Wharton Admits Most Women Ever

Nearly 45% of the incoming class at Wharton this fall will be composed of women, according to the school’s deputy director of MBA admissions. The percentage of women in the class reflects a new record for Wharton, which has already had the highest number of women in any institution ranked in the top 25 of U.S. business schools.

The new number is five full percentage points up from the 39.7% of women admitted to Wharton last fall. As a result, the number of women enrolled in the new fall class will increase by 12.5% in a single year. The change brings the University of Pennsylvania’s business school much closer to the female enrollment numbers of its law and medical schools. Some 47.6% of the students at Penn’s law school are women, while 49.3% of the students at Penn’s medical school are female. That gap is much wider at nearly every other top university, according to a recent analysis by Poets&Quants.

Ankur Kumar, Wharton’s deputy director of admissions, says the increase is due to a conscious effort by the school to recruit and welcome more female applicants. Among other things, Wharton has been sponsoring special on-campus visiting days for women and information sessions at all-female colleges. “There are always misperceptions about business school that women have, and these help bust those myths,” Kumar told The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s a huge milestone for us and for our peers,” Kumar added in an interview with the university student newspaper. “Our efforts have helped change the game for them as well, which is fantastic. Three years ago, we had the initial watershed moment,” Kumar said, referring to the first time the school hit the 40 percent mark. “This year, it’s been game-changing again.”

The new record at Wharton follows last week’s news that Harvard Business School accepted a record number of women for its incoming fall class. At Harvard, women will account for 39% of the class, up three percentage points from 36% for the past two years. It’s the highest percentage of women ever to enter Harvard. The change translates into an 8.3% increase in female MBA candidates in one year. In 1995, only 28% of the class was female, and in 1975, just 11% of the class was composed of women.

Harvard also has been actively seeking to boost its enrollment of highly qualified women, notes Sanford Kreisberg, president of HBSGuru, an MBA admissions consultant. He says that Deirdre Leopold, director of admissions and financial aid at HBS, has helped in the past year to organize SWAT teams of current HBS women to spread the word about Harvard and the value of MBA training at schools such as Wellesley, Smith and Barnard as part of a plan to lay the groundwork for admitting more women. “Now that Wharton has thrown down the ‘garter,’ as it were, the speculation is that the next shoe to drop will be at HBS—and it may have a very high heel,” says Kreisberg.

The significant increases at both Wharton and Harvard come after the Great Recession caused declines in female enrollment at a number of top business schools. The class data released by Harvard and Wharton is preliminary and subject to some change. Most business schools, including Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, wait until September to officially publish the demographic profiles of their incoming classes. Last year, however, the percentage of women in Stanford’s incoming class rose to 39% from 36% a year earlier.

“Until the economy took its toll, we were getting a 33% average among the 36 business schools that are members of the Forte Foundation,” says Elissa Sangster, Forte’s executive director. The Forte Foundation, a non-profit group founded ten years ago to encourage more women to pursue the MBA degree, keeps tabs on female enrollment. “But when the economy is tough, women are a lot less willing (than men) to make the sacrifice to go to business school. They often chose local and regional MBA programs because life issues keep them from making the choice to uproot themselves and their families.”

An improving economy, believes Sangster, brings more highly qualified women into the MBA applicant pool. But the paucity of women at top schools and their performance in class also has been getting more attention of late. A recent study by second-year women at Harvard Business School, for example, discovered that proportionally more men than women receive academic honors at HBS. Though women accounted for 36% of Harvard’s Class of 2009, for example, only 11% of the school’s Baker Scholars were female. That honor is given to students who are in the top 5% of HBS’ graduating class.

The study also found “a similarly marked academic gender gap” at eight unidentified peer business schools. “However, there is little to no awareness of the issue at other schools, especially among students,” the study said. “Women’s groups at other schools tend to focus almost exclusively on career oriented efforts or increasing the percentage of women in the student body.” Some of those peer schools have 20-plus percentage point gaps between the percentage of female students and the number of women receiving academic honors.

Wharton and Harvard are now in the leadership spots for having the largest percentage of women in their incoming classes. The top 25 business schools with the lowest percentage? Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, where just 24.9% of the full-time MBA students are women. Also on the low end are Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business 26.7%), North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School (27.7%, Emory’s Goizueta School of Business (28.2%), and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (28.6%).



  • @Marketer  I think the fields that don’t attract men have lower income potential and that appears to be the major drive, so it makes it difficult for recruitment. The fields that are male dominated are generally highly compensated and do not represent the demographics of society, not only gender.  I feel the areas you mentioned in Marketing still have majority of Men who have MBA’s.  Areas like retail and fashion actually have a disproportianate amount of men in the top C-suites of these industries.

  • Bruce Vann

    Marketer, now that would certainly be interesting and you raise a really good point.

  • Chuck

    Wharton enters a race to be innovative and make its BSchool women friendly. There are tons of initiatives, scholarships and clubs to break the glass ceiling and help women in business.

    It is still too early to tell about the outcome of this experiment as long term results and career development are not available yet. As a man, I would be cautious with regard to Wharton favoring women to increase 45%. It means fewer spots available for man, no matter their stellar qualification.

