The 2023 Forté Foundation report on the results of its efforts toward gender parity in business reveals that women’s enrollment in full-time MBA programs reached a record 42 percent across its 58 member schools. The enrollment represents two decades of investment and reinvestment in women, as the non-profit works to increase opportunities for women in leadership through access to business education and professional development. When Forté was established in 2002, women represented less than 28 percent of MBA students. This year’s enrollment numbers represent a more than 10 percent increase since 2011.
“Given economic and other headwinds, including diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges, we are thrilled to see women’s MBA enrollment continue its slow but steady climb this year,” said Elissa Sangster, Forté’s CEO, in their press release.
Five business schools achieved gender parity in 2023. George Washington University School of Business led the way with a remarkable 65 percent women’s enrollment. Oxford Saïd and John Hopkins Carey each reported 51 percent women’s enrollment, while The Wharton School and Penn State Smeal each reached 50 percent. Prestigious MBA programs at Rochester Simon, Toronto Rotman, and Northwestern Kellogg missed parity by two percent or less. Thirty-four out of the 58 Forté member business schools reported 40 percent or more women enrolled, up from 27 in 2022 and 19 in 2018.
Forté partners with business schools, corporations, and universities to support women pursuing business. The organization offers resources, including MBA prep, professional development, leadership education, and a diverse community of successful women, within which students can grow a network that follows them throughout their careers. An MBA degree increases earning potential and is the pipeline for professional networks and leadership positions, granting the toolkit necessary to close the gender income gap. Even today, just 8 percent of S&P 500 CEOs are women, leaving substantial opportunities on the table for women in business.
The Forté Foundation has developed numerous programs and events that support and guide women through business school and their subsequent careers. The Forté Fellows Scholarship is the most well-known program and has been key in increasing MBA numbers for women. Since 2003, around $400 million in scholarships have been awarded. The annual Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conferences draw 1,000 participants for two days of career path exploration, connecting with recruiters and mentors, and valuable guidance from influential and experienced businesswomen. Leadership symposiums and undergraduate conferences and summits provide opportunities for women in college to network with Forté partner companies and business schools and consider their career and educational options. Forté Professional Development Programs provide resources like leadership coaching, networking, and peer support for women navigating business school and, eventually, the workplace.
“Our efforts over the past two decades, along with our member schools and companies, have significantly impacted the increase in women interested in business careers and advancing to leadership,” Sangster continued in the release. “Every year we see about a percentage point gain in women’s enrollment and trust me it’s not easy to achieve. Getting to gender parity in MBA programs is an uphill climb but it’s critical to drive change and help more women lead in the C-suite, on boards, and as business owners.”