In 1974, Harvard Business School professors Anne Jardim and Margaret Hennig founded the Graduate School of Management at Simmons College, a business school that broke away from what they recognized as a male-dominated environment that antagonized female students and professors. Still the world’s only all-female MBA program, Simmons offers a feminist perspective on corporate skills, a supportive environment for women students, and flexible schedules that allow non-traditional students to earn degrees.
A recent article in the New York Times examined how Simmons’ program has managed to thrive for so long. Last year Simmons’ MBA program applicants increased 25 percent, while more prominent schools did not experience increases. The program’s unique approach might contribute to its popularity. Founded on the notion that women and men have drastically different management styles, Simmons has evolved as women have made major accomplishments in combating sexism. Simmons students gain basic corporate skills and hone their own unique leadership styles. While founders Jardim and Hennig highlighted a particularly “female” management style and taught women how to cope in a environment that traditionally excluded them, Simmons professors today have a different perspective on a woman’s role in the corporate sphere. Professors argue that it is possible to balance work and family, a concern commonly attributed to women, but the program does not assume that women leaders in the business world act as the nurturing counterparts of their cut-throat male colleagues. By encouraging more women to break stereotypes in the business world and to forge new styles of management, Simmons is providing new role models for future female MBAs.