care for a sick baby. My classmates were wonderful, throwing me a baby and offering me a free daycare.

As an MBA mom, my academic experience has been tough and lonely

Overall, though, it’s been a tough, lonely experience. MIT and Harvard mothers told me that their challenges are similar: a lack of clarity on resources and birth policies when applying to school is an expensive out-of-the-list kindergarten (my kindergarten bill is $ 2,500 a month – Stanford provides one for students). 5% discount), and often a feeling of isolation.

Skeptics may say that mothers are more likely to leave the workforce, so they should not be given a place in a higher business school. It is true that the participation rate of mothers is considerably lower than that of fathers. However, it may be the education itself that keeps the mother at work. Research by Harvard professor Claudia Goldin on labor force participation in the Covid pandemic has found that “greater differences in the impact of the pandemic on employment are found among educational groups than between genders between educational groups.” Women who graduated from college were less likely to be excluded from the job offer than their unqualified peers. Let’s not forget Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who gave birth to her daughter Jane in 1995 before she entered law school and left work alone when she died. Or Kirthiga Reddy, India’s first employee on Facebook and the first female investment partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, gave birth to her daughter after her first year of Stanford’s MBA program.

What can be done?

Business schools should encourage mothers to apply. Although the Stanford MBA Admissions Office has requested and accepted the number of mothers admitted to the class, this metric has not been disclosed. If this number were published, as the school publishes women, international, black Americans, etc., it would highlight the topic and encourage discussion. Although much effort has been made to increase the number of women applicants, mothers have not been a specific target group.

What can business schools do to make MBA Moms welcome

Expand the resources available to your future mother on the MBA. This should include a guaranteed on-campus nursery, childcare costs and a basic need for the family, more breastfeeding room and a more flexible birth accommodation policy.

Finally, motherhood should be positively assessed in admissions decisions. Although it is difficult to measure and compare, it should become a bit of a relief when one has taken a break from “working” to give birth and / or raise a child. What other job does it take for you to be without sleep for months, manage the house while the hormones change drastically, and take care of another human being who trusts you while balancing other demands on life. If motherhood were to be seen as the hardest work in the world, she would be the first to discuss work experience.

Would I do it all over again? Definitely. But I look forward to sharing and supporting the experience of future MBA moms.

Tamar Schamroth Liptz, originally from South Africa, is finishing her Stanford MBA. He was an investor in companies across Africa and will be joining a multi-family office. She lives in California with her husband, Itai, and 1-year-old Lior.


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