Five years ago, only three of the top 25 U.S. schools had 40% or more women enrolled in their MBA programs. Now nearly half do. Meanwhile, only five of the top programs have backslid over the last five years — and none more than three percentage points — while at some programs the number of women has skyrocketed.
Is the dream of gender parity finally within reach? Which school will be the first to achieve the hallowed 50% mark? Could 2018 — or 2019, or 2020 — be the Year of the MBA Woman?
Admissions consultant mbaMission examined the latest class profiles of 16 business schools and found that while no school has yet to break 50%, some seem to be on their way. Two programs — the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — featured 44% women in the Class of 2019, and both the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Yale School of Management followed closely with 43% each.
Harvard Business School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management were next, with 42% each — in fact, all of the top 10 schools in the Poets&Quants 2017 ranking had at least 40%. Meanwhile, only four schools in the top 25 are below 30%: Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management (27%), Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business (27%), Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business (28%), and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (29%).
‘EQUALITY HAS NOT BEEN REACHED IN BUSINESS’ — OR IN BUSINESS SCHOOL
But hold off on over-praising the 12 schools that have reached the 40% threshold. In many cases — especially for the schools that needed double-digit improvements from 2013 to 2017 — all we’re really talking about is a few steps up from truly awful. Their progress mostly signifies just how far some schools had to go in narrowing the gender gap. And if you examine year-to-year data, the overall picture is not as encouraging, with nine schools losing ground between 2016 and 2017.
Writing about career ‘”pivot points” and the need for more women in the C-suite, Kellogg Dean Sally Blount recently published an article in Kellogg Insight in which she explored why women make up nearly 60% of college graduates and more than 50% of graduate school classes in traditionally male fields like law and medicine, yet still can’t break through in business. “As the only female leading a top-10 business school, I find this troubling,” Blount writes. “Further, past data predicts that at least 50% of the women graduating from top MBA programs in 2017 will exit the full-time U.S. workforce within 10 years of graduating — either because they choose to step out or are ‘forced out.’ This trend does not portend well for future progress.”
Blount’s solution: Get more women into the talent pipeline, and keep them in their jobs by paying them what their male counterparts make.
5-YEAR VERSUS 1-YEAR, AND THE PICTURE IN EUROPE
For many of the top U.S. schools, 50% is within striking distance — even more so thanks to big five-year gains. The biggest came at the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, which jumped 14 points from 2013 to 2017 to hit 40% — the only school outside the P&Q top 11 to reach that mark. Also seeing double-digit gains since 2013: Dartmouth Tuck (12 points, to 44%), UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (11 points, to 40%), and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which grew its female MBA population 10 points to 43%. Overall, at the 20 schools that saw improvement over five years, the average gain was 5.75%.
Looking at the last two years alone, the picture is a bit muddier, with five schools staying even, nine losing ground (average loss: 2.22%) and 11 gaining an average of 4.45%. Most notably, Notre Dame Mendoza gained 10 points between 2016 and 2017 to rise to 28% — up from the lowest mark in any of the five years for any of the 25 schools, 18% in 2016; and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business grew its female MBA representation 10 points as well, to 34%.
How do the top European schools compare? Only one MBA program, Oxford Said’s one-year program, cracked 40% in the 2017 intake, hitting 41%, a 10-point improvement in just two years. Oxford’s competitors, meanwhile, remained mired in the 30s. London Business School was next with 39%, a three-point improvement over the last four years, along with Cambridge Judge’s one-year program at 39% — clearly they are on to something in England.
Over on the Continent, French schools INSEAD and HEC Paris each have 34% in the 2017 intake, a three-point improvement for INSEAD since 2014 and a one-point uptick for HEC in that span. Over in Spain, IE’s one-year program has improved two points since 2014, to 30%, while IESE has gained the most, 10 points, to rise to 32%.
In 2016, 27 of the Financial Times’ top 100 global schools boasted female enrollment of more than 40% (including nine schools with more than 45%) — double the number from the year before. Yet in a report released last March, the Graduate Management Admission Council found that only 37% of MBA students globally were women.
(See the next page for the complete five-year snapshot for the entire Poets&Quants top 25.)