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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February, 2005, 13:02 GMT
MBAs 'must drop the machismo'
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education

The Wall Street Bull
The Wall Street Bull should develop its "emotional intelligence"
The MBA business degree, once an icon of the braces-snapping 1980s, is in danger of becoming a sexist dinosaur, say university researchers.

An emblem of the era when "lunch was for wimps" has been accused of being too aggressively macho.

The study by the Brunel University Business School says MBA courses need to be "feminised".

Instead of tough-guy table-thumping, managers needed to develop "soft skills", say the researchers.

The study says that the MBA - Master of Business Administration - was described by one female student as standing for "Mighty Big Attitude".


The courses were accused of promoting a culture of "aggressive and over-confident attitudes". And these boastful, bloke-ish David Brents with qualifications were not recognising that different skills were now needed for the workplace.

In today's diverse workplace, the 'hard' skills, which have served managers well in the past, must be added to a greater focus on 'softer', perhaps more feminine skills
Ruth Simpson, Brunel University

"Despite women being over 50% of Britain's population and almost 50% the workforce, current courses frequently reflect and reproduce values associated with masculinity," says the study from Brunel University.

These masculine attitudes were about "power and control", while the report recommends that modern workplaces needed skills such as "listening, trust building skills and adaptability".

MBA courses needed to "address the modern, increasingly female, environment", said Ruth Simpson of Brunel University's Business School.

"In today's diverse workplace, the 'hard' skills, which have served managers well in the past, must be added to a greater focus on 'softer', perhaps more feminine skills," she said.

"MBA programmes need to provide opportunities for developing emotional intelligence and building better team working, communication and leadership skills."

Business and management courses, although long the butt of jokes about clichéd language and dubious motivational theories, have continued to attract students, and are often among the most popular for applications for undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Last month, there was a forecast that another 12,000 business courses would need to open in higher education institutions across Europe to meet the growing demand.

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21 Jan 05 |  Education

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