Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

The 20 Best Business Schools For Women In 2019

BusinessBecause highlights the top 20 MBA programs in the world for female representation

Thu Mar 7 2019

This article was written by Heather Fallon and Elle Ayres

It’s no secret that MBA classrooms tend to be a male-dominated space. The percentage of global female applicants remains at approximately 38%, despite bids to increase female participation.

Female representation on MBA programs is vital when attempting to level the playing field and address the gender equality gap in business. A recent McKinsey report found that increased gender diversity in the workplace has a direct correlation with profitability, as companies with strong female representation outperformed industry peers by 21%.

The issue of gender equity at business schools is ubiquitous. At the Indian institute of Management Calcutta, female MBA students make up a meagre 9% of the classroom, while US Brigham Young University: Marriott have just 14%. European and Chinese business schools generally perform better on average, but there remains significant room for progress.  

It is not all doom and gloom, however. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) Prospective Students Survey Report for 2018, there has been growth among female applicants in comparison to men.

Plus, when compared to the same statistics from 2017, the percentage of female students has certainly improved—the MBA program in number one spot this year has 65% female representation, up from 55% in 2017.

Here's the 20 best business schools for women in 2019:

20. SDA Bocconi - Italy - 42% Female Students

In the center of stunning Milan, SDA Bocconi continues to top rankings tables as the best business school in Italy. Its commitment to improving female representation has been fruitful as it climbs to 20th for female student representation on the MBA.

19. University of California at Berkeley: Haas - US - 43% Female Students 

With a strong female population, Haas tips the scale further in their favor when it comes to student outcomes, ranked third in the world for female salary increase. Notable female alumnae include Barbara J. Desoer, CEO of Citibank. Professor Kellie McElhaney is founder of the school's Center for Equity, Gender, & Leadership and featured on our International Women's Day special episode of our podcast, The Business School Question, to debate the question: Do Women Work Harder Than Men?

18. University of Pennsylvania: Wharton - US  - 43% Female Students 

Wharton not only scores highly for female students, but also offers a Women’s Executive Leadership course, helping prospective women in Business to navigate the numerous and unique...

nges of leadership. Alumnae include none other than Ivanka Trump. 

17. University of Michigan: Ross - US - 43% Female Students 

With a mission to build a better world through business, Ross offers female MBA students professional networking opportunities through Michigan Business Women, creating a supportive community for women on-campus.

16. Yale School of Management - US - 43% Female Students 

World renowned Yale has a host of prestigious female alumnae, many of whom have gone on to become CEOs of major companies. These include Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president of Women’s World Banking, and Indra Nooyi, chairman of PepsiCo.

With 43% of their MBA program made up of female students, it’s no surprise they’re cultivating an environment for women in business to succeed.

15. Lancaster University Management School - UK - 43% Female Students 

Consistently ranked highly for its research power, Lancaster boasts the Academy of Gender, Work, and Leadership as well as a Women in Entrepreneurship Week. Notable female alumnae include Nahed Taher, founder and CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank and also a member of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World club.

14. Incae Business School - Costa Rica/Nicaragua - 44% Female Students

As the highest-ranking school in Latin America, the business school also tops its Latin competitors for gender equity with a 44% female MBA population. The school also runs a Center for Collaborative and Women’s Leadership ‘dedicated to the issues of collaborative leadership and gender diversity.’

Check out the latest episode of our podcast, The Business School Question:

Do Women Work Harder Than Men?


13. Durham University Business School - UK - 44% Female Students 

Having held the top spot in 2018, Durham remains a strong contender when it comes to gender parity on its MBA.

Paving the way for remarkable women, Durham b-school alumnae include Kerryann Ifill, former President of the Senate of Barbados. She was the first female to take the role, as well as the first disabled candidate and youngest to ever hold the position.

12. Boston University: Questrom - US - 44% Female Students

Questrom has a Women’s MBA Association whose mission is to ‘unite men and women in addressing women-related issues in the workplace’. They have launched the Questrom Women’s Summit dedicated to the cause. It is little surprise therefore, that female students are flocking to Boston.

11. Sungkyunkwan University GSB  - South Korea - 45% Female Students

This fast-growing business school has raced ahead of competitors, despite its relatively short life span. Their business programs promise a global educational experience that is ranked number one in South Korea.

The Top 10


10. Dartmouth College: Tuck - US - 45% Female Students 

With 45% female representation, Tuck is more than just a stunning business school. Coming 11th for female representation last year, Tuck continues to admit a diverse range of students to its MBA program.

9. Northwestern University: Kellogg - US - 45% Female Students 

Kellogg has a promising history when it comes to women in business, including having the first female dean at a top 10 business school.

The school's pioneering attitude is further reflected by their strong female representation and fierce female alumnae, including Roshni Nadar, CEO of HCL Enterprise and ranked 51st in Forbes’ 2017’s Most Powerful Women list.

8. Imperial College Business School - UK - 45% Female Students 

Continuously dedicated to providing a supportive environment for women in business, London-based Imperial College Business School offers female MBA scholarships as well as a host of clubs and societies for women, including the Women in Business Society.

