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Why Are Women Still A Minority At Business School?

Women MBA students are still in the minority, so what hurdles stand between them and the classroom? We took to the forums to find out

Sat Oct 23 2021

At the highest levels of business leadership, women remain in the minority. In 2020, only 7.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women—and this discrepancy also plays out in the business school classroom.

According to research from the Forté Foundation, which provides MBA scholarships to women, female students comprise just  38.5% of MBAs at its 52 member schools.

But for women who do make it into MBA programs, the benefits are huge. Forté found that gaining an MBA delivers women a strong professional network, improved employment opportunities, and pay gains of 55 to 65% within five years of graduating. 

So what challenges do women typically face as they apply to business school? BusinessBecause asked anonymous students and grads on Reddit to share their experiences. 

Family commitments

Family commitments can be a challenge for anyone when it comes to making time for business school. But it’s a more common issue for women, who still handle a disproportionate amount of domestic and family obligations.

A recent study by the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that during lockdown in 2020, women provided two-thirds more childcare than men on average.

And breaking into business school can be particularly challenging for women who take a break from the workforce to be full-time parents.

Gender stereotypes

Female MBAs on Reddit also found that gender stereotyping posed a challenge to their long-term success in business.

According to research from the Fawcett Society, a UK gender equality charity, 45% of people experienced gender stereotyping during childhood, and 51% found that this stereotyping constrained their career choices. 

Data from Pew research has shown that 59% of Americans believe women in business leadership positions are more kind and compassionate, while 41% believe that men are more willing to take risks.

These assumptions could damage women’s chances of being respected as leaders in high-pressure careers that require a degree of risk-taking. 

In turn, this assumption could hold women back from positions that offer the pressure and leadership needed to ace an MBA application. 


With the average MBA program running Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) research shows that cost is a major barrier to business school for all candidates—but women are more likely to be put off by cost.

GMAC’s 2017 study showed that 30% of US women said obtaining funds was their biggest barrier to business school, while only 9% of men found this to be the biggest obstacle. 


Reddit users also found that confidence can be a real barrier when it comes to applying to business school, since completing an application depends on candidates reflecting on their achievements. 

In From the Forums, we take to popular forum sites like Reddit and Quora to gather inside knowledge on what it’s really like to go through the business school journey—from application to careers