Does an MBA degree eliminate gender inequality – such as the pay gap – when graduates return to the workplace? Unfortunately, no, says new research from Forté Foundation. However, both MBAs and their employers are taking steps to address gender inequality at work.
In addition, business school increasingly helps prepare graduates to tackle these issues. These combined efforts appear to be having a positive impact on reducing gender inequality at work.
Forté’s online survey polled 900 male and female MBA alumni who graduated between 2005-2017. This research is the second in a series. Early this year, Forté released research that explored whether an MBA holds the key to help women and minorities increase earning power and equality in the workplace — including the impact on the pay gap.
Workplace Gender Equality?
Have women and men achieved gender equality in the workplace? It certainly depends on who you ask. Overall, more than three-fourths of MBA respondents (76%) believe gender equality has not been achieved in the workplace. There is, however, a significant difference by gender.
- More than eight in 10 female MBAs (82%) believe gender equality has not been achieved. This figure is even higher for minority women (87%).
- Only six in 10 male MBAs (63%) agree that gender equality has not been achieved.
Types of MBA Gender Inequality Experienced
- Female MBAs “personally experienced” three main types of gender inequality. They include: unequal opportunities for promotions or career advancement; hostile work environment; and unequal career opportunities (global assignments, special projects, etc.).
- Male MBAs, meanwhile, have “personally experienced” three main types of gender inequality. They include: gender preference in recruiting and hiring practices; hostile work environment; lack of or inadequate parental leave policies.
- The top three types of gender inequality female and male MBA respondents have “heard of” are: hostile work environment, unequal access to training or educational opportunities, unequal opportunities for promotions or career advancement.
How the MBA Prepares Graduates to Tackle Workplace Gender Inequality
A majority of recent MBA graduates (62%) believe that business school helps prepare them to address gender inequality at work. In contrast, less than half of earlier business school graduates (40% of graduates from 2005-2015) say the same.
MBA respondents say business school helps them to address gender inequality at work through a variety of ways. For instance, building awareness and confidence to address issues through: case studies, courses, frameworks and toolkits, affinity groups and workshops, open discussion, and more. Interestingly, men and women report differences in how MBA programs prepared them.
- Men were more likely to cite “developing awareness” (men 18%, women 12%), “individual courses” (19%, 7%) and case studies (14%, 4%) as having the most impact.
- Women were more likely to say they “gained confidence” to address gender inequality in the workplace (women 34%, men 1%) and that “affinity groups and workshops” helped prepare them (women 13%, men 3%).
“This new research sheds light on whether we’re seeing improvements in workplace gender equality for MBAs, what issues impact women and men the most, and how business school helps to prepare alumni to address,” says Elissa Sangster, CEO, Forté Foundation.
“We found that while gender inequality in the workplace is still pervasive, we may be starting to see improvements in MBA’s personal experiences from their past to current employer. And recent MBA graduates are more likely to say than earlier alumni that the degree helped prepare them to tackle these issues in the workplace.”