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Why Female MBAs Propel Women's Advancement

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Elissa Sangster

Female MBAs have a unique mark on the women’s advancement movement.

Elissa Sangster is Executive Director for the Forté Foundation, an organization dedicated to inspiring women business leaders.

Female MBAs—whether they’re pursuing or leveraging the degree—have a unique mark on women’s advancement. As gender equity efforts take center stage in March during International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in the United States, consider these three reasons MBA women make such a distinctive mark.

Closing the MBA gender education gap helps address the lack of women in leadership. In GMAT testing year 2014, of the score reports sent to MBA programs, 37% came from women, which has an unfortunate ripple effect in the C-suite and boardroom because the degree is a significant stepping stone to get women into senior leadership. In fact, the most recent Forté Foundation analysis found that half of Fortune 100 women CEOs have MBAs, outpacing the 43% of male Fortune 100 CEOs with MBAs.

  1. Women boost their earning power with an MBA—and scholarships can help. The gender pay gap is such a hot-button issue that it even garnered attention at the 2015 Oscars when Patricia Arquette called for wage equality and equal rights for women in her acceptance speech. Let’s also call attention to the fact that an MBA enhances women’s earning power, even when compared with other women. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC’s) Global Management Education Graduate Survey, women experienced median salary increases from 51% to 132% in their post-degree salaries when controlling for pre-degree work experience and job level. While women prospective business school students cite paying for school among their top three concerns in investing in an MBA despite this return, scholarship help is available. Over the past decade, we have awarded $68 million in MBA scholarships to Forté Fellows alone.

  2. MBAs help women “level the playing field” in business. When evaluating factors contributing to gender inequity in business, research points to differences in confidence and expectations, pay, and mentors and sponsors. Earning an MBA helps women advance by bolstering their credentials, negotiation skills, network and more. Read more about the ROI and career journey for all business school alumni in the 2015 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report.

MBAs are gateways to help women advance in business—and organizations and individuals are working to ensure more women pursue them. The University of Maryland set a target to reach 50% female MBA graduates by 2020. Forté Foundation is a proud partner, and we’ll continue growing the role of female MBAs in women’s advancement with your help.