MBA Student Attitudes toward American Women in International Business Survey

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1 MBA Student Attitudes toward American Women in International Business Survey Project Abstract: Women-owned businesses have been less successful in international trade than their male-owned counterparts according to Fran Close, the President of the Alliance of Business Women International (ABWI). Among the barriers to success women exporters face are lack of information, lack of adequate prior experience with overseas markets, lack of training in export and trade, and gender discrimination. Though there is evidence to indicate the presence of gender discrimination on the part of American companies when assigning overseas posts, according to Nancy Adler, women who are given overseas assignments do quite well, even gaining considerable respect from their foreign contacts. Is there a lack of overseas experience for women because their American companies don t even consider them for overseas assignments? Some of the research questions we want to address with this survey project include: Does the incoming generation of business leaders (students entering the MBA program) hold inherent biases against American women doing business abroad? Do male and female students have the same perceptions about the role of women in international business? Are perceptions different for incoming versus outgoing students? What impact does the curriculum have on these perceptions? Do these attitudes change after completing the MBA degree? If the attitudes are negative, in what way might the curriculum be adjusted to better reflect the reality of women in business overseas?

2 The Illinois CIBER conducted a survey on attitudes held by MBA students toward American businesswomen to determine whether gender discrimination is a barrier nationally as well as internationally. We surveyed 179 students from seven universities at the beginning of their MBA program and then again at the end of the their program to learn if their attitude toward the role of women in international business changed as a result of the MBA program and to predict how, as future managers, their attitudes might affect women s success in the global arena. Methodology: The Illinois CIBER sent the survey (Appendix I) to MBA programs at 11 universities that have a CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) in the fall, We asked the MBA directors to distribute the survey to first year MBA students and send the completed surveys back to us. Two years later, in the spring of 2002, we contacted the same students directly and ask them to complete the survey again, this time in an online format. The initial phase yielded 931 responses from 11 universities and the follow-up survey yielded 179 responses from seven universities. The results that follow are based on these 179 matched pairs of surveys (Appendix II.) About the Survey Instrument: The survey is called Survey on Attitudes towards Internationalization of Business and doesn t mention anything about women. In addition to general demographic information, the survey consists of seven statements. Five of the seven statements contain something about gender. Respondents were asked to indicate (1) if they strongly disagree, or, proceeding ordinally up to (5), if they strongly agree with the statements. Here are the seven statements: 1) Skills for functioning in a global market are essential to success in business. 2) As part of the education you will receive in the MBA program, you can expect to gain the necessary skills for operating in the global arena. 3) Women and men are equally interested in global careers.

3 4) American women managers receive the same consideration as American men managers when doing business in other countries. 5) Most companies, when filling an international post, consider men and women with the same skills and experience equally. 6) Women should be discouraged from seeking international career opportunities that require overseas travel because of family commitments. 7) E-commerce is making it easier for women to overcome cultural biases. Survey Results: The statements that showed the most significance that is, showed the most change from period 1 (entry into MBA program) and period 2 (graduation from the MBA program, 2 years later) are questions 2, 4 and 7. Q2. As part of the education you will receive in the MBA program, you can expect to gain the necessary skills for operating in the global arena Disagree Agree Survey I 3.91 Survey II 3.65 This number went down after completing the MBA program. Perhaps the curriculum needs to include more international business content or overseas internship experiences. It appears students did not feel better prepared to operate in the global arena after their MBA program.

4 Q4. American women managers receive the same consideration as American men managers when doing business in other countries Disagree Agree Survey I 2.73 Survey II 2.33 Again the number is lower after completing the MBA program. At the University of Illinois, the results were not very encouraging. The mean score for period 1 (entry into program) was The mean score for period 2 (graduation) was The University of Wisconsin displayed similar results: the mean in period 1, was 2.92, dropping in period 2 to It appears that the MBA curriculum is perpetuating the notion of bias towards women doing business in other countries. Q7. E-commerce is making it easier for women to overcome cultural biases Disagree Agree Survey I 3.61 Survey II 3.24 Surprisingly, this number went down as well. E-commerce is sometimes viewed as a great equalizer since many of the traditional biases (appearance, dress, etc) are eliminated.

5 At the individual school level: Michigan State University, no differences were found on any of the items. Purdue, no differences were found on any of the items. Texas A&M, no differences were found on any of the items. Kansas, only one person responded, no significant differences were found. University of Illinois, significant differences were found for questionnaire items 2,4, and 7. Q2 Mean 4.28->3.87 Q4 Mean 3.36->2.41 Q7 Mean 3.72->3.23 Wisconsin, significant differences were found for questionnaire items 4 and 7. Q4 Mean 2.72->1.94 Q6 Mean 2.00->1.78 Brigham Young University, significant differences were found for questionnaire items 4 and 7. Q4 Mean 2.56->2.25 Q7 Mean 3.81->3.24 There were no significant differences found between males and females on any of the questions. Conclusions: The survey results have clued us into what might be an important contributing factor to the apparent relative lack of success women exhibit when seeking to do business overseas. There appears to be a fairly strong correlation between increasing negative attitudes (among both men and women) and enrollment in the MBA programs at some of these schools. Further investigation ideally in the form of intensive case studies would need to be conducted into the role that curriculum plays vis-à-vis perceptions of women s potential in international business. Thus, one of the questions the survey sought

6 to shed light on was whether or not curriculum has an impact on perceptions of women in international business. It appears to have a negative effect. The stereotyping and misperception of women s abilities and capabilities are found in academia and then continues into corporations. There is a need to correct this misperception. Perhaps by having more women faculty members, or faculty members in general who are more aware of this stereotyping, would help to improve this situation. Inviting successful international businesswomen to speak to these classes is another idea for combating this misperception. In Laurel Delaney s article Escape from Corporate America, that details the increase in women-owned businesses, she quotes Sandra Peterson, senior vice president of health businesses for Medco Health Solutions on her reasons for the massive exodus of talented women from Corporate America. Many corporation do not think women are critical to their bottom line. They falsely think the lack of senior women has no impact.

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