Though women are increasingly interested in an MBA to enhance their career prospects, they still have a ways to go to reach gender parity.
Consider the research: Last November, the Forté Foundation found that in 2021, women’s MBA enrollment leaped to an all-time high of 41%, achieving a long-term goal of the nonprofit on its 20th anniversary. Meanwhile, in its first-ever global report on diversity in 2021, the Graduate Management Admission Council found that despite gains women have made in enrollments in some U.S. B-schools, they continued to lag men, particularly at the graduate level and particularly in Europe.
Reaching gender parity is a stated goal at many of the top business schools — and a great talking point when they reach it. Just ask University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School which became the first top-10 business school to enroll a majority of women in its MBA program last fall at 52%. Or USC Marshall School of Business, which became the first major MBA program to reach the 50% threshold in 2018.
To help achieve their parity goals, many schools and other institutions offer generous scholarship packages to attract top women candidates. As International Women’s Day approaches, Poets&Quants compiled a list of some of the biggest institutional and school-specific scholarship programs for women MBA candidates. The list is nowhere near exhaustive, and candidates should conduct their own searches for programs that best fit their qualifications. See the bottom off the page for strategies when applying.
FORTE FOUNDATION’S FELLOWSHIPS FOR WOMEN MBAs
The Forté Foundation, founded in 2001 in response to lagging women’s enrollment in business compared to law and medical school programs, has helped women earn MBAs for over two decades. In 2021, more than half of its 56 member schools had upward of 40% women enrolled in MBA programs, up from just 42% of member schools the year before.
Since its founding, Forté’s MBA Fellowships have awarded $3334 million in scholarships. Women who are offered a spot in one of Forté’s partner schools–including Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, Columbia, and many top-ranked programs–are automatically considered for a Forté fellowship.
THE NESTLÉ SCHOLARSHIP FOR WOMEN
Nestlé offers $27,246 to women from developing economies who are admitted to IMD Business School in Switzerland. Women applying to IMD are automatically considered, but are asked to write an essay on the prompt: “Building a diverse and inclusive workplace requires the participation and accountability of each member of the organization. What would you recommend as ways for Nestlé to better foster allyship amongst employees?” according to the IMD website.
It was first awarded in 1997 after it was created by a group of IMD MBA alumni. Deadline to apply is September 1.
LAIDLAW FOUNDATION SCHOLARSHIPS
The Laidlaw Foundation was founded by Lord Laidlaw of Scotland, a long-time philanthropist and entrepreneur. One of its four main programs is to fund women in graduate business education, particularly MBA programs. Learn more about the program in this P&Q article.
Since its founding, it has helped more than 300 women earn their MBA from Columbia Business School with its Women’s Business Education Scholarship. In 2019, it launched Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund program with London Business School and a similar program at Oxford’s Saïd Business School in 2020.
Each of the schools has their own application process, so check their websites for details.
SCHOOL LEVEL SCHOLARSHIPS
Most of the top business schools have their own fellowships and named scholarships to help women attain an MBA. Check individual school websites or speak directly with admission staff for details about programs at your target schools. You can also find more funding advice and women-oriented scholarships in this P&Q article.
Below is a short, non-exhaustive list of some school scholarships that caught our attention.
- Emory’s Goizueta Business School: This summer, Goizueta announced a $5 million endowment to establish the Rosemary and John Brown Family Scholars Program for women to increase female leadership representation in Fortune 500 financial services companies. According to a July P&Q story, Brown Family Scholars admitted into any of Goizueta’s graduate programs “will benefit from small-by-design program classes known for a collaborative culture and highly experiential learning model. This will help scholars to formally build camaraderie and continue with mentoring and networking during the remainder of their studies.”
- University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business: Also in July, Darden School Foundation launched its Breakthrough Scholars Program for women and underrepresented minorities interested in private equity, venture capital or hedge fund careers. The merit-based, full-ride scholarship is worth up to $150,000. Read more in this P&Q story.
- Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management: Kellogg’s Drake Scholars program began in 2017 with a $4 million gift from alumni Ann Drake, an industry leader in Supply Chain Management. She added to that gift in early 2021 with Kellogg’s largest ever gift by an alumna to create a “formal, global network that in the next five years will reach more than 5,000 women,” according to this P&Q article. It will fund between 30 to 35 scholarships as well as other initiatives.
- Chicago Booth School of Business: The Wallman Fellowship provides full tuition to the Chicago Booth School of Business to female applicants who “demonstrate outstanding leadership and a commitment to advancing women in business.” Women in underrepresented minority groups are preferred.
INSEAD: INSEAD has several scholarships geared to women MBA applicants. The Groupe Galeries Lafayette Endowed Scholarship awards $12,000 to women in retail fashion who commit to serving customers regardless of race or social background. Judith Connelly Delouvrier Endowed Scholarship is awarded to one female MBA student from each class based on merit. It is worth $15,000. Also, women engineers applying to the INSEAD MBA can apply for the Piet and Wina Van Waeyenberge Endowed Scholarship worth $15,700.
- London Business School: A Higher Education Advancing Diversity (AHEAD) scholarship, worth $35,000, is awarded to women from developing economies who are enrolled in London Business School’s MBA or Masters in Finance programs. Women MBA candidates can also apply for the merit-based Carlsson Family Scholarship, worth $28,000. Or, women from Australia or New Zealand may be eligible for the Kearney Australia New Zealand Women’s Scholarship Program, worth up to $11,700.
APPLICATION DOs AND DON’Ts
GMAC offers the following tips to help women boost their chances of earning a scholarship to their preferred MBA program.
DO learn as much as you can about the process and the particular scholarship you’d like to target.
“First of all, get familiar with the application process. Scholarship hopefuls should find out why the fund was created and what is expected of candidates,” GMAC suggests. “This way, they can focus their efforts on scholarships they are likely to be granted, rather than taking a scattershot approach.”
DO NOT wait to apply.
While some scholarships automatically consider women when they are accepted to certain business schools, others require a separate application process. You should apply to these as early as possible. “Schools have a limited amount of funding available and applying early means competing with fewer applicants for these funds,” GMAC says. You’ll also have more time to hone your application essays.
DO tailor your business school application.
Scholarships that don’t require a separate application use your school application to measure eligibility and merit. For example, the Forté Foundation “looks out for women who will be ambassadors for gender equality in the MBA classroom and beyond.” If you are applying to a Forte partner school, ensuring your MBA application demonstrates how you will support other women in business after graduation is a good idea.
DO tell your story.
“In most successful scholarship applications, the candidate’s personality will shine through,” GMAC says. “Individuality is what makes applications stand out to a panel who are probably looking over several potential profiles.”