According to some studies, 2021 was the best year yet for women and the MBA, with the highest-ever enrollments and an impressive bounce back from the declines spurred by the pandemic. But that good news comes with a big caveat: Women MBA candidates still lag behind their male counterparts by large margins.
In November, the Forté Foundation found that female MBA enrollment was 41% in 2021 — a historic high, but still 18 points lower than male enrollment. The Graduate Management Admission Council found that Covid-19 had a larger negative impact on women than on men, in part because women typically take on a larger share of a family’s childcare. Disparity in women’s MBA education inevitably impacts the composition — and quality — of C-suites and boardrooms.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Poets&Quants profiles eight MBAs at elite business schools, asking them to reflect on gender parity in their programs and in the business world. We asked what needs to happen to bring more women to business schools and C-suites, and why it should matter in the first place. Their answers are both illuminating and inspiring.
STORIES & INSIGHTS
In the following pages, you will read about Suhani Jolata of Stanford Graduate School of Business who runs a social enterprise working to erase the stigma of women’s menstruation in India so women can more freely enter the workforce. About Mariam Dembele of Wharton who organized job search workshops for unemployed women in her home country of Mali. And about Stephanie Puzak of Dartmouth Tuck who is leading efforts in her MBA program to help propel women into leadership.
There’s Ziana Kotadia of Harvard Business School who wants young girls to see themselves in business earlier. Ashley Snow of Kellogg who was the only mother in her MBA program–and who breastfed her daughter in the school’s Global Hub as soon as her Kellogg interview concluded. Kristin Lim of Stanford GSB who volunteers with groups working to bring more women into entrepreneurship and STEM. Nikki Liao of Yale School of Management, an architect who co-founded a mentoring and networking committee for female employees and male allies at her firm.
And there’s Drew Silverman of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business who reminds us that the goal should not merely be gender parity, but equality for all.
“Don’t forget that gender parity is just a statistical measure of the female-to-male ratio under specific indicators! Discussing gender equity is more worthwhile and inclusive,” she tells Poets&Quants. “Achieving gender equity involves a substantial shift that goes beyond ratios to include the reshaping of societal norms, identity construction, bodily autonomy, and feelings of belonging for historically excluded groups.”
Click through each page below to read their stories and insights. They offer practical ideas not only for increasing women representation, but why it is necessary for the future of work.
“Gender parity in business schools is absolutely essential to build the workplaces we need in the future,” Ashley Snow tells P&Q. “I am especially passionate about increasing the number and visibility of mothers in business school. While many young fathers attend graduate school, it is still shockingly rare for mothers to apply. This disparity is an invisible barrier to gender equality that persists even today.”
Next page: Suhani Jalota, Stanford Graduate School of Business