Women storm the MBA

A new study shows that women’s interest in business school is rising rapidly. These days, women now account for 39 per cent of full-time students at the top business schools around the world. Schools as well as employers look for stronger diversity.


The new study from Forte Foundation, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to advancing gender parity at business schools, looked at enrolments at its 54 member MBA programmes across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The analysts found that 33 schools had at least 35 per cent female students, up from eight schools in 2010. 19 schools had a female student percentage of at least 40 per cent, up from just two in 2010.

According to a Korn Ferry article, the gain in women MBA students counters a steady overall decline in business school enrolment in recent years. Various reasons, amongst them rising cost, a strong job market, new digital jobs and more difficult immigration requirements in the U.S. have caused applications to American business schools to decrease by nine per cent in the most recent academic year, after dropping seven per cent the year before.

Overall the rise in more women enrolling at business school with women now accounting for 39 per cent of full-time students at the top business schools around the world, is the result of not only stronger diversity and inclusion efforts by schools but also by businesses that are recruiting out of them, says Kenneth Kring, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry and co-managing director of the firm’s Global Education practice. “Business schools are taking a broader approach to diversity across the spectrum of career services, including before, during, and after receiving a degree,” says Kring.

Whilst some business leaders question the necessity of an MBA, Evelyn Orr, vice president and chief operating officer of the Korn Ferry Institute, says that for women and other underrepresented groups, getting an MBA is still an important way to build credibility. “Given unconscious bias, business degrees provide a way to open doors and find career opportunities that would otherwise be granted to white males with or without a degree.”

According to the Forte Foundation obtaining an MBA degree helped increase salary for women by 63 per cent or more. However, it is not only women themselves that benefit from an MBA education and therefore being able to enter boards and executive management roles: Other research, including from Korn Ferry, shows that having more females in leadership roles improves financial performance and shareholder returns for companies.


Read more on kornferry.com