Women's MBA enrollment rose to 42% in 2023, marking a 1% increase from the previous year. In another historic milestone, five business schools among Forté’s partner schools have reached gender parity.
Soaring ahead with 65% female enrolment is George Washington University School of Business. Oxford Said Business School and John Hopkins Carey Business School boast 51% female enrolment, closely followed by The Wharton School and Penn State Smeal College of Business with 50%.
The Forté Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to increase representation of women in business leadership positions. Its work with global business schools centers on increasing female enrolment in MBA programs and removing limitations for women.
Which business schools are close to achieving gender parity?
Today, 34 out of 58 Forté Foundation member business schools are reporting that 40% or more women enrolled in their MBA programs in 2023, while 15 of these schools have reached 45% female representation. This is largely due the work of the Forté Foundation.
Three schools that are just shy of achieving gender parity in 2023 include the University of Rochester Simon Business School and the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management both with 49%, followed by Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management with 48%.
The University of Washington Foster School of Business achieved 47% female MBA enrolment in 2023. Stanford Graduate School of Business, Queen's University Smith School of Business and MIT Sloan School of Management each achieved 46%. Finally, Duke Fuqua School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Alliance Manchester School of Business all achieved 45%.
Female MBA enrollment in 2023
Why is female MBA enrollment increasing?
According to a recent GMAC report, the total number of business school applications in 2023 fell by 5%. However, encouragingly, this does not coincide with a fall in female MBAs.
Forté Foundation CEO, Elissa Sangster, attributes the rise in female MBA enrollment to the desire for greater career satisfaction. Another recent Forté survey found that women experienced less career satisfaction than men and were more likely to change employers.
“The survey found that the top reason for career satisfaction was career progression and salary, and their top reason for leaving was work culture and lack of respect,” says Elissa.
MBA programs can open more doors for women in business to make a career switch, achieve higher salaries, and have more agency in their careers. Elissa also points to the current uncertain global economy as a reason for female MBA enrolment increasing.
“When the economy and job market are tough, people tend to pursue an MBA to be in a better position when the situation improves. In good economic times, they are less likely to pursue an MBA. We may be seeing an uptick in people, including women, pursuing an MBA due to layoffs in some industry sectors this year,” she adds.
How are business schools attracting more female applicants?
There is not one single answer for business schools to reach gender parity.
“There are a lot of layers to the onion… you’ve got to tackle the issue in multiple ways,” says Elissa.
Increasing female enrollment at business school relies on empowering women. Female role models in leadership positions act as a symbol that women can break down the glass wall that prevents them from reaching leadership positions, so facilitating these connections is crucial to encouraging more women to take the leap.
That’s why Forté Foundation works with business schools to hold events such as Forté MBA Forums where aspiring applicants can connect with admissions reps and hear from successful MBA women.
Business schools can also offer MBA scholarships for women. Between 2003 and 2023, Forté partner schools have awarded around $400 million in scholarships for women.
While there is still some way to go before achieving gender parity across the board, it’s clear that business schools are taking important steps to attract more women MBA applicants.