White House Backs B-School Gender Drive

Michigan Ross School of Business Dean Alison Davis-Blake (second from left) sits on a panel at the White House. Photo courtesy of Michigan Ross

Michigan Ross School of Business Dean Alison Davis-Blake (second from left) sits on a panel at the White House. Pictured far right is Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business Dean Geoffrey Garrett. Photo courtesy of Michigan Ross


Although women continue to make strides within the American workforce, it hasn’t happened as swiftly in business and engineering. In 2014, only 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies were female. In 2013, only 17% of Fortune 500 board seats were held by women. Meanwhile, in 2010, the Association of American Medical Colleges found women made up 46% of active medical residents and fellows. In 2013, women represented 43% of U.S. law students, according to national nonprofit Catalyst.

While many schools have made recent efforts to curb the MBA gender imbalance—women make up about 35% of current U.S. MBA students—this is the first major concrete and organized push. The most recent schools to show drastic improvements have been U.C.-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, which had 43% women in their class of 2016. For the same class, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Pennsylvania’s Wharton School had female representation at 42%, 41%, and 40%, respectively.

After the April 2014 meeting, Bob Bruner, at the time dean of University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, told Poets&Quants that while closing the gender gap was highly desirable, that change would be slow. His reasoning came from his own calculations that only about 2,000 women every year are positioned for admittance into highly ranked MBA programs. The calculations were based on the amount of women taking and doing well on the GMAT and possessing attractive work experience.

However, Kellogg’s recent announcement of the 2017 class profile might suggest otherwise. The school catapulted its percentage of women from 38% to 43% while lifting its average GMAT from 716 to 724. These gains occurred despite application volume remaining flat.


The meeting of the B-schools came on the heels of the first-ever White House Demo Day aimed to promote inclusive entrepreneurship. A White House version of a demo day, more than 90 startup founders presented their ventures to the President, among others. The focus was on ventures founded by women and minorities. According to a White House-issued fact sheet, only 3% of venture capital-backed startups were founded by women and only 4% of venture capital investors are women.

The event also served as a platform for more than a dozen heavy-hitter companies to announce new female-focused initiatives. Firms including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AirBnB, and KIND Health Snacks pledged to recruit and hire more women at all levels within the companies. IBM is expanding relations with Girls Who Code, and Google has announced its Women’s Demo Day, in which startups founded by women will gather at Googleplex to pitch to a group of judges. Amazon, Microsoft, and Xerox also announced commitments to the “Rooney Rule” which will emphasize considering diverse candidates for senior executive positions.


Companies hiring more women could have a good chance of increasing productivity and overall success. Or simply put and according to a recent study, female-founded startups outperform those founded by males. The study, released at the end of July from Silicon Valley venture capital goliath First Round Capital, looked at their portfolio of over 300 startups and 600 founders. Investments in startups with at least one woman on its founding team performed 63% better than in startups with all-male founding teams.

What’s more, according to White House research, greater diversity in an organization leads to greater productivity, higher performance, and better decision-making (cue a collective ‘I’ve been saying this for years’ from female readers).

Other deans confirmed in attendance at the White House meeting were Geoffrey Garrett of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Bill Boulding of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Sally Blount from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Scott Beardsley of Darden, Soumitra Dutta of Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, Eric Johnson of Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, and Sri Zaheer of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

“I think the White House and councils have done a really impressive job mobilizing the industry of business schools around the question of how do we increase the numbers as well as the access to business education for women and girls,” Thomas says. “And how do we begin to prepare this generation of future business leaders that we’re educating to manage and lead a diverse workforce?”


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