The world is becoming more connected, companies are becoming more global, and the workforce is more international. As a highly-motivated woman, you may have had the intuition that you need global experience and education to further advance your career. You see a need to manage culturally diverse teams and deliver growth in new markets. You’ve thought of going back to school either part- or full-time, but a business school in the United States just doesn’t seem quite enough.
The good news? You’re not alone in your thinking. Increasingly, women are recognizing and taking action on the desire to build an international network and enhance their business acumen and skills. You understand that we are all operating in a more global world.
“Business education is the single most effective investment you can make in one year to transform your career,” noted Wendy Alexander, associate dean, London Business School for Degree Programmes and Career Services. “But, if you want a global education, you need to come to a global school.”
Jointly, the London Business School and the Forté Foundation researched an emerging trend: North American women heading to Europe to study for and obtain their MBA degrees. These women, according to Alexander, have found “the X factor for the future: experience, expertise and cultural awareness.”
That is not to say those who chose this path did not already have successful careers. Most graduated from some of the best universities in the U.S. and embarked on finance or consulting careers. They, however, reached a point where they needed to take the next step to move forward.
Who Are These Women?
In studying North American women who traveled overseas, there were three distinct profile types that emerged from the research. The first two were groups of women the researchers expected to find, whereas the third type was a new group.
Representing 40%, the Dual Background women had a desire to reinforce their diverse heritage with an international degree. They have a strong European connection as they typically immigrated to North America when they were children. Many times they have a personal reason to study in Europe to visit relatives or friends, but they return to the U.S. or Canada after graduation.
Travelers – commonly referred to as citizens of the world – are those women who have always had an interest in foreign cultures. They majored in international studies or relations and participated in an international exchange program at some point. They are typically flexible with their job locations post-MBA and make up 35% of the women in the study.
The third group in the study was the Candid American. This group, the surprising profile to come out of the research, represents a quarter of North American applicants. These women have lived and worked their entire lives in North America. They either wanted upper management and C-suite roles within their companies or wanted to change careers entirely. They were risk takers who recognized the importance of working globally.
The women in all three groups expressed a desire to “be global,” explains Alexander. “It is both about the experience in the classroom and also the city that you’re in.” These women are studying in Paris, London, Madrid, and Milan. They have the opportunity to experience cultural hubs and spend time with global businesses in addition to their business courses.
Taking the Next Step
While you may have the instinct to enroll in a global MBA program, taking that next step can be daunting. Similarly, with any U.S.-based program, there are decisions to make. Do you have a significant other who needs to find work if you relocate? Do you have a family? Can you afford it? (Is Now the Right Time to Go Back to School?)
While we’re considering these situations, oftentimes, we doubt about the feasibility of going back to school or our ability to complete an MBA program arise. We typically like to see a clear path and know what they can expect. We need to see that other women who are like us – same major, school, career, background – have succeeded.
The Forté Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on advancing women in business, is an organization that helps navigate and guide women through the process of finding a fulfilling business career. They unravel the mystery and connect women to each other and to financial resources beginning in college, through early career, during the MBA process, and after.
According to Forté Foundation’s executive director Elissa Ellis Sangster, they women she works with are often shocked when they walk into a room and see so many other women with the same interests and passion. It gives them confidence and encourages them to continue their path.
Similarly, universities like the London Business School also help women as they transition from the program into work. They can connect them to alumni and also enable them to join a career trek to a geography and function that is appealing. The ease of going from an MBA program back into the business world is less daunting when you’re able to find a job globally and have an instant network the moment you graduate.
If you have that instinct or intuition, don’t fight it. Maybe a European MBA is the right option for you to move your career forward.