How Rankings & Recruiters Make It Difficult To Enroll More Women In Business Schools


The dean of a leading European business school says that rankings and corporate employers are making it harder for schools to recruit and attract more women to MBA programs. Bernard Garrette, associate dean of the MBA program at HEC Paris, says that most rankings penalize business schools that enroll more women because women are paid about 15% less than male MBA graduates and starting salary is generally a core rankings component.

“We have pressure to get more women in MBA programs which we are trying to do,” says Garrette in an interview with Poets&Quants. “But at the end of the day, the real problem is the wage gap between men and women. The return on investment for women is lower than for men and this is one of the reasons why we don’t get more women. If the ROI for women was as high as it is for men, it would be easier to attract more women to MBA programs. The wage gap is the big problem.”

Little more than a third of the class at full-time MBA programs is female, though in recent years a handful of top business schools have managed to push this number to 40% or more. UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business set a new record by enrolling women to the tune of 43% of its most recent entering class. Meantime, women make up 42% of the latest class at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, 41% at Harvard Business School, and 40% at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

But further improvement looks unlikely given recent trends in GMAT test taking. The Graduate Management Admission Council has reported that the number of women applicants in 2014 fell slightly for full-time, two-year MBA programs. The proportion of women in the applicant pool dropped to 37% last year vs. 39% in 2013. Nonetheless, in the past 20 years, most of the top business schools have significantly increased the percentage of women in their flagship MBA programs (See table below).


For the past four years, many business schools have been making a more conscious effort to recruit and welcome female applicants, with greater scholarship support, special on-campus visiting days for women, and information sessions at all-female colleges. But Garrette thinks getting more women into business school ultimately is a wage gap problem.

Business schools rarely, if ever, break out salary and bonus information by gender so school-specific numbers are hard to come by. Still, when Bloomberg Businessweek surveyed MBAs last year, the magazine found that women graduating from business school reported starting pay that was $14,548 less than their male classmates. Some women earn less because they are more likely to accept jobs that pay below-average salaries and bonuses in consumer products, retailing, marketing, and advertising. Some earn less because their previous work experience is not in fields, such as finance or engineering, that tends to be rewarded by post-MBA employers.

But Businessweek, in its survey of nearly 10,000 students at 112 schools, found that 17 of 22 industries that hired MBAs offered women less money. Women entering finance earned, on average, close to $22,000 less than men, the largest pay differential. Women were offered $12,300 less by tech companies, and $11,500 less by consulting firms than their male peers. Even career switchers felt the gap: Women switching into jobs in tech, finance, or consulting—the three largest MBA hirers–made an average of $12,800 less than the men who used the MBA to switch careers. And men who returned to the same industries after getting their MBAs made $13,300 more than women on the same path, according to the Businessweek data.

Enrollment of Women At The World’s Leading MBA Programs


School % of Enrolled Women in 2014 % in 1994
UC-Berkeley (Haas) 43% 34%
Stanford GSB 42% 30%
Harvard Business School 41% 26%
Pennsylvania (Wharton) 40% 28%
Yale SOM 38% 29%
New York (Stern) 38% 26%
Northwestern (Kellogg) 37% 31%
Columbia Business School 37% 35%
MIT (Sloan) 37% 28%
London Business School 36% 22%
Chicago (Booth) 36% 23%
HEC Paris 35% 26%
UCLA (Anderson) 34% 27%
Duke (Fuqua) 33% 30%
Dartmouth (Tuck) 32% 30%
Michigan (Ross) 32% 25%
Georgetown (McDonough) 31% 35%
Cornell (Johnson) 30% 32%%
Texas (McCombs) 29% 25%
Indiana (Kelley) 28% 23%
Emory (Goizueta) 27% 28%
North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) 27% 36%
Washington Univ. (Olin) 27% 30%
IESE Business School 26% NA
Carnegie Mellon 25% 19%

Source: Business school class profile reports for the latest entering class

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