The Official Blog of the Graduate Management Admission Council

Closing the Gender Gap in Your Executive MBA Admissions

Posted by Graduate Management Admission Council

Posted on Feb 7, 2020 2:30:00 PM

Business schools continue to face challenges with gender parity in their Executive MBA admissions. Here is what some schools are doing to close the gender gap.

closing the gender gap in admissions

When it comes to closing the gender gap in Executive MBA programs, much progress has been made, but a lot more needs to be done. The good news is that nearly a third EMBA students are women, which is an all-time high. In Europe, our research shows that 56 percent of EMBA programs received more applications from women in 2019 than the year before.

However, challenges remain. We have also found that US EMBA programs continue to attract fewer applications from women than any other MBA program type. Even in Europe, which saw such applications from women rise, women still make up just 33 percent of EMBA applicants overall.

Clearly, more work needs to be done. Fortunately, business schools are taking steps to attract more women EMBA candidates. Here’s how.

Business schools shouldn’t assume they know why they have a gender imbalance

The first step to achieving gender parity is identifying why such an imbalance exists. It’s important for business schools to not fall back on assumptions or stereotypes when analyzing gender gaps in their programs. For example, when it comes to a desire to move up the corporate ladder, both women and men are equally ambitious, despite persistent myths that men are more ambitious in their careers. A University of Cambridge study found that women take an average of 3.4 years between finishing their undergraduate degrees and applying to business school, compared to 4.75 years for men. That suggests women entering business school are, on average, as strategic and ambitious about their career progression—if not more so—than their male counterparts, and just as eager to obtain the benefits such an education offers.

Our research reveals that women pursuing graduate management education are more likely than men to say they like to continuously discover new things. They are less likely than men to say that standardized testing intimidates them. That means an MBA skills test like the Executive Assessment may present an opportunity for business schools looking to attract more women applicants.

Business schools work to bring gender parity to Executive MBA admissions

Many business schools are taking concrete steps to increase the number of women seeking Executive MBA admissions. Several high-profile schools, for example, offer scholarships and grants to women. Such financial incentives are particularly important given that our research reveals that obtaining funds/financing is the biggest challenge for women applying to graduate business school (whereas studying for admissions exams is the biggest challenge for men).

Other incentives are designed to better prepare women for the workplace, a place where schools have less control over gender biases. For example, Cambridge Judge Business School runs the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre, which helps women students in the school develop their negotiating skills, build up a network of supportive peers, and connect with influential sponsors within industry willing to champion gender equality in the workplace.

Want to find out what business schools are doing to broaden their admissions pool? Check out How Graduate Business School Admissions Teams Are Attracting Non-Traditional Applicants.

Addressing structural issues that may act as barriers to women

Along with incentives to get more women to apply, it’s also important to address structural issues that may discourage women from applying. For example, gender norm  persist in most households regarding childcare, with women continuing to manage the bulk of child-rearing duties even when both parents work full-time. That means that trying to find the time to schedule in an EMBA is challenging for women who may need to find childcare services while they are in classes.

As a result, an EMBA program, where classes are in long chunks of a week or two several times a year, may be overly burdensome for some applicants. A program where classes take place more frequently but only on weekends or for just 2 to 3 days at a time are easier for students who need to arrange childcare. Likewise, offering more flexibility in terms of online courses or courses with options at different campuses can also help address these issues and increase enrollment.

Want to make your business school’s EMBA more attractive?

Find out how an executive business program evaluation like the Executive Assessment can help.

Topics: executive mba admissions, mba skill test, executive business program evaluation

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