What Male & Female MBAs Are Making

If you are a woman who graduated with an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business this year, your average starting salary would be only 79% of what your male classmates are being paid.

That’s the rather provocative conclusion of a new study of the wage gender gap in MBA pay published today (Dec. 11) by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Of the top 30 U.S. business schools, the disparity between what male and female MBAs make was greatest at Stanford than any other a major business school.

At Stanford, female MBAs this year pulled down starting salaries of $121,945, while men made $154,713—so women made exactly 78.82% of what men did, according to BusinessWeek. That would be $32,768 less than men. Why the disparity is greater at Stanford than any other top business school is not explained.


In contrast, female MBA graduates from Harvard Business School this year won jobs paying $115,651, some 89.5% of their male counterparts, while at Wharton female graduates landed jobs paying $115,713, some 85.7% of what the men earned.

The B-school wage gap data is based on surveys of more than 27,000 recent business school graduates that Bloomberg Businessweek conducted as part of its biennial rankings of full-time MBA programs starting in 2002. The study tracked the wage gap at the 30 top U.S. business schools in the magazine’s most recent ranking in 2012. The average starting salaries are self-reported from graduating MBAs at each business school so they are often different than the official statistics reported by business schools in their annual employment reports.

The Stanford number for the average starting salary of a male graduate, for example, is unusually high at $154,713. The overall average that Stanford is currently reporting for base salary is $129,652 and it is slightly higher for MBAs with “permanent work authorization,” code for U.S. citizens. For those Stanford grads, the school reported starting pay this year of $131,714. So if you isolate the male and female students, the $154,713 number doesn’t appear too far off.

After Stanford, the second largest gender wage gap turned up at the Yale School of Management. Graduating female MBAs this year had average starting salaries of $98,240, some nearly $13,400 less than the $111,635 average for men.


BusinessWeek found that the gap has actually increased in the past ten years. In 2002, women earned 98% of what male MBAs did. “That figure fell to 94.1 percent in 2004 and never really recovered, rising in 2006 and 2010 and falling in 2008 and 2012, when it bottomed out at 93.2 percent,” according to BusinessWeek.

The reason has less to do with discrimination than it does with career choices and previous work experience. On average, women have about a year’s less work experience than men when they enter an MBA program. But the single biggest difference is the fact that women prefer jobs in industries that typically pay MBAs less money.

In 2002, 29 percent of women went into finance positions, according to BusinessWeek. By 2012 that number had dropped by nearly half, to 16 percent. The portion of women taking high-paying investment banking jobs slipped even more, from 6 percent in 2002 to 2 percent today. The number of men heading into finance has dipped too, but not so precipitously. A decade ago, 32 percent of men went into finance, versus 23 percent this year, while 9.4 percent went into investment banking, versus 6.9 in 2002.

Many of these preferences can be seen in the annual surveys of the most desired places to work for MBAs by Universum. In 2011, for example, Goldman Sachs came in as the 18th most desirable place to work for women MBAs but it was third among the men. Ahead of Goldman for women were such companies as Walt Disney, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Facebook, LVMH, IDEO, and Coca-Cola. While these are all world-class companies, they simply don’t pay MBAs as much money as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, or J.P. Morgan Chase.

It’s not clear how many Stanford women go into finance (the school doesn’t break out career choice by gender) but it’s clearly the field that pays the most at the school. This year, for example, the average starting salary of a Stanford MBA headed into the finance field was $152,743, according to the school’s 2012 employment report. No wonder, the largest single chunk of grads accepted finance jobs—32%. For MBAs who went into consumer products—roughly 6% of the graduating class this year—average starting salaries were $108,750—a remarkable $43,993 less. For MBAs who went into media/entertainment—4% of the class–the average starting salary was just $109,125. And for MBAs who went into e-commerce or internet services—18% of the class—the average starting salary was higher but still no match for finance: $116,092. All of these industries—consumer products, media and entertainment, and e-commerce—tend to be preferred by female MBAs over finance.


Only one school among those in the study had a situation where men earned less in average starting salary than women: the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. According to BusinessWeek data, male MBAs at UT landed starting salaries of $103,621 versus $105,590 for the women grads.

(See following page for our table on the gender wage gap at the top business schools)