The biggest blue-chip banks and top management consultancy firms are targeting women in business schools as political and business pressure grows on companies to close the gender gap.
Lloyds Banking Group, the UK government-backed lender, will invest more than £700,000 in MBA scholarship funding for women over four years.
Lloyds said it has taken steps to help more talented women to gain executive experience through career progression and management education.
It will fund four scholarships of £30,000 each for women to study MBAs at London Business School this year. Part of the Lloyds Scholarships for Women program, the 2015 tranche follows the four scholarships provided by the bank to women to study MBAs last year.
Lloyds, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, plans to fund the scholarships for a further two years.
Graham Lindsay, director for responsible business at Lloyds, said the group is committed to being a place in which women want to work: “We have a robust program in place to ensure that we are best placed to achieve this.” She added that Lloyds has a focus on women in leadership.
Research shows that there is an under-representation of women pursuing postgraduate management education, and that a core barrier to participation is financial resources, the bank said.
A lack of women at the top, and the persistent gender wage gap, mean some women may have not have the financial means to take time out of work to study, according to business schools.
Gender diversity efforts may benefit from a top-down approach. Bernard Garrette, dean of the HEC Paris MBA, said: “If women with MBAs achieve the same seniority and compensation as men, we may see them [women] enter business programs in greater numbers.”
Financial services has been among the most heavily criticized industries. According to a 2013 census by Catalyst, the women’s advocacy group, women comprised 17.6% of executive officers of Fortune 500 firms in the finance and insurance sectors.
Adam Jackson, managing director at recruiter Astbury Marsden, said investment banks pride themselves on being fiercely meritocratic. “They will take candidates exclusively from top-performing universities and business schools, regardless of race, gender or background,” he said.
Banks, lacking in gender diversity, are targeting their recruiting efforts at top business schools in a bid to bring more women into financial services.
Morgan Stanley, the US’s sixth largest lender by assets, offers a graduate scholarship program that provides women and minorities funding to complete MBA degrees. Selected candidates are hired for Morgan Stanley’s 10-week summer associate program.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch offers to fund $40,000 of tuition and fees for the first year of MBA programs for women and ethnic minorities, part of its MBA Diversity Fellowship Program. Women who are hired by the bank have the opportunity to receive a further $40,000 in funding for the second year of two-year MBA programs, common in the US.
Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank, hosts the MBA Women’s Summit – an event for first-year female MBA students to learn more about the financial services industry and summer internship opportunities at the firm.
Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, will provide up to £80,000 in scholarship money to female MBA applicants with an interest in a career in financial services, also at LBS.
Deutsche also provided scholarship funding for the MBA program at Karachi School for Business and Leadership in India – part of a strategic collaboration with the UK’s Cambridge University.
Recent research by Astbury Marsden found that in the City of London, investment banks and consultancy firms are the most convinced of all City staff of the benefits of workplace diversity – 59% and 57% of staff in those sectors respectively said they value diversity.
Adam said that banks’ quality of work across diverse international markets is likely to suffer if the culture is too monolithic. Having staff from a wide range of backgrounds with cultural sensitivity and language skills is likely to be a valuable asset, he said.
Deloitte, the professional services firm, runs the MBA Visionary Program and Scholarship – an initiative to attract diverse MBA talent to its consulting practice. Deloitte offers scholarship funding of $15,000 to women and ethnic minorities who land a spot on its associate program.
Boston Consulting Group, the management consultancy, offers a scholarship to female applicants to support their study. It is available to MBA students including at Melbourne Business School and the University of Western Australia.
Companies’ scholarships mirror efforts by business schools to reach gender parity. At INSEAD, more than €330,000 in scholarship funds has been allocated to women, with 46% of INSEAD’s total scholarship pot given to female students. Forté Foundation offers scholarships to a number of schools including Oxford, Rotman and IESE, and has provided $68 million to more than 3,000 candidates to date.
Wendy Alexander, London Business School associate dean, said: “Women’s leadership is – at last – coming of age.”