MBAs: Gender Inequality Common In The Workplace

Woman or man, if you’re an MBA working today, chances are better than even that you’ve seen gender inequality in action at a former workplace — or experienced it yourself. In newly published research, 59% of MBAs — nearly six in 10 — say they have “personally experienced” or “heard of” gender inequality at “one or more past organizations.” 

The report by the Forte Foundation, a nonprofit alliance of business schools and companies whose mission is to advance women in B-schools and the workplace, found that the number of MBAs who have seen or heard of gender inequality at their current workplace narrows to 46% — still alarmingly high, Forte CEO Elissa Sangster says.

“There has actually been some progress on this issue, but there is still considerable work to be done,” Sangster tells Poets&Quants.


Elissa Sangster. File photo

The online survey of 900 male and female MBA alumni who graduated between 2005-2017 was conducted by Forté and led by Michelle Wieser, Ph.D., who currently serves as the interim dean at the School of Business at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and released today (April 2). April 2nd is Equal Pay Day, the distance into the 2019 calendar that it takes for a woman, on average, to earn what a man made by the end of 2018. Forte’s research is the second in a series; a third installment is expected in May or June.

Among the key findings of the new report: On the question of whether women and men have achieved gender equality in the workplace, more than three-fourths of MBA respondents (76%) say the answer is no. There is a significant difference by gender, however. More than eight in 10 female MBAs (82%) believe gender equality has not been achieved, and this is even higher for minority women (87%); meanwhile, only six in 10 male MBAs (63%) agree that gender equality has not been achieved.

“This new research sheds light on whether we’re seeing improvements in workplace gender equality for MBAs, what issues impact women and men the most, and how business school helps to prepare alumni to address,” Sangster says. “We found that while gender inequality in the workplace is still pervasive, we may be starting to see improvements in MBA’s personal experiences from their past to current employer. And recent MBA graduates are more likely to say than earlier alumni that the degree helped prepare them to tackle these issues in the workplace.”


The second part of the latest Forte research poses the question: Does an MBA degree eliminate gender inequality — such as the pay gap — when graduates return to the workplace? “The answer, unfortunately, is no,” Sangster says, “but there are positive developments. MBAs and employers are taking steps to address gender inequality at work, more than ever before, and business schools are increasingly helping to prepare grads to tackle these issues. 

“For example, we have more Men as Allies clubs on campus this year the ever before — 41 in 2019,” she adds, pointing to “Manbassador” programs at elite schools as having paved the way for the clubs to serve as campuswide conversation facilitators. Launched in 2016, the Men as Allies program found purchase at such schools as Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, New York University’s Stern School of Business, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, The Wharton School, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, leveraging insights gained from engaging men as champions of gender equity. 

“It is ultimately a great step in advancing women into business,” Sangster says. “Business school is such an incubator for future leaders, and this has given students the resources to build the movement further.”

Source: Forte Foundation

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