Historic: Oxford Saïd Enrolls 51% Women In Its MBA

Historic: Oxford Saïd Enrolls 51% Women In Its MBA

Oxford Saïd Business School has enrolled 51% women in its latest MBA class — a first for the B-school and a first for a major European MBA program. Among them is Ifeoma Donnellan, above. Oxford photo

One of the most exclusive clubs in graduate business education just got a new member — its first in Europe.

Oxford University’s Saïd Business School announced today (October 3) that it has become just the third major B-school to enroll an MBA class that is comprised of more than half women. Oxford’s one-year MBA program’s MBA Class of 2023-2024 is comprised of 51% women, up from 48% last year and 44% two years ago.

It’s a remarkable transformation for a school that a decade ago reported just 31% women in its MBA class.

“We are delighted to welcome so many female students this year, realizing our long-cherished goal of creating an MBA class that addresses the long-seen imbalance in gender representation,” Kathy Harvey, Oxford Saïd’s associate dean for MBA and executive degrees, says in an announcement of Oxford’s historic achievement. “We hope that by striving for equality in our community, our graduates will go on to champion this throughout their careers.”


Oxford Saïd’s Kathy Harvey: Scholarships for women “tell the world that Oxford is committed to increasing female representation in its MBA class”

Oxford Saïd joins the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, which enrolled 52% women in 2018, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which has enrolled at least 50% women each of the last three years, as the only other top schools to be members of the gender parity club. Before this year, no European B-school had ever managed the feat.

In fact, European and Asian B-schools tend to lag their U.S. peers in the enrollment of women. Last year, Oxford led all European schools with 48% women; the next closest major European program was Cambridge Judge Business School, also in the UK, at 47%. Most of the other top European programs have reported women’s enrollment in the upper 30% range, while CEIBS, in Shanghai, China, led all major Asian B-schools in 2022 with 40% women.

The news of Oxford’s accomplishment comes amid signs of slowing progress at the leading U.S. schools. While the global benchmark of female MBA candidates is approximately 40%, top B-schools in the U.S. had gradually moved into the middle and upper 40% range over the last five years; this fall, however, several top schools are reporting noteworthy declines:

However, at Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, and others, women’s enrollment rates are holding steady or improving.


Jessica Lauw, Oxford MBA student: Looking forward to “forming genuine friendships that last beyond the MBA, especially female friendships”

For all the strides women have made in graduate business education, they continue to lag their male counterparts in senior positions requiring an MBA, particularly in STEM industries, with only 10.4% of female CEOs currently leading Fortune 500 companies. A study earlier this year by the nonprofit Forté Foundation found that while an MBA unquestionably boosts most women’s careers, the gender pay gap persists, with men earning about 6% more than their female peers.

Oxford Saïd, ranked 13th in Poets&Quants‘ latest international ranking and 28th in the latest Financial Times list, can help change that, Kathy Harvey says.

“Business schools like Oxford Saïd can help create a climate for change by aspiring for equal numbers of male and female students in our MBA class, and by doing all we can to create a truly diverse community with a multitude of backgrounds,” she says, pointing to the B-school’s recruitment and admissions team that has worked to help female applicants overcome structural societal disadvantages. One of the ways they do that is through scholarships. Oxford Saïd offers a number of scholarship programs for women, including the Forté Fellowship, made possible through the Rewley Fund supported by Oxford Saïd alumni; the Laidlaw Scholarship, which offers up to 10 scholarships annually; and the Oxford-Intesa Sanpaolo MBA Scholarships, with Green Templeton College, providing additional grants for living expenses and childcare. Oxford Saïd celebrated ten years of partnership with the Forté Foundation this year.

“Women make up half the population, but as their careers progress, the gender gap in senior roles begins to widen,” Harvey continues. “We need to acknowledge that many of our students make significant sacrifices to pay for their MBA, but the scholarships for female candidates play a specific role. They tell the world that Oxford is committed to increasing female representation in its MBA class and, therefore in the workplace. We are tremendously grateful for our donors’ support in achieving these aspirations. When female candidates see these scholarships advertised on our website, they know we care about their aspirations.”


Jessica Lauw, Oxford MBA 2023-24 and Laidlaw scholarship recipient, says she expects her year at Oxford to lead to “genuine friendships that last beyond the MBA.”

“I look forward to being exposed to and challenged by a hugely diverse perspective,” Lauw says, “which hopefully will advance my thinking and help me discover an unexplored version of myself – something that I believe is critical to becoming a better leader. I’m also looking forward to forming genuine friendships that last beyond the MBA, especially female friendships, and alliances. Many people have said that the best part of being in the Oxford MBA is the people, and though I have only caught a glimpse of it, the cohort has been both brilliant and warm.”

Ifeoma Donnellan, another member of the Oxford MBA Class of 2023-2024, adds: “To be part of Oxford Saïd, a world-class institution at the forefront of championing diversity and inclusion, is truly inspiring. As a woman of African heritage, it is one of the first instances in my life where I find myself in the majority.

“My hope is that this can motivate other MBA programs and businesses to strive for gender parity.”


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