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Celebrating American Business Women’s Day with Gender Equity in the MBA

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More women are heading to graduate business programs than ever, according to the latest research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Today, women represent 42 percent of all applicants to business school graduate programs participating in the Application Trends Survey Report 2017, a 5 percent increase from 2013. Among full-time MBA programs, female representation is even higher. In 2017, 49 percent of applicants were women, compared to 42 percent in 2013.

Women are also finding value in their business educations. Seventy percent of all female MBA graduates report improved job satisfaction, and 84 percent enjoy greater earning power.

In honor of American Business Women’s Day, September 22nd, we thought we’d take a look at what some of the leading MBA programs in the United States are doing to encourage gender equity.

Northwestern’s Kellogg School

In recent years, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has made strides toward parity for women in its MBA program. The Class of 2019 comprises 42 percent women—the second highest representation of women in the school’s history. “School wide, women continue to be a high priority—which is not surprising since we are the first top business school with a female dean,” Melissa Rapp, director of admissions for the full-time MBA and MSMS programs, told Clear Admit in a June 2017 interview. Dean Sally Blount has led the school since 2010, and last year Kellogg brought on Ellen Taaffe as director of women’s leadership initiatives. “From the application process all the way through to graduation, we are continuing to build strong programming for women at Kellogg, and we continue to see a very healthy percentage—over 40 percent women—which means we continue to have more and more women in the classrooms and in the community,” she said.

The Kellogg Women’s Business Association plays a leading role in supporting women at the school, including offering career programming and personal/professional development opportunities for current students, prospective students, and alumni. The school also hosts an annual Women’s Leadership Workshop every May, a two-day event that helps women who are early in their careers learn how an MBA can help their professional goals. The Kellogg Executive Women’s Network also creates opportunities for Kellogg women to support and work with each other.

Michigan Ross

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business just welcomed its largest percentage of female MBA candidates ever in its Class of 2019 (43 percent). Women also lead 56 percent of the professional clubs and hold 41 percent of leadership roles at Ross, and an additional 42 percent of social and other clubs are led or co-led by women.

Further, the Michigan Business Women club is one of the largest student groups at Ross and hosts career events, networking opportunities, social events, and professional development opportunities for female MBA students. One of the club’s most popular events is its annual Women in Leadership Conference, which takes place over three days and provides an opportunity for women MBA students, alumnae, professionals, admissions representatives, and prospective MBA students to interact.

Dartmouth Tuck & The Wharton School

For the Class of 2019, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth tied with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for the highest percentage of women MBA students, at 44 percent. Both MBA programs offer unique opportunities for their female students.

The Tuck Initiative for Women, developed by two Tuck ’14 graduates, offers programming that encourages an open dialogue to create opportunities for academic, professional, and personal development among Tuck women. Since 2005, Tuck has also hosted a two-day Women in Business Conference for students, alumni, faculty, and staff. The event includes workshops, panel discussions, social events, and various community building opportunities. This year it will take place October 27th through 29th and will welcome keynote speaker Suzanne Schaefer, a senior manager for Global Human Capital at Bain & Company.

Wharton Women in Business supports, connects, and empowers Wharton MBA students and alumnae with resources and various activities related to career development support, health and wellness, and leadership development. Wharton is also home to the Wharton 22s, a group of male allies “established in the spring of 2014 in response to women and men wanting all students involved in the conversation on gender equity.” The name refers to the 22 percent wage gap that exists between men and women in the United States, which the group hopes to help close.

Berkeley Haas

As for UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the full-time MBA Class of 2015’s relatively low proportion of women (29 percent) inspired the student-led Gender Equity Initiative. The initiative helped drive a 50 percent year-over-year increase in female MBA students, reaching 43 percent women in 2016. The Class of 2019 is 40 percent women, which is still one of the highest in the country.

Women at Haas have the opportunity to participate in the Beatrice Bain Research Group, which was established in 1986 as a critical feminist research center. The center explores how gender intersects with sexuality, race, class, nation, religion, and other identity statuses. Haas women can also join the Women in Leadership club, which offers a series of professional, education, and social events including the Women in Leadership Conference, which draws more than 400 women and men each year.

Other Opportunities for Female MBA Students

Many other leading MBA programs across the United States offer opportunities specifically for women students.

There are many leading business schools that continue to demonstrate through their actions that gender equity is one of their goals. We hope that these strides toward gender equity will continue and that, in the not-to-distant future, some MBA programs will experience their first-ever 50-50 class of men and women.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.