What does it mean to seek a PhD as a Black Woman Over 40? And do so in a business school?
I want to say that it’s no big deal. But then again, it means something. It shows a determination to expand your territory and grow both as an individual and a professional.
It could also mean that you’re ready to pursue the next chapter of your life, and do so in academia. It could mean that you’re ready for more opportunities at your job; or that you’re tired of where you are.
Why a PhD?
Why stop at a Bachelor’s level or Master’s level of education when you can earn $1.3 million and $600,000 more in your lifetime, respectively. I’d say go for it. A PhD is the highest level of education one can attain in a field of study. If one of your goals is to become a subject matter expert in a field of study, a PhD is one way to do it. Fulfill that goal and earn more while doing it.
Why a Business School?
You can’t go too wrong with an education in business. Business schools host a variety of the most important aspects of an organization or business life—for example, accounting, finance, technology, marketing, operations, logistics, and management, to name a few.
Picking and studying one of these aspects of the organization keeps you at the center of the organization’s lifeblood (i.e., revenue generation). Being in the business field keeps you and your skill set relevant. Of course, this is not to say that other fields of study are irrelevant. My focus is on business.
Leaning in where it matters (i.e., business) counts for something. A whole lot of something. So, consider pursuing a Business PhD as a Black woman over 40.
Why the Emphasis on Being Over 40?
You may not have mapped a clear path to your 40+/50+ career goals when you were younger. However, when you hit 40 years of age, questions of retirement, impermanence, purpose, and relevance start to creep in. Moreover, after 40 years, you have gained more experience and clarity and are better equipped to take on this new chapter.
It’s a great time to start your PhD. Researchers find that starting a PhD at a mature age is becoming a norm rather than an exception (Brazziel, 1992).
Representation as a Black Woman
No matter your reasons for seeking a PhD in a business school as a black woman over 40, the bottom line is that you’re representing. I didn’t pursue a PhD to represent.
That was further from my mind.
I just wanted to fulfill a lifelong goal and become an expert in data analytics. I added security to that goal. However, I became acutely aware that I was representing when a Black student in a class I was teaching (while still a PhD student) came up to me, beaming with a smile. They told me I was their first black professor. I didn’t know what to make of the statement. I smiled back and said thank you. However, I felt emotional and still do every time I remember that encounter. That poignant statement has remained with me since.
I didn’t want to make more of that statement or allow it to make me feel somewhat special. But I can say that it features in some of my decision-making, especially in how I approach teaching, research, and my future. A lot has been said about diversity in the classroom and learning. My application of diversity in my teaching content and style is in part shaped by that student’s statement.
If you’re a black man or woman, you will be a representation not just to black students but also to those aspiring to pursue a PhD. You should encourage your good students to aspire towards a PhD. There’s a big difference between making an announcement about the benefits of a PhD in class and speaking individually with a good student. The latter is preferable and more effective. Speaking with the student privately and encouraging them to think about a PhD lets them know you believe in them.
As a black woman or man with a PhD, I encourage you to invite others and share your experiences. Mentor another person alongside you.
If you just started your journey towards a PhD as a Black Woman Over 40, bring another person along.
The PhD Project
I have another experience with the value of representation with The PhD Project. The PhD Project is a non-profit organization that supports the creation of business PhDs from historically underrepresented groups. Its goal is to transform business education and business. This organization is primarily sponsored by KPMG. The PhD Project hosts an annual event that all aspiring PhD students are invited to attend, and most expenses are paid. However, you must apply.
The three main requirements for acceptance are US citizenship, minority (Black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic American, or Native American), and interest in a PhD in Business. The event takes place in Chicago. Hurry and apply if you are interested.
In my pursuit of a PhD as a Black Woman Over 40, I learned and received so much from this organization. One of my mentors is from this group.
PhD as a Black Woman Over 40
Pursuing a PhD in a Business School as a Black Woman Over 40 is still not a big deal.
But you might make a difference doing it.
You might start out doing it for yourself and end up doing it for others.
Don’t wait. Make the decision today. Start here.
Also, don’t be shy. Let us know your questions, or add your comment to this post. See you back here next week?