  • Marketer


    In the spirit of being fair and balanced, I think you should write an article or post some statistics on the # of men going into industries like fashion, retail and CPG marketing. At my school, almost no men go into these industries and very few go into the marketing function. Some men, like me, are interested in these opportunities, but many men don’t consider them because they see so few men in these fields. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, there were zero outreach events targeted to men for these industries / functions. The entire leadership of our school’s marketing club is women, and the membership seems like it’s at least 70% women.

    When this situation occurs in industries like finance, there are countless efforts to reach out to women. Shouldn’t the same be the case for industries / functions where men are the minority?

    I would find an article from you on this topic quite interesting and useful.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Wharton guys, I understand, hunt for women amongst the undergrads and in Penn’s nursing school. This won’t improve their quality of life.

    On a side note, it would a good thing if John Byrne could pressure all the top b-schools and Wharton in particular for GMAT, GPA, and years of work experience statistics by sex. My gut is that the women’s stats aren’t quite as good and that years work experience is a lower number — get ’em before they go to law or med school.

    Here’s the thing, men back away from gender neutral pursuits. I do expect that b-school will become something very different from what it was — the last form of professional study tailored to male culture. This is not a good thing for American society.

  • Woman


    I cannot speak to the disparity you inquire of, however, I can make a general statement. Everything depends on criteria and to an extent irregularity! However, I doubt schools will drop their standards for anyone at the expense of making more females than males Baker or Palmer scholars…

    I mean, common now, that does not even make sense. What do they have to gain by doing that?!

  • Woman

    Ist year….

    given prior higher male to female ratios in B-school history, males by default, occupy senior positions in the workforce, and some of the few women left leave to take care of their children and husbands…or whatever….therfore, many companies have males all over senior, mid and junior level positions.

    Do you want to work in a company with 95% or even 85% males…..I really hope not! These companies want diverse groups of individuals women, men, white, black, Asian……you get my drift.

    Out of the 55% of women in Wharton in this year’s class, I assure you that a large percent of them will pull out of the mainstream workforce to take on roles that will provide time and opportunities for them to do ‘other things’…however, those 45% men will occupy mainstream roles in ‘say’ finance, consulting, start ups and so on.

    From Wharton’s perspective, they probably want to have top women doing great things in differnt areas, as they do men…and I am positive these year’s female applicants were as strong if not stronger than male applicants.

    Pull your weight, and be willing to adapt to change, if you are as great as these women, I really doubt you will be refused what is due to you simply becasue you are ‘male’! 🙂

  • Sticky wicket

    Who cares. The great things from tomorrow will not be coming from b school students but rather folks with truly risk taking spirits the complete anthesis of a typical b school student.

    You can take your networks and gain satisfaction from that.

  • 1st year

    Responding to Woman’s points:

    I’m just pointing out what I see as unfair treatment of men.

    There are significantly more male applicants than female applicants, more than a 55 to 45 ratio, yet now Wharton has a 55-45 ratio. So, women are over-represented in the class as compared to their makeup of the application pool.

    There are a ton of women’s groups in business school, women’s groups at companies, recruiting events targeted specifically at women, etc. Men don’t have any of those opportunities.

  • JD


    Very good points, how do you address the disparity in Baker’s scholars and Palmer scholars as compared to overall admissions rate…

  • Bruce Vann

    1st Year, if you haven’t noticed yet there is no such thing as a real meritocracy. Life isn’t fair across the board.

  • Woman

    1st year,

    You have to consider a few things before making conclusions.
    Your response may change if you do not view this as an attack against men.

    Points to consider

    These women are as qualified as the men you defend.
    You assume that qualified men are rejected to accept mediorce women

    What if for every qualified woman, there are four qualified men, and you have only one seat available?

    Secondly, there are always more males than female applicants, and thirdly, people who may be look on paper may not translate to personable and team oriented candidates in person (women and men included)

    Guys, think through your arguments before you respond 🙂 that way, you do not come off as angry alpha males! the kind of people who may look good on paper, but lacking in character 🙂

  • 1st year

    More and more, B-school is ceasing to be a meritocracy.Qualified applicants, whether they are white, male, asian, etc. are being denied admission to make the class more ‘diverse’ or ‘colorful’. All people seem to look at is the % of women in the class, NOT the qualified male who was denied admission to make room for that extra female. Last year, Wharton tried really hard to get to 40% women – it was a mission for them. Who knows what standards they sacrificed to get that. We’ll never know, because they will never release application stats by gender or race. Because if they did, the truth would come out.

  • Sexism still lives. The media will do anything to keep a man down these days. I am glad that women are making gains in life, but why make men to be barbarians that are out to take away all signs of freedom and enjoyment from women? Are men that bad? Let a man be a man!

  • 1st year

    Seriously, who cares. I don’t care care how many of X demographic are in a class. I care only about the quality of the students in the class. Even if they are 100% from Y demographic. If Wharton is lowering its standards to get these numbers, they are going to suffer in every possible way. Hopefully they are not, but the way they are bending over backwards for women, they probably are. You can have a class of 100% women if you want, but 90% will give up on their careers once they start having kids. In the end, the school loses.

  • Bruce Vann

    Dang Arthur!! You like women much? Sheesh!!

  • JD


    Watch how the disparity in Baker Scholars and other accolades magically disappear as “other” considerations are taken into account or standards drop…


  • Arthur Featherstonehaugh Dullsworthy

    The end of b-school as we know it.