I recently read the business week article God’s MBAs: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders. I think for the most part the article makes a great point about the preparation that a mission provides to business leaders and how it helps them succeed throughout their life.
However, as a woman with a MBA and a career, I wanted to give my perspective on a few different comments made about Mormon women and careers.
The business week article states “the teachings of the church encourage women to stay home” and goes on to say “Mormon women are partners in those faithful marriages, yet they’re almost absent from the business landscape. The Marriott School’s MBA class of 2011 is only 12 percent female, compared with HBS’s 36 percent, and although LDS spokeswoman Jessica Moody says Mormon women do hold leadership roles at small companies, none have reached the corporate leadership heights of Mormon men. Women are urged by the church to pursue education, but the Mormon Proclamation on the Family, which, according to religion scholar Mauss, attained near- canonical status after its issuance in 1995, says men should provide for families while women should raise children.”
I would argue that the church teaching does not mean “stay at home.” In The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states that it is a mother’s primary responsibility for the nurture of the children. This does not necessarily mean that women have to stay home. In fact, the world is quickly adapting to enable more women (and men) the ability to enjoy working and being able to spend desired time with their children. More and more men and women are seeing greater flexibility in the work place that is enabling them to better balance the things in their life. There is no “one size fits all model.”
Additionally, many women struggle with the balance of career and family. This is not a problem unique to mormon women, nor do mormon women just not care about careers or the education they have obtained. While the BYU MBA class has a lower percentage of women MBAs vs. other schools such as Harvard, an MBA does not directly translate to senior leadership. And many companies are working on figuring out how to retain female talent at higher levels. After my MBA I worked for a company that had less than 20% women in senior roles and it was a constant discussion point on how to retain these talented women once they had children. There continues to be an increase of women in the workforce and in senior leadership roles. I believe the business world will see more and more mormon women rise in the ranks along with women of other faiths.
Time and time again at women’s network meetings or in personal conversations with women I hear the concerns about balancing being a mother and wanting a fulfilling career. There is a great article from the McKinsey Quartely called “Centered leadership: How talented women thrive” that covers this very topic. Even very senior leaders are trying to work on top of responsibility they have at home. The McKinsey article states “many women come home from work only to sign onto a “second shift” – 92 percent of them still manage all household tasks, such as meal preparation and child care.”
This is also not to say that women shouldn’t stay home. To sum up what the church teaches women about their careers, there is a great quote from Elder Quentin L Cook’s talk, LDS Women are Incredible!, in the April 2011 General Conference ”First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children. Nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. We rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances. Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions.” In my mind there are two pieces of this quote that are easy to forget: 1. we rarely understand or fully appreciate people’s circumstances and 2. Husbands and wives are to prayerfully counsel together. We are taught that men and women are equals and that we should look to be equally yoked with our spouse. This necessitates a true and deep partnership that is principle based and centered in growing with God in all decisions and trials.
I truly believe the companies that crack the code on how to better enable both fathers and mothers, mormon and non-mormon, to find ways to strengthen their families as well as focus on professional development and success will unlock unforeseen potential and greater happiness in their employees, leading to better, more efficient, profitable work.