CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard Business School may famously churn out investment bankers and management consultants, yet many grad students attending the 13th annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference last month came to calculate what an MBA is worth to the fashion and beauty industries.

“It’s hard to imagine after graduating from Harvard Business School that you would accept a job on the selling floor, but that is the heart of the industry,” maternity designer Liz Lange emphasized, addressing a packed room at a retail careers panel discussion, one of a series of industry-focused sessions. “I started my business by waiting on every single customer, learning what she wants, needs and likes. I can’t imagine people effectively moving up the chain [of command] without that experience.”

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