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Women’s Representation in Business School Is on the Rise

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Historically, business school programs have been male dominated. But in the past decade, the number of women taking the GMAT™ exam and enrolling in business school programs has seen noteworthy growth.

Where and why is women’s representation at business schools on the rise? Data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reveals the trends.

Where women’s representation in the business school pipeline is on the rise

While on the global level men still account for a slight majority of GMAT exams taken, there are a few notable countries where women dominate, especially in Asia.

For example, in the most recently available GMAT testing data, more than 2 in 3 GMAT exams taken by Chinese citizens were taken by women (68%), more than any other country. Other Asian countries with a high percentage of female test takers include Vietnam (63%) and Thailand (58%).

🙋‍♀️ Read more: Female Representation in MBA Classrooms Better Than Ever in 2020

Where is women’s GMAT test taking growing the fastest? In the last five years, the countries that have seen the biggest percentage increase in exams taken by women are Italy (+84%), India (+20%), China (+11.3%), and Brazil (+7.6%). Overall, 41 percent GMAT exams taken by women are taken by citizens of countries in East and Southeast Asia, followed by the United States (30%), Central and South Asia (10%), Western Europe (8%), and Canada (4%).

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Women’s growth in GMAT testing has translated into a flood of applications from women to the world’s leading business schools. According to GMAC’s Application Trends Survey, 60 percent of global business school programs reported an increase in applications from women in 2020.

And those applications, in turn, have resulted in more women in business school classrooms. Analysis of Financial Times rankings data shows that the median percentage of women in ranked Master in Management programs (50%) and MBA programs (38%) are both at record highs.

Why women in business school programs are on the rise

Why are more women investing in themselves through a graduate business degree? In many cases, it comes down to a few leading factors.

Increased economic opportunities. According to the Corporate Recruiters Survey 2020 from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), employers planned to offer new MBA hires a median starting salary of US$115,000 last year, nearly double they planned to offer new bachelor’s degree hires (US$65,000). And based on input from recent female business school graduates, the return on investment is undeniable. Of those surveyed, 96 percent rate the value of their business education as good to outstanding, and more than 2 in 3 said it made their financial situation better or much better.

💲 Read more: Employers Explain Why MBA Salaries Are So High

Career advancement. Eighty-two percent of female business school graduates say their professional situation is better or much better as a result of their degree. Seventy-three percent agree business school prepared them for leadership positions, and 66 percent said it offered them opportunities for quicker career advancement.

🙋‍♀️ Read more: Why More Women Are Applying to Business School

Diverse program offerings and formats. Now more than ever, business schools are offering a wider variety of program types and formats. The range of options affords women the freedom and flexibility to find a program that suits their needs and interests. These expanded options include more pre-experience business master’s programs—including Master of Accounting, Master of Finance, and Master in Management—as well as new pathways to full-time MBA programs, like deferred admissions programs.

How schools are supporting more women

With research showing the benefits of gender diversity, and gender equality becoming more of a hot-button issue, business schools are eager to close the gender gap. Add to that women’s aptitude to excel in business, and it’s no surprise that business schools are striving to increase women’s representation in their applicant pools and classrooms.

In an effort to level the playing field, business schools have taken measures to support women in the business school recruiting process and beyond.

Hosting women-specific recruiting events. More than half (58%) of full-time MBA programs responding to GMAC’s Application Trends Survey said they have a special outreach initiative focused on women applicants, which includes women-specific events. These events are beneficial because they give women an opportunity to connect with an array of interesting female alumni and ask questions they may not be comfortable asking in a mixed-gender environment.

Connecting candidates with an alumni network. Understandably, prospective business school students want to hear firsthand from female alumni about their experience. To facilitate this, schools are making a concerted effort to make female alumni more accessible to applicants. Of course, candidates can turn to admissions professionals for important information about the program and how to apply, but interactions with current students and alumni provide opportunities for candidates to learn about what it’s actually like for women in the program.

👋 Read more: 5 Ways a Business School Network Will Help Your Career

Educating women on enhanced career opportunities. To help women fully appreciate the value of a business school degree, schools are actively promoting the broad spectrum of career possibilities to female students. And it’s paying off. According to GMAC Research, among full-time MBA alumni, women are more likely than men to say they are currently working in an industry they had not considered working in prior to business school (45% vs. 39%) and currently in a job function they had not considered working in prior to business school (32% vs. 27%).

How could business school benefit you?

If you’re one of the women considering joining the ranks of those in graduate business school programs, create an mba.com account to learn more about the benefits of business school and read more insights for female candidates on our women in business page.