Women and MBAs

Mba Woman

The Facts and Figures

When looking at the intake of women onto MBA courses from a global perspective, the figure lies at around 30 per cent, and the relatively few women that do enrol on the course underachieve when compared to their male counterparts. Researchers at Harvard attribute this to two factors: women are reluctant to speak up, perhaps because they are outnumbered by males; they don’t want to appear overly bookish, possibly due to media and cultural influences. This lack of achievement within the course spills over into their careers as findings show that women with MBAs are less 'successful' than men later in life. Of Fortune’s list of the top 500 companies, females make up fewer than 3.1 per cent of executive staff. This percentage may be more than that of 50 years’ ago but at the current rate of growth it would take 475 years before women reach equality in the workplace.

The changing demographic of the MBA student body and the business world at large

The Independent reports that more women than ever took the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in 2013, with 43 per cent of candidates being female. The amount admitted on to MBA courses is also showing an increasing trend, 42 per cent of the 2012 University of Pennsylvania’s MBA cohort were females; figures for other schools are generally on the increase. From an international student point of view, MBA courses based in the UK are beginning to attract more women than men, as reflected in the 2012 student intake at London Business School. Of LBS’ Chinese intake, there was a higher number of women than men.

What about MBAs later down the line in their professional lives? Crystal Wu of Expedia, has her own opinion on the matter, "An MBA course is very short – one or two years," says Wu, "and once women have gone through it there isn't any support network.”

Crystal was instrumental in setting up MBA Women International in response to the lack of support. The organisation seeks to provide women with the professional development and networking opportunities to help ensure career success. It’s early days for MBA Women International, but we do see benefits to a women’s career, if they have an MBA. The Forté Foundation, a consortium of corporations and business schools committed to helping women achieve fulfilling careers in business, report that those who have an MBA enjoy a 55-65 per cent increase in their salary five years’ after graduation. AMBA supports the finding that women with an MBA do indeed enjoy successful careers, stating that female MBA holders have a strong presence in strategy and planning, marketing and sales, and research and finance industries.

Although the proportion of women enrolled on MBA courses and with a presence in the boardroom is still lower than their male counterparts, it seems things are slowly changing. With MBAs such as Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo and Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook paving the way, the rate of change may increase. That’s not to mention the fact that companies with a greater representation of female leadership see a 53 per cent higher return on equity (Forté Foundation).