As one of the most competitive business schools in the United States, applicants are routinely turned away from the University of California, Berkeley's MBA program, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes.
But Katherine Zimmerman, a successful computer consultant, says her application was rejected because she was a stay-at-home mom who worked part time. "I feel like they have basically refused to offer me an opportunity that I believe would make them proud, and help my daughters have a very positive future and role model as a business leader and a woman today," Zimmerman explains.
Despite being refused entrance three times, Zimmerman still wants to attend the school -- so she's suing for admission. She says, "I want them to recognize that raising children is a part of being fully employed."
In her lawsuit, Zimmerman claims a university admissions employee told her that 100 percent of stay-at-home mothers are rejected from the school's evening MBA program.
According to Zimmerman's attorney, Julia Sherwin, "We feel this across-the-board exclusion of people who don't work 40 hours a week in a paid position is really an exclusion of moms or women who work part time."
An annual study of the nation's leading business schools finds only one-third of enrolled students are female. This puts UC Berkeley -- at 38 percent -- above the U.S. average.
University officials wouldn't comment on the lawsuit, but they did admit the admissions policy for some programs at the campus' Haas School of Business requires full-time employment.
But business school admission consultants say that working part time is not a reason to be rejected. "I think the question for the school isn't so much, 'Is the person working part time or full time, or is the person working in their house or a ten story office building?'", says Sally Lannin, President of MBA Strategies. "More specifically they're asking, OK let's look at the total package of this applicant."
Zimmerman says her package of qualifications was in line with other students in the program, and the only thing holding her back was motherhood.
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.
CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff