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Despite Gains, Women Remain a Minority Among MBAs, Study Finds

Though some schools have made impressive gains in female enrolment in recent years, women remain a minority among MBA programs around the globe, a recent study finds. The study also examined the international movement of MBA students between countries, determining that the United Kingdom attracts the most foreign students to its MBA programs and that India gives up the highest number of students to programs in other countries.

The study was conducted by the Research and Consultancy Centre at the Association of MBAs (AMBA), the accreditation agency for 161 MBA programs in 72 countries. Its findings were reported today in the UK’s Independent.

Women represent only about three in 10 of all MBA students worldwide at AMBA-accredited schools, the study revealed. And it’s a gender imbalance that varies little from the application process through to graduation, with women making up 30 per cent of applications, 31 per cent of offers, 32 per cent of enrolments and 31 percent of graduations overall.

Regional variations do exist in the female graduation rate, the study found. Women are most likely to pursue MBAs in eastern Europe and Russia, where the constitute 36 percent of graduates, followed by Australasia, at 34 percent. Asia lags behind, with 27 percent female graduates, while western Europe, Africa and North America stand at 30 percent.

Jeanette Purcell, AMBA’s chief executive, attributes the gender imbalance among MBAs in part to the traditional timing of graduate management education.

“Most people embark on MBAs between the ages of 27 and 40, which is when women are most likely to be having and bringing up children,” Purcell told the Independent. “At the start of their thirties, women are often starting to think about their domestic responsibilities,” she continued. She did note, though, that age is not the only factor contributing to the imbalance. It would be helpful to have more female role models in the schools, as deans or prominent faculty members, for instance, she suggested.

Some schools, meanwhile, have made significant gains in terms of attracting more female students, the Independent reported. Spain’s Instituto de Empresa business school, for example, brought its female enrolment up to 40 percent with a targeted campaign including half scholarships for expatriate women, the paper reported. 

The study’s findings could point to a major future area of growth for MBA programs. “Women may provide a new market for schools seeking to expand their enrolment,” Purcell said.

For more on this study, including findings about the international movement of MBA students between countries, click here.

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