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Can Top Business Schools Boost The Number Of Women Executives?

More women MBAs, but data show executive suites remain male-dominated

Mon Jan 4 2016

BusinessBecause
In recent years top business schools have made great strides in closing their gaping gender divides — and in turn helping to diversify the top ranks of business.

But those efforts risk falling short, as new data continues to show that companies’ executive suites remain male-dominated.

The progress made in boosting the number of top women in leading MBA programs has not been matched in executive positions.

Executive search firm MWM Consulting found that, while non-executive roles are much more diverse, women executives represented 9.6% of UK boards, a meagre rise from 5.5% in 2011. In the US, women CEOs make up only 4% of the S&P 500 and Nasdaq listed companies. And there are no women CEOs among CAC 40 firms in France or the DAX index in Germany.

Elissa Sangster, executive director for women’s advocacy group Forté Foundation, said business schools have been “aggressive” in targeting women. But, “will we see an immediate response in the number of women in the top ranks of business? It won’t happen”.

Yet, she added, if there isn’t gender equity in MBA programs, companies may miss out on a key pipeline of leadership talent — half of female Fortune 100 CEOs have an MBA.  

Not only is there a worrying gap between the careers of men and women at the top in business, but the pay gulf remains wide.  

According to research published last year by the FT, three years after graduation the average male MBA earns $137,000; women earn just $120,000. And research from Catalyst found the gap widens as female MBAs move up in their careers.

Professor Dianne Bevelander at Rotterdam School of Management, said the gulf is discouraging for female business school students.

“They deserve and are fully entitled to the leadership roles and the pay that men achieve,” she said.

Barbara Silveira, a former commodities trader studying for an MBA at Lancaster University Management School, believes business schools are important in closing the gender divide.

“It will be easier and an even more natural process to promote gender diversity if there are more women and leaders to serve as examples in our society,” she said. Some 50% of MBAs are LUMS are women.

Elite business schools have boosted female enrolment through targeting more women in the admissions process with funding, and other initiatives.  

Research from Forté Foundation last year found female MBA enrolment among 36 top US schools — including Rice Jones, Columbia and Robert H. Smith — rose from 32% in 2011 to 36% in 2015.

“Our mission is to train new leaders — both men and women — who redefine how we do business,” said Erin Kellerhals, interim executive director of MBA admissions at Berkeley Haas School. “Diversity in the classroom is a critical factor in our learning environment. Women often have a different worldview than men.”

School leaders remain adamant that education will improve women’s career opportunities.   

“For women to contribute consistently and well at these senior levels, they need more opportunities to acquire the wisdom of both education and experience,” said Maura Herson, MBA program director at MIT Sloan School of Management, who has been outspoken on the topic.

“MBA programs... also need women to contribute their perspective and leadership in the classroom, in collaborative interactions with peers, and in innovating beyond the status quo,” she added.

Everyone agrees that more needs to be done to diversify the corporate world — research by Bespoke Investment Group has shown that some women CEOs outperform their male counterparts.

Boulding, dean of Duke Fuqua School of Business, said: “Attracting more women into business schools and the business world is about winning.”

“If we improve the diversity of the MBA workforce, we will help create the value society so badly needs from the business community,” he said.

But opinions remain divided over how to more quickly achieve gender parity. Increasing educational opportunities is just one approach.

“Offering flexible and agile working is a key strategy for most businesses — as well as providing training around unconscious bias,” said Sally Clare, head of diversity at recruitment firm Ambition.

She said that some organizations are also implementing mentoring, sponsorship and training aimed at identifying, nurturing and promoting female talent.

These include “specific strategies to support mothers returning to work” and by profiling women leaders who are balancing a successful career with personal commitments. 

Student Reviews

Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Student

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31/10/2023

On Campus

Supportive atmosphere

The professors at Duke university exhibit exceptional commitment to the success and well-being of their students by ensuring their academic growth and fostering a supportive social atmosphere. Moreover, the entire community is recognized for its amicability and inclusiveness.

Maxwell

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30/03/2023

On Campus

Diversity

The people or the students are without a doubt Duke's greatest asset. While all students are driven to succeed, they are also enthusiastic about a variety of hobbies. You run across a huge lot of diversity. It is the ideal example of a school with well-rounded students and the ideal balance of campus life in a metropolis.

Anabelle

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27/02/2023

On Campus

Happy to school

All I could ever hope for is Duke University. That really epitomizes the "work hard, play hard" philosophy that elite colleges frequently pursue. Even though you'll have a lot of schooling to complete over the week, it's simple to keep focused because all of your friends are putting in similar amounts of effort. Many events taking place on and around campus on the weekends provide a great way to unwind. The combination of demanding academics and traditional college fun strikes the perfect balance.

Monica

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27/02/2023

On Campus

Good schooling

Living, eating, learning, and developing who you want to be as an adult are all fantastic at Duke. I participated in student athletics, and I couldn't have asked for a better interaction with the faculty and other students. I appreciate all of the help I get from the Duke community more than anything. Furthermore, the teachers take the time to get to know you, and the lectures are diverse and demanding (if you do the same). I'd give it a 10 out of 10.

Aline

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26/11/2022

On Campus

Beautiful School, Nice Classes

DU remains one the greatest and best universities that I have ever stepped in. The school is beautiful and neat. The classes are spacious and also very nice. I enjoyed attending my Lectures in those lecture halls. I also loved the Lecturers because of the good work they did. The university also has very good dorms that are given to students on first come first serve basis and they are affordable

Student

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29/06/2022

Blended

Amazing experience

I received my B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Global Health with a minor in Chemistry from Duke University. I was able to grow as a student, scientist, and global health advocate with the help of my friends, professors, and other mentors I met along the way. A lot to learn if you look and ask, a great place to learn for those who want to learn.

Student

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29/06/2022

Blended

whirlwind of growth and change

An amazing 2 years, with covid and everything else happening Duke has been a place of growth for me. The courses , classes were one of a kind, online and on campus. But the valuable lessons learned in the classes are irreplicable. The students are amazing here, so much diversity , I had no problem fitting in. The teachers are down right brilliant and so helpful. Don't be afraid to ask them anything. Graduated with my MBA with Duke and now my future awaits.

Student

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29/06/2022

On Campus

One of the best for Business students

Graduated with an MBA. The classes were very insightful and engaging. The staff are very easy to deal with. The teachers and students, are truly amazing people. Grateful to all the people I've met along the way at Duke. I've learnt a great deal that will help me in my future endeavors. The campus itself is a marvel, it is beautiful.

Student

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16/06/2022

On Campus

The university campus is awesome

I graduated with a masters degree in Religious Studies from Duke University. One thing I really liked about the university is its huge campus. It is spread in a large area with a lot of greenery and also have the facilities of reading rooms for single person also. My department building was very well taken care of. The library is immensely populated with books for all your needs. The faculty is very nice to students. The classes are equipped with latest technology to cater the needs of students. The University also provides room rentals for international students. They are very well maintained and priority is given to the International students for a comfortable stay there. There are weekly events conducted by the University as well as Student clubs for the entertainment of students. Anybody can take part in them and show their talents. I enjoyed my degree and I graduated in 2021 and was very happy that I had graduated from a reputed University.

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