Aspen Institute’s Latest B-School Survey

While salary is still a high priority for MBA students at top schools, the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education (Aspen CBE) has just released a survey revealing that more of them, especially women, place greater importance on business’s responsibility to society. For those unfamiliar with Aspen CBE, this international nonprofit seeks to create business leaders for the 21st century who are equipped with the vision and knowledge necessary to integrate corporate profitability with social value.

The survey titled “Where Will They Lead? MBA Student Attitudes About Business and Society (2008)”, conducted in fall 2007, probed the thoughts of 1,943 students at 15 business schools around the world, from Wharton to the London Business School to the University of California, Berkeley. The questionaire addressed a variety of issues, including business ethics, business school coursework and the corporate recruitment process. The previous survey was conducted in 2002.

Through these surveys, the Aspen CBE has discovered that MBA programs definitely influence the way students think about the role of business and its relationship to society once they become managers and leaders.

“In a broader sense, the most important finding is that students seem to be taking a more holistic view of the role of business in society,” says Nancy McGaw, deputy director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, in a press release announcing the results. “But the findings also suggest that while students may have these values, many of them sense those beliefs are not valued by employers or linked to career opportunities.”

For example, only half of the respondants felt that recruiters placed a high value on personal integrity, and a mere seven percent beleive recruiters place a premium on their understanding of sociopolitical issues. The survey also found that while more of today’s students say they want a job that has a positive impact on society (25 percent, compared to just 15 percent in 2002), this priority decreases in importance for men as they move through their MBA program.

According to the press release, these findings indicate that the tension between financial compensation and pursuing a job that aligns with personal values is becoming even more pervasive as the so-called Millenials enter business schools, and that recruiters ignore these growing concerns at their own peril if they wish to attract top talent.

Click here for an executive summary with detailed findings of the MBA Student Attitudes Survey.

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