Based in the heart of London, this is the business school for women wanting to tap into the wealth of opportunities on offer in the UK capital.

7. University of Hong Kong - China - 46% Female Students

The oldest tertiary education institution of Hong Kong, the University first admitted female students in 1921, ten years after it was founded. The business school has since made up for lost time with a 46% population of female MBA students.

6. Cranfield School of Management - UK  - 49% Female Students 

Since 1999, Cranfield’s Female FTSE Index has provided vital insights on female executive directors in the UK, so it is little surprise that Cranfield score highly in female representation.

Notable alumnae include successful entrepreneur and UK Dragon's Den star, Sarah Louise Willingham, and Lara Morgan, founder and former CEO of Pacific Direct. 

5. Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Antai - China - 51% Female Students

Shanghai Jiao Tong University exhibits a healthy balance of female MBA students at 51%. The impressive average salary increase, of approximately 193%, is also not to be sniffed at.

Read on as we take a deep-dive into the top four business schools for women in 2019

4. University of Southern California: Marshall - US - 52% Female Students 

If a sun-soaked LA campus wasn’t enough to attract prospective MBA students, Marshall’s 52% female student population just might.

USC Marshall holds an annual International Women’s Day celebration, a conference-style event that brings together female leaders to discuss issues faced by women in business. In February, it hosted its first women-centric MBA case competition—Everyone’s Business—bringing MBA students from around the world on-campus to discuss ways to advance gender equality in the workplace.

The school has a Mother’s Room, which supports mothers on the MBA program. Anne Ziemniak, assistant dean and director of the full-time MBA, says she’s committed to creating an environment where diversity of experience and thought are not only welcomed, but sought out.

For Anne, the biggest benefit of having more women in MBA programs is the stronger pipeline it builds toward women filling leadership roles in business. “More women in business means more voices, greater diversity in thinking, and increased capacity to address tough business problems,” she says.

3. University of Edinburgh Business School - UK - 55% Female Students 

The MBA at the University of Edinburgh Business School (UEBS) has consistently performed well for equal gender representation. Since 2017, the MBA’s female student population has increased from 49% to 55%.

Wendy Loretto, dean of UEBS, says this is all down to how the school recruits students. She explains that, because women tend to downplay their experience and success, it’s important schools approach admissions with a personal touch.

“From the beginning we make it clear that we’re interested in you, everything you’ve done and everything you can be,” Wendy enthuses, “this is instrumental in diversifying the school.” The high proportion of female faculty (42%) also inspires students to apply.

Furthermore, the idea that there’s more to success than money is a key part of the school’s ethos. For Wendy, this makes UEBS a more inclusive place; doing away with masculine notions of high competition and high salary.

Women’s success, Wendy explains, is not evaluated by how far women can assimilate their behavior to their male peers. “Women aren’t a group to be accommodated in business; they’re an important part of it in the first place,” she says.

2. ESSEC Business School - France - 56% Female Students 

Launched in 1907, ESSEC Business School demonstrates an impressive 56% female student population on its full-time MBA. Notable female ESSEC alumnae include Fleur Pellerin, who served as French government minister from 2012 to 2016, and Dominique Reiniche, European chairman of Coca-Cola since January 2013.

ESSEC credits its recruitment process as key to its high female intake. Students are asked about their career ambitions and, when they start the program, are assigned a relevant mentor to help support them.

“The benefit of female mentoring is that female MBAs are comfortable talking about their issues and struggles without the threat of stereotype or creating tension,” explains Patti Brown, director of the ESSEC Global MBA.

Patti organizes a monthly speaker series, featuring inspirational female business leaders, which attracts huge numbers of both men and women. “For too long the stereotype of a successful woman has been bitchy and bossy,” Patti stresses. “Having so many smart and strong women on the program is showing men (and women!) how female business leaders are just diverse leaders with both hard and soft skills.”

ESSEC’s Women’s MBA Network provides a space for female professionals to forge personal and professional relationships throughout their studies. And, with the gender pay gap in mind, the school holds salary negotiation workshops for women to prepare them to fight for higher pay.

Aarti Ramaswami, deputy dean of ESSEC Asia-Pacific and academic director of the ESSEC Global MBA, says: “I can see the admiration and respect men have for the women on the MBA program, and this will translate into the workplace later.” Although, she notes: “The fact that we are having this conversation highlights there’s still work to be done.”

1. Fudan University School of Management - China - 65% Female Students 

Fudan University’s well-established management school has a whopping female student population of 65% on its full-time MBA, surpassing its closest competition easily by 9%.

Students on the school’s International MBA—delivered in partnership with MIT Sloan—participate in a three-day orientation event to start the program. Sun Long, executive director of the Fudan-MIT IMBA, explains that he found dozens of female students were missing orientation because of childcare issues.

In response, the school launched an orientation event specifically for students with personal commitments which invites their families to join, so they too get an insight into the pressures MBA students face.

Fudan welcomed its first female student, Juliana Young Koo, in 1927. Today, the school supports its female students with a Women Leadership Scholarship and a female development forum where women MBAs can discuss their progression with their professors and peers.

*This list is based on female representation on full-time MBA programs. All the data in this article is based on the Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking 2019