Closing the MBA Gender Gap

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, so it’s only fitting to check in on the state of women and the MBA. Ben Lopel‘s recent piece in the UK digital media site, Exec Digital, takes a look at two prominent surveys which show that more women than ever see business school and corporate careers as a viable option.

Both the 2009 QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey and the GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey 2010 show a marked increase in the number of women applying to and graduating from B-school.

Lopel quotes Ross Geraghty, co-author of the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Report, who said: “The proportion of women attending the QS World MBA Tour annually has increased year on year since records began. These figures are supported by the fact that, for the first time, more than 100,000 GMAT takers in 2009 were women. This proves two things, firstly that business school is more popular than ever before, in general, and that women have become motivated and inspired by their female peers to achieve the same business success.”

MBA.com, the official GMAT website, indicates that 40% of GMAT test takers are women. But despite the numbers, some lingering trends remain. According to MBA.com, admissions officers say there are still many myths which keep women from applying to B-school.

The notion that an MBA is only for those who want to work for a big corporation, or the perception that the business school culture is not supportive of women, are just two mental hurdles today’s women need to overcome.

Zoya Zaitseva, Regional Marketing Director at QS, points out a more serious problem. “Unfortunately, women still continue to believe that they will receive lower salaries than their male colleagues: only 32 percent of women, compared with 43 percent of men, expect to earn more than $100,000 per year after graduation.”

But changes in the educational landscape are afoot. Last month, BusinessWeek‘s Alison Damast reported on the growing interest in business programs at women’s colleges. Currently 44 such schools offer a business management curriculum, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)–viewed by many in the management education world as the gold standard for B-school approval, Damast writes.

“I think women’s colleges, like all other colleges and universities, are looking very closely at a number of market-driven variables and making sure that their programs are reflecting the needs of what today’s students are looking for,” says Susan E. Lennon, executive director of the Women’s College Coalition.

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