Schools Succeed In Attracting More Women


The pow-wow occurred two summers ago when Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, met with two of her senior leaders at the school and concluded they had to launch an initiative to get more women to apply and ultimately enroll in Kellogg’s MBA program.

“Look, this is something that is important to us and we need to do better,” said Blount, according to Betsy Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs, who was at the session with Kate Smith, assistant dean of admissions.

When the MBA students arrived in the fall, Blount gathered student leaders from the Women’s Business Association for a dinner at her home to both enlist their ideas and their support. What followed was a deliberate strategy to build deeper relationships with prospective women students at special recruiting events, through alumni and faculty, and eventually by assigning student, alumni and faculty “buddies” to promising female candidates.


The result: When the two-year MBA students showed up on campus for the first, a record 43% of them were women, up five full percentage points from 38% a year ago. This year, one school after another has been able to enroll unprecedented numbers of women in their MBA programs. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business boosted its female enrollment by ten full percentage points to 42%. Chicago Booth increased its incoming class of female MBAs to 41%, a five-percentage-point gain. Wharton had a three-point improvement, with women representing 43% of its Class of 2017.

Targeted outreach programs allowed Yale University’s School of Management to not only enroll a record percentage of women in its MBA program: 40%, up three percentage points from 37%. But the school also hit record numbers of women for its two other degree programs, the Master of Advanced Management and the Executive MBA. Female enrollment in the specialized master’s program jumped to 39% from 26% of the entering class, while women in Yale’s EMBA program rose to 41% from 23%.

Those gains are not likely to be short-lived. That’s because schools are funneling significant scholarship funds into the effort and working at the earliest stages of the pipeline to encourage women to consider business education. Harvard Business School tapped into women’s colleges to invite rising juniors and seniors for a weekend taste of the HBS experience, including case study classes with some of its most prominent faculty.

This past summer, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management launched a “Women Means Business” program that brought 40 high school juniors to its campus for a full week to expose them to careers in such fields as supply chain management and tech. In the past year alone, Carlson has raised $1 million in fellowship aid to bring more qualified women to the school. But competition for female students is fierce. “Any woman you get to admit, everyone would love to have,” says Assistant Dean Phil Miller. “Schools are crazy aggressive.”

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