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More Female MBAs, But Still A Long Way To Go

WHAT SCHOOLS ARE DOING TO BOOST FEMALE ENROLLMENT

There is a groundswell to change this position; therefore, programs to encourage young women to consider careers in business and as business academics are now being implemented.  In the US, this can be seen in the form of targeting women’s colleges and having women-focused days at their schools; Harvard Business School even launched an initiative in 2014 to encourage female MBA applicants by giving women the chance to experience a weekend at the school for a low fee.

Some schools are making their campuses more female-friendly by providing child care facilities, courses that are flexible in terms of f2f time, and scholarships for women, so that they can afford to enter business schools in the first place.

The corporate sector is also seeking out more women for leadership positions within their companies. These companies are not only funding women’s participation in programs, they are also funding whole programs for women at some schools. This is putting pressure on schools to change.

More recently, several schools have begun to include female leadership initiatives as part of their curricula; these initiatives support women in advancing their careers once they graduate. They include topics such as how to gain promotions and negotiate salary increases. It is early days to measure the success of these programs, but equipping women with the skills they need to advance once they begin their careers is crucial.

GLOOMY PICTURE: FEMALE FACULTY AT TOP SCHOOLS

An examination of the top business schools’ faculty gender balance statistics paints a gloomy picture. There hasn’t been much change since last year, with six schools having a female faculty rate of less than 20%, which includes the number 1-ranked INSEAD.

IMD is at the lowest end of the spectrum, with 14% female faculty (a decrease of 1% since last year), and only one top-tier school boasts a female faculty rate of over 30% this year. With 38% female faculty, the Spanish institution IE Business School is leading the way here.

As with large private sector organizations, these business schools reflect the male hierarchical system. Men run businesses, and men run business schools; the business school environment is still pretty hostile for women.

WHAT WOULD MORE WOMEN AT THE TOP LOOK LIKE?

Deans and their leadership teams need to have the hard conversations about these issues.  There is a great deal of acknowledgment that businesses perform better when there are balanced leadership teams, and this should be the same for business schools.

When we factor in the underlying bias around the fact that there is still a culture that believes that leaders and managers should be male, we must ask ourselves what it might mean to have women at the top, and what would that look like?

Research undertaken amongst academics in the U.K. 20 years ago showed that male academics at lower levels do not stereotype the manager role, however those in senior positions stereotyped it as male. Whilst we have come some way since then, this stereotyping still exists, and changing socialized perceptions is clearly a huge challenge in any environment. (Frances Foster, (1994) “Managerial Sex Role Stereotyping among Academic Staff within UK Business Schools“, Women in Management Review, Vol. 9 Iss: 3, pp.17 – 22).

When looking into business schools, women see men at all levels within the organization, which subconsciously indicates to women that they are not welcome, or do not belong in these institutions. This is a form of second-generation bias.

Until perhaps the last ten years, the majority of women have not viewed their careers as pathways to becoming business leaders. Further to this, business schools have not encouraged women to join as faculty, and thus women haven’t seen themselves following careers as business academics. Together with a few senior leaders, there is presently no large pool of women from which the wider business school community can draw.