Heather Tatroff had always wanted to be an investment banker. The allure of negotiating major corporate and financial deals sparked her interest in banking.
So after getting her MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Tatroff was thrilled when she landed a job as an investment banker at JPMorgan in 2011.
Despite the grueling hours, Tatroff enjoyed her job. But something was missing. She wanted to do more exciting things, get into a leadership position quicker and take bigger decisions.
So Tatroff, 31, left a plum job at JPMorgan to work in Silicon Valley in 2014.
“The ability to get promoted and take on more responsibility is much more prevalent in a tech company than at an investment bank,” says Tatroff, chief of staff at Chegg, a digital education company in Santa Clara, Calif.
More women are taking decisions like Tatroff and are choosing technology companies over investment banks. They believe tech offers the opportunity to rise faster through company ranks and also get compensated better.
Female MBA students who want to go into tech believe they’ll be paid $98,000 a year on average, excluding stock packages and bonuses. MBA women who plan to go into investment banking expect to be paid $87,000 in their first year, according to Universum, a jobs research firm.
1. Women want to sit at the driver’s seat
Tech startups and Wall Street are both known to have brutal schedules.
Both sectors haven’t had the best record when it comes to hiring women. And more recently, both have made an effort to improve work-life policies.
But those factors aren’t the primary, driving force behind women’s career choices.
Instead, these ambitious women point to the potential of quickly climbing the career ladder along with the opportunity to do more engaging and interesting work, and good pay.
Plus, women say investment banks are still trying to shrug off a bad image from the financial crisis.
Wall Street may have dominated the MBA recruiting process for decades, tech has fast gained ground in recent years.
At the Wharton School of Business, 14% of last year’s graduates went into tech, up from just 6% five years ago. By comparison the investment banks attracted about the same amount — 14% — of students last year, sharply lower from 21% in 2010.
At Harvard too, the number of MBA graduates that went to work in tech doubled in the last five years.
Schools don’t break out the numbers by gender, but faculty say women are driving the trend just as much, if not more, than men.
2. Work less, get paid more
Women earning their MBAs believe they’ll not only earn more in tech, but also work fewer hours.
Those who want to go into tech plan to work 48 hours a week while women going into investment banking believe they’ll work 51 hours a week on average, according to Universum.
“Women are getting the confidence that they can be successful in technology jobs,” says Jun Li, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “The technology industry always offered better work-life balance, but it wasn’t always as competitive with pay compared to finance jobs” as it is now, Li says.
Several Wall Street veterans, male and female, have also left for tech companies recently. In March, Google’s chief financial officer Ruth Porat left Morgan Stanley for Silicon Valley. Laurence Tosi joined Airbnb as its CFO in July after working at Blackstone, a private investment bank and last year, Anthony Noto, once a Goldman Sachs executive, joined Twitter to be its CFO.
3. Women avoid ‘testosterone-fueled’ Wall Street
Women don’t identify with Wall Street and its male-dominated culture, according to Matthew Bidwell, a Wharton professor who researched career trends. And the boorish behavior of men in movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” only further taints the image.
“The macho, testosterone-fueled reputation of Wall street jobs was particularly offputting to women,” says Bidwell, speaking of his research. “These identification issues, much more than work-life balance, seemed to explain why women didn’t go into Wall Street.”
Tabitha Salomon was ready for a career change when she started at Harvard Business School.
She had worked in medical sales, and she thought she might want to go into the fashion industry. But Salomon never had investment banking in her list of career choices.
“Banking itself — the rough hours, the chauvinistic impression people have of the culture — nothing is attractive about banking except for the pay,” said Salomon, 29, from Jacksonville, Fla.
While at Harvard, Google offered Salomon an internship. She had concerns about tech’s male-heavy environment, but she ended up loving the tech industry .
“Women in tech actually fare out better than those that decided to go into consulting or banking,” says Salomon, now a global strategist at Samsung, who spoke with CNNMoney from India while on a work trip.
4. Work life balance is important
HBS women say the possibility of having kids and a family plays a role too. And tech companies generally have more generous parental leave policies and flexible hours than big banks. Netflix recently announced a one-year parental leave policy for all its employees, both men and women. Microsoft and Adobe have also improved their parental leave policies recently.
But most importantly, women say there’s one other reason why they’re going into tech: it’s just a cooler option now.
“Tech has become bigger as a sector and more appealing to everyone — it’s just more popular,” says Luciana Baigun, an Argentine HBS graduate and head of international development at Double Dutch, an event planning app.