What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education is a new white paper from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) that identifies drivers of this continued lack of gender parity in MBA programs.Globally, women represent a greater share of the applicant pool than men in many of the business master’s programs, such as marketing, accounting and management. Women, however, are still underrepresented in MBA classrooms in the United States and around the world.
The paper explores the biggest challenges women face in the business school application process and the differences between men and women in their motivations to pursue graduate business degrees.
The key findings are:
Motivations and Approaches to the Application Journey Differ by World Regions
Women in Western countries differ in their motivations and approaches to the application journey from women in emerging economies like China and India, and the motivational profiles of Western women differ noticeably from their male counterparts. In India and China, women’s motivations and application behaviors more closely resemble those of male applicants from these countries.
Women Plan Earlier and Are More Outcomes Focused
Women are more likely than men to begin considering graduate management education as undergraduates. Overall, women are more pragmatic and outcomes-focused in their approach to pursuing graduate business education. They are more likely than men to apply to a specific school because it offers flexible program formats and its graduates get better job opportunities. Especially in Western countries, women are more likely than men to be motivated by the desire to advance more quickly and earn more money.
Funding Is a Significant Barrier
Globally, 29 percent of female survey respondents cited financial issues as the key reason they had not yet accepted their admissions offer to graduate business school. Seeking scholarships and financial aid were top of mind. Men, on the other hand (33%), cited that they were waiting for an offer from additional schools as their reason for delaying acceptance. The greatest gender difference on this issue was seen in the U.S. More than a third (38%) of female survey respondents cited financial reasons as their number one reason for not yet accepting their admissions offer compared with 20 percent of male respondents. Yet, obtaining funds to pay for schools is a bigger challenge for men than for women in both India (8% Indian women vs. 14% Indian men) and China (9% Chinese women vs. 11% Chinese men).
MBA Is Still Relevant to Women Despite Higher Numbers Obtaining Non-MBA Business Master’s Degrees
Women are already achieving parity (52%) in master’s programs such as Master of Marketing, Master of Accounting, and Master in Management, and the number of these programs has grown exponentially in recent years. The share of women in MBA classrooms, however, has consistently remained well below parity with men at 37%. Despite greater shares of women choosing non-MBA master’s programs over MBA programs, the data show that women hold the MBA degree in higher regard than men, and view the degree as a passport to wider career advancement.