Plugging the Gender Gap in the MBA |

Plugging the Gender Gap in the MBA

By Stephanie L

Updated Updated

Sponsored by IE Business School

The gender gap in business and business education is an ever-present issue. While 46.3 percent of women accounted for the total number of GMAC tests taken between July 2017 and June 2018 – up from 39.5 percent 10 years’ previously - the disparity between men and women enrolled in business school education is still concerning, especially when it comes to women and the MBA.

With many looking to business schools as a catalyst for closing this gender gap, how exactly are they addressing this brazen issue?

Creating a culture of open dialogue

Encouraging female professionals to enroll in business school can be complicated as there are a number of factors contributing to this gap, including work vs. study issues, the cost of a graduate business degree, as well as the discrepancy in average salaries between men and women with an MBA.

Family commitments are another contributing factor. The MBA needs to be more accessible for women who are thinking of starting a family or who are already mothers and are managing a career while raising their children.

An honest and transparent discussion is needed when it comes to understanding why fewer women enroll in the MBA and determining what steps need to be taken in order to improve the enrollment rate of women in the MBA.

Breaking the mold

When it comes to asking how business schools can achieve gender equality, the answers are as diverse as they are complex.

Business schools are aware of the role they play when it comes to balancing the gender parity in business education, with many dedicating several resources to doing just that.

The IE Women Initiative at IE Business School in Madrid is investing in diversity as it runs specific recruitment initiatives, including the Women in Business Club and Woman4Woman ambassador program. In addition, its Digital Female Leadership mentorship program is a newly launched program for female students who are interested in pursuing a career within tech.

The introduction of women-only scholarships is also a positive solution that helps alleviate the cost of attaining a graduate business degree – something which many women cite as a primary reason for not pursuing an MBA, according to GMAC’s 2017 white paper, ‘What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education’.

Diversity breaks down barriers and bias

Women offer effective leadership skills as well as alternative perspectives and management styles. They also possess better people skills, including listening, communication and empathy – something which comes more naturally than it does to their male counterparts.

So although the proportion of women in MBA classrooms remains below 50 percent, the proportion of men and women in specialized business master’s is almost equal according to GMAC’s white paper. This sheds a promising spotlight on business school education and how women are making inroads within the sector.

General management education offers more flexible study options and are generally more cost-effective than the MBA, so it’s not impossible that the MBA can offer the same conveniences. 

Women will continue to push to the top despite the glass ceiling

Women should not be defined by a status quo which bears no reflection on the current values of the 21st century. Women have been leaders for centuries, so for them to enter business school education is far from out of the ordinary.

In July 2019, three female IMBA students at IE Business School took the top honors at graduation, while the school itself is now aiming for a 40 percent female IMBA enrolment rate by 2021 – an increase by seven percent on its current enrolment rate.

This discussion should go beyond closing the gap within education, but also within the corporate playing field where there is little movement amongst women in leadership roles as their male counterparts excel at a rapid speed in similar positions.

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This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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