‘WE CERTAINLY DDN’T GO INTO THE ADMISSIONS SEASON WITH THIS GOAL’
It was certainly not a no-brainer for Marshall to hit the 52% record. So far only two other prominent MBA programs have released their class profiles for the Class of 2020. At New York University’s Stern School of Business, women dropped to 35% of the incoming class from 38% a year earlier. The University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business maintained last year’s 40% level of women for its incoming class this fall.
Marshall hadn’t even set a goal to achieve gender parity this year. “We certainly didn’t go into the season with that goal,” says Evan Bouffides, assistant dean and director of MBA admissions. “It kind of went in peaks and valleys throughout the season. Early in the cycle, the first round was pretty small but we got a huge response rate from our invites to women, in the 40% range. As we proceeded through the admissions cycle, those numbers changed and fell slightly and then started to rise again. We peaked at a time when a bunch of things were going well for us, including the rankings gain in U.S. News. I am sure that had an impact.”
Bouffides cites a number of other factors that helped to get more women into the MBA program. The school is in the second year of a new customer relationship management (CRM) program which changed admissions ability to better connect with prospects. “We are communicating with prospective students more frequently than we had in the past,” he explains.
THE SCHOOL’S TWO MAJOR YIELD EVENTS FOCUSED HEAVILY ON INCLUSION & DIVERSITY
The school’s two major yield events—a women’s weekend in January and its admit weekend—had a greater impact than usual on women admits because diversity and inclusion were a major focus of the events. Yield—the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll in the MBA program—was much higher for women than it was last year.
And the school’s student ambassadors—a disproportionate share of them women—also helped to sway more female admits. “Our students pretty aggressively recruited people we liked and especially people we admitted,” adds Bouffides. “We have a lot of women involved in the ambassador group and our Graduate Women in Business club also helped to convince people to come.
“It strikes me that the quality in the overall pool was the strongest that I have seen and stronger than last year,” he adds. “Had I known last year that the cycle would end up with 2,000 applicants maybe we could have done better. So some of it is processes. Some of it is the terrific work of our students and staff, and there’s probably a little luck in there.”
ONE POSITIVE MACRO TREND: MORE WOMEN TOOK THE GMAT IN TESTING YEAR 2017 THAN EVER BEFORE
Mark Brostoff, assistant dean and director of graduate career services at Marshall, thinks the record will also help the school with job placement. “As we go to market with internship opportunities and full-time jobs, jemployers are going to be very happy that we have a 50-50 split in the class,” says Brostoff. “They want more women in their pipelines. The resumes requested most often in the last couple of years are of female candidates.”
One macro trend that is helping schools increase the number of women in graduate management programs is the fact that women sat for 45.4% of the GMAT exams delivered in testing year 2017, the highest percentage in the history of the exam. Five years earlier, women sat for 42.5 percent of GMAT exams. Women, in fact, accounted for 63% of GMAT exams taken by citizens of East/Southeast Asian countries, the highest percentage of all world regions. Even so, men sent a greater percentage of their score reports to MBA programs (71%) compared with women (53%).
A handful of second-tier schools have achieved an ever higher level of female representation in their full-time MBA programs. Durham Business School in the United Kingdom and Essec Business School in France both are over 60%, with Durham at 67% and Essec at 65%. Several U.S. schools even boast higher percentages, but they are smaller, relatively unknown MBA programs. Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., which enrolled a full-time class of only 15 students last year could claim that 89.1% of its incoming class was composed of women. The University of North Texas, with an incoming class of just 14 full-time MBA students, was at 71.4%.