How B-Schools Are Addressing Gender Inequality
Dogged by uneven female representation, business schools are putting forth initiatives and scholarships aimed at improving gender diversity in the business world.
Madison Marriage, a contributor at Financial Times, recently discussed the gender divide in business and how b-schools are addressing it.
Women Lag Substantially Behind Men in Leadership Positions
Among S&P 500 companies in the financial services industry, women make up 54% of the labor force, but are only 29% of executive and senior-level managers and merely 2% of CEOs, according to Catalyst, a global nonprofit.
Notably, the percentage of women running mutual funds fell in the past decade from 11% in 2008 to 10% by the end of 2017, according to Morningstar, a research firm. Among the 25 largest banks in the world, women account for less than a quarter of senior staff, according to data submitted to Financial Times.
Reasons Behind Gender Inequality
There are three main reasons, according to the Harvard Business Review, as to why advancement toward gender equality at work has slowed since the 1990s. Attitudes slowly became less egalitarian with gender. Gender integration flat-lined in many occupations. And the gender wage gap began decreasing at slower rates.
“These three trends underscore the paradox of the gender revolution broadly, and more specifically in management,” William Scarborough, the paper’s author, writes. “Yes, we’ve seen amazing progress in many measures of gender equality over the past several decades. Women have surpassed men in nearly all educational measures, and their gains in the workforce constitute one of the largest changes in the history of labor. These are huge advances that should be celebrated. But equal numbers do not always translate into equality itself.”
Rather, Scarborough argues that in order to achieve true gender equality, it’s crucial to recognize how pattern shifts disadvantage women over time and respond proactively.
B-Schools Take Proactive Steps Towards Equality
Among those responding proactively? Business schools.
A number of business schools across the world have introduced initiatives and scholarships aimed at improving gender diversity both within schools and, ultimately, in the business world.
The Lloyds Scholars MBA Scholarships for Women program has provided $47,000 towards course fees at the London Business School since 2014, according to Financial Times. It has also provided a full tuition scholarship offered by the 30% Club, a UK organization that campaigns for greater diversity on boards, at the Alliance Manchester Business School since 2017.
At the University of Maryland’s Robert H Smith School of Business, an ambitious plan to reach gender parity by 2020 was announced in 2015.
When the plan was announced, 36% of the school’s MBA population were women. Now, that number is at 39.5%, according to Financial Times. The school’s officials admit that “despite the progress, our intake of women across our MBA programs has not increased as rapidly as necessary.”
Yet, the University of Maryland is determined to continue building upon its work. Its plan follows a three-pronged approach, according to Financial Times: talks at secondary schools and universities, recruitment events for female professionals, and new course focusing on topics such as female entrepreneurship and confidence.
At Imperial College Business School, gender equality is one of the school’s 10 strategic priorities. According to Financial Times data, the number of female MBA students at Imperial is up from 29% in 2014 to 44% today.
Leila Guerra, associate dean of programs at Imperial, tells Financial Times that the school improved female representation by partnering with organizations to focus on gender equality and ensuring that its marketing materials were “gender neutral.”
The school next goal is to ensure that its faculty is more gender diverse. Women currently make up 30% of the faculty, a slightly higher representation when compared to the 28% average across the top 100 MBA programs ranked by Financial Times.
“We are not there yet,” Guerra tells Financial Times. “That is something that is a priority. I hope we will get there in the next five years.”