More Women Seeking MBAs in the US and Internationally

Are you interested in earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) within the US or Internationally? If so, you’ll likely have more female classmates than you would have had in previous years. In the past, MBA programs have been male-dominated, but the distribution of males and females in business school continues to get more equitable year after year. As the composition of the MBA classroom continues to change, programs are becoming increasingly more female. Also, more women from North America are pursuing international MBAs to receive a global education.

Female MBA Student Trends

Numerous studies have replicated the increase of women in business school. In 2015, according to Forte Foundation, just over 36% of full-time MBA students were women. This rate increased four percentage points since 2011. See Figure 1 below for the percentages from 2011 to 2015.

Figure 1. Average Full-Time MBA Program Female Students

If you take a look at six of the top nine MBA programs within the US, there’s also an upward trend of female students. Six of these programs have over 40% women enrolled in their MBA program. Northwestern Kellogg and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton both had 43% female MBA students in 2015, which is the highest percentage of any top 10 business school. See Table 1 below to compare the percentages in 2011 and 2015 of female MBA students.

Table 1. Percentage of Female Students at Top MBA Programs
SchoolFemale students - 2015Female students - 2001
Harvard Business School41%34%
Standford GSB42%41%
University of Pennsylvania Wharton43%31%
University of Chicago Booth42%20%
Columbia Business School36%37%
MIT Sloan39%30%
Northwestern Kellogg43%32%
UC Berkeley Haas41%30%
NYU Stern35%38%

International MBAs for Women

Not only are more women deciding to go to graduate school to earn an MBA, but more female students are seeking global MBAs. As technology continues to advance and companies become more global, the world becomes more connected which encourages companies to explore new markets and global considerations. These women seeking international MBAs want to be at the forefront of this change.

Research by the London School of Business and the Forte Foundation shows that women from North America are increasingly attending business school in Europe. These female students are aware that the workforce is becoming more international and want to have global opportunities.

Characteristics of Women Seeking International MBAs

Why did these students choose to study outside of North American? The women in this study all expressed their interest in learning globally and pursuing global careers. According to the London School of Business and the Forte Foundation’s research, the women who seek MBAs in Europe have the following profiles. As companies continue to expand and compete globally, the cultural awareness of international markets will set MBA students apart. For those students that aren't interested in attending an MBA program outside of the US, there are global immersion and internship opportunities at many business schools in the US.

Industries that Women MBAs Pursue

As increasingly more women pursue MBAs, it has become apparent that the industries that more women pursue differ from men MBAs. After earning a graduate business degree, women more frequently enter fields like consumer goods, healthcare, retail, nonprofit and government. In contrast, men are more likely to pursue positions in consulting, energy, investment banking, private equity and IT fields. According to a Forbes study, marketing and advertising was the top industry for female MBA graduates with 22% of them entering this field compared to only 9% of male MBA graduates. As more and more women earn MBAs, these industry preferences shown by genders could shift.

For women considering pursuing an MBA, you can rest assured you will have an increasing number of female classmates. For those considering an MBA outside of North America, other women have done and continue to pursue the same path and have had success.

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