More than half of MBAs say family comes before career

MBA students, though implicitly career-driven and ambitious, name work-life balance as a top priority, according to a new study from Bain & Company.

Of 1,500 MBA students and graduates surveyed, 50 percent of men and 51 percent of women said they "plan to prioritize nonwork commitments over career progression" when asked what they want out of their careers, Fortune reported.

Similarly, when asked to name the biggest obstacle to achieving their career goals, the most common concern respondents named is that balancing their lives would derail their career dreams — 40 percent of female MBAs and 42 percent of male MBAs reported having this anxiety.

Both men and women defined career success in similar ways. Half of male respondents and 62 percent of female MBAs listed "impact" as their primary career goal. For men, the next most common answer was "wealth" (37 percent), while women's No. 2 goal was "knowledge" (35 percent), according to Fortune

Julie Coffman, author of the report and chair of Bain & Company's women's leadership council, said the survey results show MBAs have departed from the old notion of "putting blinders on and only marching up the career ladder," according to Fortune. "The more everyone shares in this ambition, the closer we get to real change," Ms. Coffman told Fortune.

Ms. Coffman points out the need for both business schools and employers to incorporate the desire for work-life balance into their frameworks, as 80 percent of women and nearly 70 percent of men in the survey said they intend to have a joint parenting role once they have a family.

She suggests b-schools offer more programs that address the challenges of balancing family time with a strong career. Companies need to expand the way they define and reward success beyond celebrating employees who work long, punishing hours — one of the most significant contributors of the gender wage gap.

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