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Are We Making Progress with Diversity? First of its Kind Study Examines Representation in GME

Posted by Sangeet Chowfla
Sangeet Chowfla is the president and chief executive officer of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)

Posted on Dec 14, 2021 11:00:00 AM

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In reflecting on the many conversations I’ve had on the important topic of diversity and business school, I’ve come to realize that although diversity is a priority for our industry as a whole, how that diversity is defined or prioritized differs in different regions of the world. I’ve also been asked time and time again- “are we in graduate management education (GME) making progress? How do we know?” Without a benchmark, this is difficult.

To begin exploring these questions, GMAC embarked on a research journey with the aim of creating a lens to better understand representation within the diverse pipeline for graduate management education worldwide.

The results of our research effort is a first-ever global study of diversity in graduate management education, The Global Diversity of Talent – Attainment and Representation. This report is designed to aid the industry in understanding diversity and representation in the GME pipeline today and to inform analysis, strategic planning, and decision-making for the classrooms of tomorrow.

It is a rich report providing a global overview, seven regional outlooks, and separate reports for the 175 countries that have 600 or more people in the student-aged population of 20 to 34 who have attained a master’s degree in the subject of business, administration, or law. It also examines the representation of women globally and underrepresented groups in the United States.

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Some of the findings I found most interesting include:

1) Although globally GME is a preferred option, there is opportunity in each region
Of the 61 million master’s degree holders worldwide in the target age group (20 – 34), an estimated 15 million are graduate management education (GME) master’s degree-holders (24% representation). While the countries where some of the largest GME cohorts exist (China 2.78 million, India 2.35 million) are well known and targeted by global business schools, others with significant cohorts (Brazil 494 thousand, Indonesia 362 thousand, Bangladesh 315 thousand) are not that well developed and may present targets of recruiting opportunity. Schools can tap into existing interest for GME in these markets or leverage the opportunity that goes hand in glove with undergraduate business studies.

2) While women continue to lag in GME representation, there are notable areas of strength and weakness
Schools have for years tackled the challenge of women being less represented in the GME pipeline. The challenge is centered in the fact that globally bachelor's and master’s degree attainment is higher for women than it is for men. Even at the undergraduate level, more women choose business, administration, and law as a discipline of study. However, this behavior does not persist in the selection of GME as a masters’ choice. Women are 44.8% of GME degree holders worldwide. Respectable, but not parity. In addition, representation varies by region with Latin America leading at 53.9% and Europe trailing at 38.4%. Females make up a greater percentage of GMAT test-takers in some of the countries in East Asia, but they are also more than 50% of test-takers in Finland and Russia. Also interesting is that women trail in representation for the 20-24 age group (versus surpassing men in 25-29 and 30-34 representation worldwide) suggesting gains can be made if we capture female talent earlier in the pipeline.

3) In the United States, Blacks/African Americans are actually over-indexed in GME
The data in the study reveal the representation of GME degree-holders for each of the seven US race/ethnicity groups with the highest GME participation rates observed among Asian Americans (4.5%), Pacific Islanders (3.5%), Blacks or African Americans (3.0%) and Whites (2.5%). These findings are a contradiction to the portrait of a typical full-time MBA cohort at a GMAC US member school, where white students compromise most of the class and African American enrollment is in the single digits. The study reveals that although African Americas are approximately 14% of the US student age population, they are 17% of total US GME degree holders. The paradox is potentially reflective of the high rates of enrollment among African Americans at for-profit institutions (37% of degrees awarded), as noted in our 2018 report, Unpacking the Appeal of For-Profit Graduate Business Programs to US Underrepresented Populations. At the same time, the data show that the GME participation rate of Hispanics, the second-fastest-growing minority population in the US is a low 1.3%. There is work to be done.
These are just a few of the findings you’ll uncover in the report. There is a great deal more to unpack, and I invite you to review this report and find insights that may be useful for your work.

Access the report  

This study is a starting point and a call to action. We plan to use this resource to inform our GME advocacy efforts to underrepresented populations around the world and to continue to build a diverse pipeline of test-takers, tour attendees, and qualified leads that better reflect underlying population trends. I hope that you to will find it useful in guiding your outreach and decision-making processes in the years to come. If you have questions about this report or feedback on the state of diversity in GME, feel free to contact me at or leave a comment below.

GMAC has been a long-standing champion of diversity, as evidenced by our marketing, research, programming history, and industry partnerships. Our work today continues to reflect the conviction that a diverse student body not only creates a richer academic experience for all stakeholders involved, but also produces more impactful leaders and organizations as well as supports more equitable societies. We will continue to engage in research and market intelligence that helps drive a greater understanding of where we are making an impact and where there are areas of opportunity for our industry. Find our Diversity Insights series and other useful Market Intelligence reports here: 

Topics: Viewpoints, diversity

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