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Continuing the Push for Progress in Women’s Representation in Full-Time MBA Programs

Posted by GMAC Research
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Posted on Mar 5, 2019 11:05:00 AM

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A new research brief blends insights from GMAC market intelligence and perspectives from school professionals to reflect on women’s full-time MBA recruitment.


As International Women’s Day 2019 approaches, there’s a lot to feel positive about related to the current state of women and business school. As shown in the newly updated Profiles of GMAT™ Testing reports, women accounted for 46.3 percent of the total number of GMAT tests taken in the last testing year—up from 39.5 percent 10 years ago and the largest share in the history of the exam. The 2018 Application Trends Survey Report shows that across world regions a greater share of programs report application increases from women than men. Findings from the Alumni Perspectives Survey continue to demonstrate the positive impact of graduate management education (GME) on women graduates, including that 90 percent say they are satisfied with their business school experience, 96 percent rate the overall value of their degree as good to outstanding, and 93 percent say they would get their degree again knowing everything they know now.

GMAC Advisor_Infographic_Women_March 2019

[View the Women and Business School 2019 infographic]

 An area where continued progress is needed, however, is women’s representation in full-time MBA programs. Though multiple pre-experience business master’s program types have reached gender parity or near parity in their applicant pools—including Master of Accounting (54% of applications from women in 2018), Master in Management (50%), and Master of Finance (43%)—women accounted for 38 percent of applications to full-time MBA programs in 2018. While this is up from 32 percent ten years ago, clearly more work remains to be done.

With the aim to spark new ideas, aid in reflection, and develop new perspectives as your institution strives to move the needle of women’s applications and enrollment in your full-time MBA program, this week GMAC published a new research brief that blends insights from GMAC market intelligence and perspectives from school professionals in discussing four topics related to women’s full-time MBA recruitment.

Read the brief  

Titled Women and the Full-Time MBA: Continuing the Push for Progress, the four topics discussed in the brief are:

  • Connect female candidates with current students and alumnae to enable authentic exchanges about the student experience. While 7 percent of female candidates considering full-time MBA programs report being influenced by admissions professionals, 27 percent report being influenced by current students or alumni. Director of diversity and inclusion at Berkeley Haas, Dr. Élida Bautista, shares her perspectives on how connections between candidates and current students and alumni from historically marginalized groups enable authentic exchanges about the student experience and allow candidates to better assess their fit to the program.
  • Thoughtfully frame women-specific recruitment events with a clear value proposition to the individual candidate. Most of full-time MBA programs have a special recruitment or outreach initiative for women, and for many women-specific recruitment events are a key component of their overall strategy. Unless these events and their content are thoughtfully framed, planned, and executed, they can easily send the wrong signal to candidates, making them feel like a statistic and that the school’s motivations are driven primarily by achieving a target female enrollment percentage. Andrew Dalik, Senior marketing manager at the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland, shares insights from focus group research.
  • Promote the broad spectrum of MBA career possibilities and embolden women’s leadership aspirations. Findings from the Prospective Students Survey demonstrate that the industries and job functions women MBA candidates intend to pursue are equally varied to that of men, and not limited to roles or fields that have been historically stereotyped as being better suited to women. While career outcomes are a key motivator for women, survey findings also demonstrate that often female candidates do not set their sights as high as their male counterparts. Jamie Belinne, assistant dean at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and board member of the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance, shares her perspectives on women MBA’s career goals and encouraging them to pursue leadership positions.
  • Create new pathways to the MBA with a deferred admission program. More so than men, early planning is a key factor in the business school application journey for female candidates. Survey findings show that women are more likely than men to first start considering an MBA while they are still enrolled as undergraduates. For these women, deferred admissions programs can be a particularly appealing pathway to the MBA, enabling them to plan for their future education and career earlier than the standard trajectory to a full-time MBA program. Senior associate director of admissions Katherine Alford and assistant director of admissions Taylor Fisher discuss the Future Year Scholars Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and its appeal to female candidates.

Through the sharing of best practices and the willingness of programs to continue to devote thought, resources, and energy to enhancing the diversity of their applicant pools, GME as an industry will continue to make important strides toward gender equity. GMAC recognizes the critical importance of gender diversity in GME and is committed to continuing to provide the industry with timely market intelligence to inform school’s recruitment initiatives.

You can find additional market intelligence on female business school candidates and graduates throughout the GMAC research library. Content specific to women’s recruitment and enrollment can be found under the topic of diversity enrollment, including our white paper What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education and a last year’s brief Entrepreneurial Women Find Success Through B-School. In addition, school professionals can uncover insights on women currently in the GME pipeline by selecting “women” in the gender filter to the 2019 Prospective Students Survey Interactive Data Research tool. This enables users to explore the survey question-by-question among responses specifically from women. For details on how to use the tool, view the video on the report webpage.

Topics: Research Insights, Women

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