A Major Business School Reaches Gender Parity Among MBA Students for the First Time

The University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School on Tuesday reported that 52% of the MBA students entering its doors this fall will be women, making it what’s thought to be the first major business school in the U.S. to reach gender parity in its full-time MBA program. It achieved the feat with a 20 percentage point leap; women represented 32% of its incoming students last year.

“We know industry is looking for more women for leadership-level positions so it will give us a chance to satisfy those needs from our employers,” Dean James G. Ellis told Poets and Quants. The gender gap in business, he said, runs “from boards to senior leadership down to entry level”.

Many U.S. business schools’ female make-up hovers around the 40% mark.

USC’s jump from 32% to 52% is attributable to a number of factors, Ellis said. “The quality of the pool was strong and the yield was good. A lot of our students were helping with recruiting,” he said, adding that the school’s “positive reputational stuff” along with a substantial jump in MBA rankings helped too. U.S. News listed the school as 20th in 2018, up from 31st in 2016.

Gender diversity at the top levels of business is severely lacking. According to the global nonprofit Catalyst, among the S&P’s top 500 companies in the financial services industry, women comprise 54% of the labor force, and yet account for only 29% of executive and senior-level manager roles, and 2% of CEOs. That narrative also translates to the tech world.

Business schools worldwide are putting forth various initiatives aimed at improving gender diversity on campus, with the expectation it will have a domino effect in the business world. These range from scholarships and executive coaching for women, to annual gender diversity seminars.

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