The Role That Education Can Play in Women’s Careers Blog
Diversity Equity and Inclusion

The Role That Education Can Play in Women’s Careers


Education can play a key role in helping learners achieve their career ambitions. This can be especially true for women, regardless of the stage of their careers, from those who are just starting out to those who hold C-suite roles within their organizations.

Two colleagues at the Jack Welch Management Institute (JWMI) - Kathryn Armstrong, DBA, professor at JWMI, and Linda Miller, MBA, senior associate professor of finance and accounting at JWMI - recently shared their insights into the impact education can have, particularly with MBA degree programs.

What are some of the benefits that education can have for adults who are further along in their careers, including C-suite executives?

Miller: Our online MBA program has several benefits that resonate with midcareer managers and executives. The first one that comes to my mind is the diversity of our student population. Our students are exposed to people from different countries, industries, and professional backgrounds. Another benefit is practicing oral and written communication in a safe environment. Our C-suite students like to fine-tune their interpersonal skills in our weekly discussion forums. Finally, our MBA program modules fill in the knowledge gaps so that our students feel comfortable taking a seat and contributing at top management meetings; they feel confident knowing how to follow business discussions and add their ideas. I credit our learn-today-and-apply-tomorrow teaching philosophy for building confidence.

What role can education play in women’s careers specifically? 

Armstrong: I’m 100% positive that I would not have had such a successful career had it not been for the two master’s degrees I’ve earned. During the recession, my company went out of business and yet I was only unemployed for seven weeks. I know those degrees put me at the head of the interview pile. Let’s face it: women’s lives are often busy. We have kids to take care of, a household to take care of, as well as our careers. If we can squeeze a degree in there, I think it will be noticed. It demonstrates great time management skills, and I have been told this very fact by hiring managers.

Do you find that women can be overlooked for leadership roles if they haven’t overseen profit-and-loss areas of the business, and can education help them attain some of that experience?

Miller: C-suite jobs are often filled by people who learn something early in their careers: you need to move around the organization. This is especially true if you start your career in a support function like finance, human resources, or IT. It can be risky, even scary, to leave the comfort of your technical expertise area to gain operational experience, but that's how you learn the business and become known by management. Operational experience leads to general manager roles with profit-and-loss responsibilities, and the profit-and-loss duties are where you can prove yourself.

Armstrong: This may be true, and I think that earning an MBA can help bridge that gap. For example, earning an MBA at JWMI offers many courses that give the knowledge and skills needed to understand and manage the financial aspects of a business. I believe that pursuing education can demonstrate a woman's commitment to professional development and readiness for increased responsibility, potentially making her a more competitive candidate for leadership positions.

Can you discuss how programs such as the Jack Welch Management Institute MBA (or MBAs in general) can affect women’s career pathways?

Armstrong: A woman earning her MBA at JWMI demonstrates her confidence in pursuing senior roles and actively working toward her goals. When comparing resumes side by side, a candidate with an MBA may have a higher chance of securing an interview, as the degree signifies a certain level of expertise and dedication.

Miller: I love our MBA program for midcareer women. We have a low ratio of students to professors, we provide a team of coaches to ensure success, and the entire program is asynchronous. Many of our students, especially women, are taking care of children and elderly parents, so they appreciate the asynchronous nature of the assignments and accessibility of our professors and coaches.

Can you give some examples that you (or colleagues) have had with MBAs or other business-related degrees? How have these experiences helped support your goals? 

Armstrong: During my tenure at DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, I pursued my education and obtained three degrees. With each degree achieved, I applied for and successfully attained a promotion. The confidence instilled by my academic achievements empowered me to pursue higher positions within the company.

Miller: One of our former JWMI students has a technical background in accounting, but she also had a burning desire to incubate nonprofit organizations in her community. She leveraged her MBA journey fully by making lasting connections with fellow students and professors who could support her vision. She brought so much enthusiasm for her project to each class that she inspired other students to pursue their interests. The most important lesson about her MBA journey is that the help is out there, all you need to do is ask.

Any additional insights?

Armstrong: I believe it's advantageous for every woman to be a lifelong learner. While earning an MBA is a great initial step, it shouldn't mark the end of one's educational journey. Learning a new language, exploring topics of personal interest through classes, taking leadership roles such as running the PTA, and consistently engaging in reading are all valuable to one’s career.

Miller: In my experience, women have a big advantage: they are givers. When women take some time to give to themselves through educational programs, they can multiply the impact of their giving. The biggest impact is on their families, and we see that at our JWMI graduation ceremonies. There's nothing better than watching the family members, especially the children, cheer as their MBA candidates receive their diplomas on stage. Our students are starting new legacies of higher education for their families.

My personal goal as a professor at JWMI is to give back, which is part of the Chrysler DNA. I love the extension of my business career because my interactions with students allow me to stay current on many industries and trends, while also supporting students in achieving their career goals and pursuing their passions.

To explore learning options for your team, contact a Workforce Edge specialist today.


Education can play a key role in helping learners achieve their career ambitions. This can be especially true for women, regardless of the stage of their careers, from those who are just starting out to those who hold C-suite roles within their organizations.

Two professors at the Jack Welch Management Institute (JWMI) - Kathryn Armstrong and Linda Miller - recently shared their insights into the impact education can have, particularly MBA degree programs.