55% of full-time MBA programs reported an increase in female applicants in 2021. However, there’s still much more to be done to increase gender parity at business school. It’s up to recruitment teams to engage with women at the early stages of the candidate pipeline and take time to understand women’s motivations for joining business school.
In our latest GMAC Connect Presents webinar— What you need to know about women interested in pursuing a management degree —we explored how to reach more women in 2022.
1. Align your messaging with women’s intentions for joining business school
To attract more women into graduate management programs, you’re going to need to do your research. This research will involve getting to know the motivations and aspirations behind why female candidates want to attend business school.
Paula McKay, director of client success at GMAC Connect explains that at MBA tour events, she spoke to prospective female candidates who said that they found comfort in seeing and being surrounded by other women in business.
When framing your messaging to prospective candidates, it’s a good idea to emphasize the value of women in business and in the business school environment.
One way that business schools can promote this message is through highlighting women-only scholarships and how they’re geared to helping female candidates reach their full potential.
“For many female candidates, it’s very comforting to see the cultivation of women in the context of graduate management programs,” says Paula.
Think about how you’re showcasing women leaders in senior-level positions, whether they're speakers or in case studies, and use these examples in your outreach efforts.
2. Emphasize why female candidates should choose your business school
To increase female representation at business school, you’ll need to outline how your school will bring value to female business candidates and their future careers.
“What we learned from the MBA.com prospective students survey is that featuring alumni, study abroad content, and particularly scholarship information, upfront and center on your website and your emails is really the best way to connect with female candidates,” explains Christa Johnson-Perkins, product director in marketing services at GMAC Connect.
The GMASS platform connects admissions teams with a pipeline of female candidates, where you can find out information about their career motivations, age, and what they want from a business school program.
48% of GMASS candidates are women, with 84% wanting to start a program in 2022.
Recruitment teams should also suggest the right program types for different types of female candidates.
If, for instance, you’re targeting women with little work experience, then schools will need to direct women to master’s programs that can help women to boost their experience, showing how the program can be a stepping stone to a successful career.
Meanwhile, if there are female candidates that you know have families or those who want a good work-life balance, then you’ll need to show why certain business school programs will be a great fit for those with a busy lifestyle.
“Perhaps you have programs or support networks that address maintaining a work-life balance while also being a student,” says Christa, “give your female prospective students no other options other than to see themselves at your school.”
3. Work with organizations that support women in business
Working with organizations that support women in business is a great way to prove to female candidates that your business school is committed to helping women succeed.
The Fortè Foundation is one nonprofit organization that’s growing the pipeline of women MBAs by facilitating pre-MBA programs, women in business conferences, recruitment events for women, and funding Fortè Foundation scholarships and other forms of financial aid.
In 2021, 2/3 member schools reported increases in the number of women enrolled in graduate management programs, according to the Fortè Foundation.
“Fortè is following the school lead by connecting with the undergraduate audience and showcasing opportunities for them to pursue and start that process of pursuing an MBA or graduate management degree while they're in undergrad,” says Krystal Brooks, director of development, academic partners, at Fortè Foundation.
There are also other organizations like the 30% Club and Laidlaw Foundation that work to increase gender parity in the business world by providing scholarships for women MBAs.
4. Help women MBAs to feel confident about the GMAT
The GMAT can present a barrier to education for some women MBAs who may lack confidence about their ability to do well in the exam, or about their existing test scores.
In 2020, around 27% of female candidates reported that they were delaying their MBA plans as they wanted more time to prepare for the GMAT or GRE, according to survey results by Fortè.
“Schools might want to think about reinforcing the idea that the GMAT is just one portion of the full MBA experience so that women can feel confident with the scores that they have,” explains Krystal from Fortè.
For recruitment teams reaching out to women MBAs, it will be about directing female candidates to GMAT prep tools like the GMAT Fundamentals Powered by Kaplan course, which teaches the core business topics—statistics, accounting, and finance–to those prepping for the GMAT.
Meanwhile, Fortè builds the GMAT curriculum into MBALaunch, an online platform that helps candidates to approach the business school application process with confidence, providing preparation guides and GMAT study plans.
The important thing to remember is that your messaging for female candidates needs to be impactful and personalized. Learning more about women MBAs’ motivations for joining business school and accessing data through the GMASS platform will help you to succeed in your outreach efforts and meaningfully target talented female candidates.