But the findings raise questions of MBA admissions departments, which are admitting considerably more men than women despite now having an equal pool to pick from.
The North American region has seen a gradual rise in the amount of female prospective MBA candidates over the past two years. Of this year’s crop of applicants, an astonishing 52% are women.
The survey drew responses from more than 5,000 applicants earlier this year.
The findings will heap more pressure on US business schools, which languish behind Europe in terms of gender diversity. None of the top-ten-ranked American schools have an equal ratio of male to female MBAs.
Yet this year both genders are on an equal footing in terms of total applicant numbers.
Western Europe manages to diversify its MBA classes with more women each year than America and Canada, even though only 41% of the region’s applicants are female, according to QS data.
Globally, 40% of all MBA applicants are now female. This is propped up by strong gains in Latin America, where 47% of candidates are female, and in Eastern Europe where 55% are female.
The Asia Pac region has some of the lowest rates of female MBA applicants – about 34%, according to the survey, the only area to experience a drop this year, and its second consecutive fall in female applicants.
The region’s figures are significant because more than a third of this year’s applicants are from the Asia Pacific area, such is growing demand for business education in Asia.
There is also a clear gender divide in intended post-MBA careers. Consulting, finance and defence sectors are dominated by males, according to the survey, and engineering attracts more male candidates than females, where 76% of the applicant pool are men.
Technology and telecoms are also dominated by men, 70% and 74% of the applicant pool respectively.
Women prefer HR and recruiting, the media and advertising industries, and the non-profit and charity sectors.
There are further differences between male and female candidates. Women applicants are more focused on improving career prospects and career networks, while men are more motivated by increased salaries.
The biggest change, however, was that more female applicants want to start their own businesses, testament to the growing trend of entrepreneurship at business schools. Nearly a third of all MBA applicants want to run their own companies.
About 32% of women want to start their own businesses, compared to about 30% of male MBA candidates. However, the female group has had the biggest rise since 2013 – 5%, compared to a drop of 4% among men.