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It’s a Woman’s Business

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The Truth About Women and MBA Degrees

Despite huge strides in gender equality in recent decades — particularly in education — women are less likely to pursue an MBA than their male counterparts. What factors are behind this trend? Learn about what’s being done to ensure more women can take a seat at the boardroom table.

An Inherent Imbalance

Women are getting MBAs, but to a much lesser degree. Despite matching or exceeding men in both college attendance and graduation rates, women are less likely to pursue a master’s degree in business administration.

The number of U.S. women in higher education in 2015 reveals a distinct imbalance. 1

  • 60% of graduate degrees
  • 57% of bachelor’s degrees
  • 36% of MBA degrees

In the past 5 years, the number of female applicants for full-time MBA programs has plateaued. 2

Mismatched Math

No single reason is responsible for the trend, but women consider a variety of factors when deciding whether to pursue an MBA. Much of the decision depends on how well a program fits their educational, professional, and personal goals.

Hitting Financial Obstacles

Obtaining business school funding is a top challenge for: 3

  • 30% of women
  • 9% of men

Growing Wage Gaps

Even with an MBA, women could earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. 4

Uneven Earnings

  • Men
    • Immediately Post-MBA: $140,000
    • 6-8 Years Post-MBA: $175,000
  • Women
    • Immediately Post-MBA: $98,000
    • 6-8 Years Post-MBA: $105,000

Exploring Other Programs

Women who find that the traditional MBA program doesn’t fit into their personal or professional plans may gravitate toward more flexible options. Gender parity exists across other master’s programs — with far more women earning the following degrees: 2

  • Master of Marketing: 65%
  • Master of Accounting: 61%
  • Master of Management: 52%

Making Progress Toward Parity

Diversifying our MBA programs starts with removing the most common barriers to entry. Schools and businesses that have made efforts to include women and broaden their class offerings have seen a marked increase in female MBA applicants.

Offer More Options

Online programs and other flexible offerings are gaining popularity across a variety of master’s programs, including new MBA formats — attracting a higher percentage of female applicants than traditional full-time programs.

2016 Female MBA Applicants, By Program Type

  • Flexible: 44%
  • Online: 43%
  • Part-time: 41%
  • Full-time 2-year: 37%
  • Executive: 36%
  • Full-time 1-year: 33%

Remodel Recruitment

A 2015 worldwide survey of graduate management programs shows that many are actively changing their approaches to recruit female MBA applicants. 5

  • Full-time 2-year MBA: 67%
  • Executive MBA: 51%
  • Full-time 1-year MBA: 42%
  • Part-time MBA: 41%

Promote Diversity

Encouraging social accountability through mentoring programs and diversity task forces can increase female and minority representation in management.

5-Year Change in Female Managerial Representation

  • College Recruitment
    • White Women: 10%
    • Black Women: 9%
    • Hispanic Women: 10%
    • Asian Women: 9%
  • Mentoring
    • White Women: 12%
    • Black Women: 18%
    • Hispanic Women: 24%
    • Asian Women: 24%
  • Diversity Task Forces
    • Black Women: 23%
    • Hispanic Women: 16%
    • Asian Women: 24%

Bolstering Gender Equality In The Workplace Starts With Promoting More Parity In Business School

By better understanding potential female enrollees’ interests and challenges, we can provide women with the necessary means to pursue the careers they want and achieve the business success they deserve. Learn more about our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business and begin advancing your career today.


  1. “What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education,” 2017, GMAC
  2. “Application Trends Survey Report,” 2016, GMAC
  3. “Global GME Segmenttion Study,” 2016, GMAC
  4. “The Real Payoff From an MBA is Different for Men and Women,” 2015, Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. “Application Rends Survey Report,” 2015, GMAC
  6. “Why Diversity Programs Fail,” 2016, Harvard Business Review

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