The Fight for Gender Equality in B-Schools
Business schools are pushing to increase female enrollment across MBA programs.
Women make up a majority of the US population, yet they earn only 38% of MBAs, according to The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Among S&P 500 board members, only 21% are women.
Bloomberg Businessweek recently discussed some of the ways business schools are trying to change those statistics.
“If we can get more women to come into business school, that’s a way to build the pipeline to effect change longer term,” Ellen Taaffe, the director of women’s leadership programs at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, tells Bloomberg. “This is not a women’s issue. It’s a human issue.”
The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership
At the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Kellie McElhaney teaches “The Business Case for Investing in Women,” a course that demonstrates how companies with greater numbers of women leaders tend to have higher share prices and better returns on equity and investment.
McElhaney helped to launch the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership in November. The center offers specialized courses, fellowships, and student research teams dedicated to helping graduate more women.
“At the heart of one of the most diverse business schools in the country, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership increases the volume of the conversation and velocity of progress towards creating a more diverse and equitable business world by amplifying equity, developing diversity fluent leaders, and transforming the power base,” the center’s website reads.
Introducing Full-Tuition Scholarships
At Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, the announcement of full-tuition scholarships yielded higher enrollment of female students. According to Bloomberg, the share of women enrolled rose to 39% in 2017, from 30% when scholarship was created.
“Right now, schools are spending a lot of energy on trying to attract female MBAs,” Pam Delany, director of recruiting and admissions at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, tells Bloomberg.
Changing Business Perception
Experts say the “biggest hurdle” to achieving parity is changing corporate cultures in the business world to more equitable workplaces.
“There is a perception in the business world that ‘oh, this problem is solved,’ and it’s really not,” Taaffe of Northwestern tells Bloomberg.
While business schools have introduced changes to offer solutions to the gender inequity issue, many are far from achieving gender parity. According to The Economist, the average cohort at schools surveyed for The Economist‘s ranking of MBA programs contained 30% women. Fast-forward to 2015, and that number only increased to 34%. Only one school in The Economist’s top 100 b-schools, Lancaster University Management School in Britain—admits as many women as men.
Elissa Sangster, executive director of the Forte Foundation, a consortium of business schools and companies promoting women’s place in industry, tells The Economist that gender equality in business education will, ultimately, drive equality in the business world.
“What we hope is that men and women will go to business schools and see women, and that will be something that seems normal,” she tells The Economist. “Then, when they graduate and go out into the business world to companies where the headshots of women make up one in every 10 photographs on a corporate website, they will look askance and question why that is.”