Business Management

Women’s Day : Why Women Still UnderRepresented in MBA Programs

Finance issues, stops a woman from applying to a business school. Ambition to get a top job and earn money drives her decision to go for a business master’s programs, such as master’s in marketing, accounting or management. However, there are many reasons why Women are still underrepresented in MBA programs around the world.  A white paper from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) “What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education” was issued in recognition of International Women’s Day celebrated globally and National Women’s History Month in the United States. This white paper identifies the drivers of this lack of gender parity in MBA programs.

The paper’s key findings draw upon insights collected from GMAC’s Global Graduate Management Education Candidate  Segmentation Study in partnership with a global market research firm IPSOS, conducted in 2016. The survey sample included a total of 5,900 female and male applicants representing 15 countries worldwide.

Women are already achieving parity (52 percent) in master’s programs such as Master of Marketing, Master of Accounting, and Master in Management. Number of these programs has grown exponentially in recent years. The share of women in MBA classrooms, however, has consistently remained well below parity with men at 37 percent. The data show that women hold the MBA degree in higher regard than men, and view the degree as a passport to wider career advancement.

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The paper explores the differences between men and women in their motivations to pursue graduate business degrees and the biggest challenges women face in the business school application process. Motivations and approaches to the application journey differ from the Women in Western countries and that from the women in emerging economies like China and India. The motivational profiles of Western women differ noticeably from their male counterparts. In India and China, women’s motivations and application behaviors more closely resemble those of male applicants from these countries.

Women are early planners compare to men, likely to plan out their graduate management education plan during their undergraduate years. Overall, women are more pragmatic and outcomes-focused in their approach to pursuing graduate business education. They are more likely than men to apply to a specific school because it offers flexible program formats and its graduates get better job opportunities. Especially in Western countries, women are more likely than men to be motivated by the desire to advance more quickly and earn more money.

“Financial issues, the key reason for not to accept admissions offer to graduate business school” cited by 29 percent of female survey respondents globally. Seeking scholarships and financial aid were top of mind. While Men (33 percent), cited that they were waiting for an offer from additional schools as their reason for delaying acceptance.

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The greatest gender difference on this issue was seen in the US. More than a third (38 percent) of female survey respondents cited financial reasons as their number one reason for not yet accepting their admissions offer compared with 20 percent of male respondents.

Having the funds to pay for schools is a bigger challenge for men than for women in both India (8 percent Indian women vs. 14 percent Indian men) and China (9 percent Chinese women vs. 11 percent Chinese men).  

President and CEO of GMAC, Sangeet Chowfla said “It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking of women as a monolithic block and to view their lack of parity in MBA classrooms as a failure on the part of business schools. The insights in this white paper clearly reveal that women are distinct from men in what they are seeking from their business education experience, and their behaviors differ between regions and behavior types. “

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Business schools have made great strides in inclusivity and shaping their recruiting and admissions processes to ensure a diverse classroom. We hope that equipped with this paper’s data and insights, business schools can develop even bolder strategies for increasing the number of women in their classrooms and achieve the gender parity seen in other sectors of graduate education.

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