MBAs in the (Gender) Balance

MBAs in the (Gender) Balance

Here’s an interesting statistic: there are more female undergraduates than male.

For the first time in history women outnumber men at university. Even in law and medical schools, the preserve of the middle class male, the gender balance is tipping – and it’s tipping significantly.

So why are we still nowhere near parity in MBA uptake around the world?

In fact, the numbers show that the share of women enrolled on MBA programs seems to have peaked and plateaued over the last 10 years, quite some way short of 50 per cent.

Perhaps an even better question is: does it matter?

Why should more women be taking MBAs?

Put very bluntly, MBA programs are a training ground for upcoming leaders.

If the pipeline is skewed more heavily to men, fewer women are likely to accede to positions of leadership in the corporate context. Fewer women bosses. Fewer women in the boardroom. Fewer women taking the critical decisions that affect organizations, livelihoods, economies and societies. And that’s bad for business.

Research demonstrates that companies with more women at the helm outperform their competitors. Hard stats from Harvard Business Review suggest that a female share of as little as 30 per cent at the C-suite level can increase profitability by 15 per cent.

Women at the top are also in a position to cascade opportunity for other women in their organizations; to redress legacy issues like the gender pay gap; and to help re-calibrate a global culture that still makes it hard to be successful working mother. They are compelling role models. They are trailblazers that say to other women: you too can succeed.  

Here’s another startling statistic: of the Fortune 100, women make up just 14 per cent of executive committees.

Only 8 CEOs are women.

And of those 8, only 1 woman studied at a top business school.

First, (a Bit More) Bad News

So while women achieve and exceed parity at the undergraduate level, B-schools have been much slower to catch up. And there are a few reasons.

Beyond the notorious (and probably unfair) “bro-ski,” associations, B-Schools are still pretty dominated by men: in faculty, in class and in study material. The notion of being in a minority for 12 or 18 months – and at significant financial cost – can make even the most committed careerist balk at the thought of an MBA.

And talking of cost… research from the Graduate Management Association Council (GMAC) shows that funding is a real stopper for many women. In the US, 30 per cent of women surveyed said that taking time out of their career and securing the funds to do an MBA were “significant barriers.” This compared with only 9 per cent of men.

“It’s a real shame when women don’t invest in their capabilities,” says Rotterdam School of Management MBA Anna Grigoryan. “When you do an MBA there are no limits to improving yourself both personally and professionally.”

Now for Some Good News

The same GMAC study does point to some encouraging findings – especially in attitudes and motivation among women.

For a start, MBAs are still deemed to be relevant. They are seen by a majority of women as a fast track to much wider career advancement and leadership opportunities.

And, compared to their male counterparts, women take a much more pragmatic and outcomes-focused approach – not only to the MBA, but to the GMAT exam itself.

Where men have reportedly found the GMAT “too difficult,” women sail through with comparative ease, prioritizing a desire to learn, to discover new ideas, to advance more quickly and to boost their earning potential.

What the study shows is that women have a tendency to plan early and set high stock on things like the degree of convenience or flexibility in program formats on offer.

5 Good Business Reasons Women Should Do an MBA

  1.  You will gain the experience and confidence to manage the so-called “old boy network”
  2. You’ll come away with the management and communication chops to deal with competition and competitive types
  3. Your appetite for and capacity to deal with risk will change and might even increase
  4. You’ll understand how to project your value to organizations – good for when negotiating your next salary
  5. You’ll build an invaluable business network – and you could have more opportunities to mentor or be mentored.

And Some Even Better News

Women, just like men, want to leverage the career advantages, the learning experience, the networking and the opportunities that an MBA is uniquely placed to offer.

Here at RSM we’re delighted to report that our female percentage in our MBA class is significantly higher than the global average.

A full 37 per cent of our students are women; something that female students attribute to an “at home” culture, as well as a raft of programmes, electives and networks that help women address the challenges they face in the world of business.

From scaling new heights on the Kilimanjaro Leadership Project, to open programmes on leadership to scholarships for women, there is plenty going on to support upcoming leaders.

Good news, says Grigoryan, for young women looking to advance their careers.

“RSM is very women friendly. The school does a very good job in encouraging and welcoming female students. As a professional, as a woman, the MBA has been one of the best experiences of my life.”  

If you're thinking about advancing your career with an MBA, why not visit our MBA pages and discover the benefits and career services that will help you realise your goals.

Our team of experts is also on hand at all times to review your CV, and discuss the best options available to you.