Women MBAs: Change Will Be Slow

by on April 28th, 2014

A prominent business school dean says that getting more women enrolled in the nation’s business schools is a highly desirable goal but that change will come slowly.

Dean Bob Bruner of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business concluded that there are little more than 2,000 female candidates who have both the academic potential and the work experience to gain admittance to a highly ranked MBA program in the U.S. “Even if you relax the expectation of years of work experience, the resulting numbers of candidates are small relative to the aspirational enrollment of leading schools,” he wrote in a recent blog post.

Bruner was among 13 deans who met at the White House last week to discuss “the best practices for business schools to prepare their students for the increasing importance of women in the labor force.” But after the session before Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, Bruner says he reflected on the facts that the pipeline of women likely to go to a graduate business program is lacking.

Women account for 57% of undergrads but only 43% of GMAT exam test takers

According to the 2010 Census, he points out, some 916,000 women graduated from college in 2009; but only about 80,000 women take the standardized entrance exam for graduate business school. Though women account for about 57% of all undergraduate students in the U.S., only 43% of examinees of the entrance exam for graduate business school.

“Of the 81,000 women who take the test, only 50,000 have made the decision to apply to an MBA program, of which only 34,000 are considering attending a full-time MBA program,” wrote Bruner. “Of these some 6,000 women offer academic potential generally consistent with the admission ‘sweet spot’ of schools at the White House meeting. Taking into account the traditional years of work experience leaves about 2,000 candidates (see table below). Even if you relax the expectation of years of work experience, the resulting numbers of candidates are small relative to the aspirational enrollment of leading schools. And even the 34,000 women considering a full-time MBA program is small relative to the 633 AACSB-accredited institutions in the world (which would yield 54 women per class).”

Bruner’s conclusion: “If we are to achieve the benefits of enrolling more women in MBA programs, we need more women applicants. Change will come slowly.”

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