By The Numbers: Are Women Really Making Progress At Business School?

Harvard Business School Baker Library - Ethan Baron photo

Harvard Business School Baker Library – Ethan Baron photo


Finally, the Financial Times also collects data on the percentage of women on school advisory boards. While such positions are sometimes ceremonial posts based on donations, they do provide women with access to leadership and a voice in how schools operate. In this category Harvard is the clear winner, with nearly half of its board (49%) comprised of women. Remarkably, that total is just 1% higher than it was 16 years ago, reflecting the school’s commitment to inclusion.

How big of a difference is this? Besides Harvard, just five American business schools maintain boards where a quarter or more of its board is comprised of women. According to the Financial Times, they include Wisconsin (33%), Stanford (30%), Minnesota Carlson (29%), Broad (26%), and Illinois (25%).

In terms of beefing up their boards with women, the top performers (over the past 16 years) among Top 25 American programs include: Stanford (+18%), Kellogg (+16%), Darden (+14%), Kelley (+14%), Wharton (+13%), UCLA Anderson (+12%), and Foster (+11%). Notice a trend? Kellogg (Sally Blount), Kelley (Idalene Kesner), and UCLA Anderson (Judy Olian) are all helmed by women. Florida Hough (+25%), Texas A&M Mays (+18%), Maryland Smith (+16%), and Rice Jones (+13%) have also substantively increased the presence of women on their boards.


Outside the United States, the change is even more significant. Eight overseas programs – Oxford, Grenoble Ecole de Management (France), Toronto Rotman, Birmingham (UK), Macquarie (Australia), Western Ontario Ivey, Lisbon and St. Gallen (Switzerland) all retain boards with either equal representation between men and women – or where women serve in the majority.

Oxford heads the pack at 57%, U.K. schools (shocker) again set the pace. Look no further than Imperial (45%), Cass (42%), Leeds (40%), Alliance Manchester (38%), Lancaster (36%), Bath (36%), Edinburgh (35%), Durham (35%), and Strathclyde (35%). In other words, British institutions account for 11 of the 20 highest concentrations of women on school boards.

Although Oxford boasts the highest percentage of women on its board – a head scratcher considering that only 16% of their faculty are women – you’ll find the biggest growth of female board membership at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Here, the percentage skyrocketed a mind-blowing 46% since the 2000 rankings, bouncing from 9% to 55%! Their Canadian cousins, Ivey, also started at 9% and vaulted to 50% in that same period. And IE Business School made a similar jump, from 10% to 46%, as well.


Let’s put those numbers into context. According to Catalyst’s latest survey of U.S. stock index companies (released in January 2015), women held just 19.2% of board seats. And 23 Fortune 500 firms had no women on their boards (at the time that this report was released), To borrow a familiar phrase, nearly every business school is on the faster side of slow in this regard.

Still, there are plenty of pockets where work needs to be done. Despite Haas’ progressive reputation, just 17% of its board members are women. While women have increasingly flocked to Wharton and Booth, those numbers aren’t being reciprocated by board membership, which rests at 17% and 12% respectively at these schools. In fact, three American MBA programs – Johnson, Stern, and Sloan – have seen their percentage of women on the board each decline by 3% over the past 16 years.

You’ll also find several laggards overseas. For example, school boards are composed of fewer than 10% women at programs like Fudan University (4%), Indian School of Business (6%), and CEIBS (8%). At the same time, the percentage of female board members at Judge has fallen by 8% over the past decade (coinciding with a 10% fall in female faculty members).

To see historical data on the top domestic and international programs for the percentage of female students, faculty and board members, go to the next pages.