The MBA Gender Gap At Columbia


The study did reveal Columbia’s full-time MBA program to be for the most part, a welcoming and inclusive place for women. The majority of women (62%) feel support from their peers in taking leadership roles. Only 54% of men feel the same way. In fact, despite making up only 36% of the student body, women hold 41% of the club leadership positions.

In terms of social interactions and social settings, both men and women largely feel satisfied. However, focus groups did reveal while traveling or social settings involving alcohol, the report states, “several single women at Columbia Business School reported receiving unwanted attention from male peers or leaving events because they felt subjected to excessive flirting.”

According to Phillips, the study will be used to continue the dialogue and change process. “Once we started this study and started communicating about it, we felt like we had more control over the situation, rather than the situation having more control over us,” Phillips says. “Now we have a data to understand ourselves better. We have data to talk about and use to make changes.”


Phillips says with the foundation in place, future students will use the data and recommendations from the study to implement concrete initiatives. Currently, there is a team of about 25 students making plans for implementation.

“Any time you implement changes at such a well-established and respected institution like Columbia, you have to go through a process,” says Phillips. “Diversity and inclusion is also a change process. But with this data the students will continue to foster an environment of change.”

Jennifer McCaleb, a former MBA student and president of Columbia Women in Business, said the biggest surprise to her was the difference in grades from men to women. “The classes are filled with many accomplished and intelligent men and women,” McCaleb says. She also said based on this project and all of the Columbia community willing to participate, she has confidence in the world of business moving forward. “There was a very diverse group of students and faculty volunteering time and energy to speak about this topic that is not always easy to discuss,” says McCaleb.

Recommendations for Columbia moving forward include increasing outreach efforts to both support and recruit more women, continuing open discussions of diversity and inclusion at orientation and other events, diversifying social functions, leveling the playing field in the pre-MBA program for students without a finance background, and increasing exposure to female executives and long-term career planning.


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