More Women Head to B-School

The U.S. Department of Education reports that women received 44% of MBAs in 2007, up from 39% a decade earlier, which translates to a 75% increase in the last 10 years, according to a recent Forbes piece.  More women are headed to business school due to the anemic economy and a huge boost in efforts from the schools to actively recruit more female students.

Dee Leopold, director of admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, tells Forbes that the degree’s flexibility is particularly alluring. “Women are using it not only for finance but also to work in nonprofits or open their own businesses.”

Female enrollments at Harvard are on an upward trajectory, comprising 38% of the class of 2010–up from 28% in 1995. The Wharton School also boasts gains in its female MBA population, with the class of 2011 made up of 40% women, up from 32% in 2007.

Working mothers or women who can’t afford the time or expense of an Ivy League MBA are turning to part-time or online programs so they can continue working or raising children, says Elissa Ellis Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation, a consortium of schools and businesses working to increase the percentage of women pursuing MBAs. “Women think that managing [work, school and family] is easier than quitting and taking the financial risk,” she tells Forbes.

As the numbers edge toward parity between male and female MBA seekers, Sangster says there’s still a lot to do and hopes to see more women enroll in elite schools. “We’re still relatively new to the workforce. We need more examples female leaders, mentors and role models.”

For more on the subject, read a contrasting view in Forbes on why business school is failing women, which contends that school administrators must take responsibility for elevating women’s status in the business world and growing the female leadership pipeline.

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