The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania reaches a pivotal milestone this fall: For the first time in its 140-year history, a majority of incoming MBA candidates will be women. The incoming class of 2023 MBA students will be comprised of nearly 52 percent women, representing a 10 percent increase over last year’s first-year students.
“This landmark achievement demonstrates Wharton’s commitment to providing a diverse and representative community for our students,” Dean Erika James said in a statement. “As a female leader, I understand firsthand the significant impact that experiencing meaningful gender representation can have on women as they chart their careers.”
Beyond its partnership with the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit that works to bolster women’s enrollment across business schools, Wharton also offers fellowships for women students. Additionally, Wharton Women in Business, a professional organization open to all female students and alumnae, also seeks to empower and engage the women of Wharton through 13 committees spanning various parts of the school such as marketing, health & wellness and alumnae relations.
Women’s representation in business schools across the country has been steadily increasing over the years, according to the Forté Foundation. Of the Forte Foundation’s 52 member schools, 22 reported having more than 40 percent women enrolled in their business school programs in 2020, and eight reported having more than 45 percent women enrolled—a leap from previous years. In 2013, for example, roughly 33 percent of women made up enrollment across U.S. business school programs.
While Wharton representatives celebrate this milestone, they are also hoping to see a permanent change across the business school ecosystem.
Maryellen Reilly, Deputy Vice Dean of the Wharton MBA Program, said in a statement, “[W]hile we are extremely proud to welcome this record number of women to our MBA community this year, we do hope that equitable gender representation soon becomes the norm among business schools, rather than the exception.”
Wharton is making this the nucleus of its mission, according to James.
“If industry truly desires its organizations—and the leadership within them—to reflect the world around us, we must improve the diversity of the pipeline of future business leaders,” she said. “In short, this crucial work must start here.”
Wharton also offers resources to the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, military veterans and international students, and the Class of 2023 offers a taste of MBA student diversity, with 36 percent of students international and representing 88 countries around the globe; 35 percent BIPOC; and 7 percent LGBTQ+—another record broken this year.
See the full announcement here.