Why Women Choose Business (or Don't)

By BizEd Staff

April 25, 2017

Women have different motivations for pursuing MBA degrees than men.

EVEN THOUGH WOMEN represent a greater share of business school applicantsand more than 45 percent of GMAT test takersthey still are underrepresented in MBA programs. Women make up only 37 percent of MBA enrollments, according to a report from the Graduate Management Admission Cou ncil. GMAC created this report from the results of its 2016 Global Graduate Management Education Candidate Segmentation Study, conducted in partnership with global market research firm IPSOS. (See "Segmenting the Market" in BizEd’s March/April 2017 issue.)

What keeps women from reaching gender parity in the MBA once they've been accepted? For women, the biggest issue is money. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed pointed to financial issues as the reason they were waiting to accept offers of admission to graduate business programs. On the other hand, when men wait to enroll in MBA programs, many are simply weighing their options. Thirty-three percent of men surveyed were waiting to hear other schools' offers before making a decision.

Women who did enroll in MBA programs were more likely than men to choose part-time, online, flexible MBA formats. A greater portion of women expressed preferences for non-MBA specialized programs, which could be one reason why women already make up 52 percent of those enrolled in master's programs in marketing, accounting, and management.

Even so, the women surveyed still had a higher appreciation of the MBA degree as a passport to career advancement than men, and they were more likely than men to cite "curiosity" and a desire to learn new things as their primary motivations.

Women also were more likely to be early planners who started considering whether or not to pursue graduate business degrees as undergraduates. In addition, they were less likely than men to agree with the statement, "I would be willing to pay whatever it takes to go to a top-ranked graduate school." That could explain why women who have trouble financing their educations were less likely than men to enroll in MBA programs.

GMAC hopes business schools will use these findings to make "bold changes" creating opportunities that better reflect women's motivations. Its recommendations include reaching women early in their planning processes; emphasizing opportunities to discover new things and make an impact; and allocating financial aid and scholarships to women. Schools that take such factors into account, the report suggests, could soon reach that elusive "5O percent" mark in their MBA enrollments.

Download GMAC's white paper, ''What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education,'' at www.gmac.com/womeninbusinessschool.

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