Knowledge Center

Women and the M.B.A.: Gateway to Opportunity

Because women’s enrollment in MBA programs has reached a plateau at 25% to 30%, Catalyst, in cooperation with the University of Michigan Business School and the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, conducted a study to examine career outcomes for women MBA graduates. We surveyed 1,684 respondents (53% women and 47% men) who had graduated from top business schools since 1980. Aspects studied include: what industries and functional areas women are working in; levels of leadership they have attained; their expectations for future advancement; barriers they have encountered; and their recommendations for business schools and for corporations interested in attracting and retaining high-potential women.

Women and the M.B.A.: Gateway to Opportunity, the resulting report, details the findings, including: 95% of both women and men graduates from 12 of the nation’s top business schools report being satisfied with their MBA education. Women graduates cite lack of female role models (56%); incompatibility of careers in business with work/life balance (47%); lack of confidence in math skills (45%); and a lack of encouragement by employer (42%), as barriers that keep women from pursuing MBA degrees. The survey respondents said that the most rewarding experiences of business school are the interactions with other students, curriculum, and class size. Nearly one-third of all women MBA grads and 46% of African-American women MBAs find the business school culture to be overly aggressive and competitive. More than one-half of women state that they cannot relate to individuals in case studies and nearly 40% report that they do not have adequate opportunities to work with women professors.

Sponsors: Amoco, Chase Manhattan, Citibank, Cummins Engine Co., Deloitte & Touche, Eli Lilly & Co., Equity Group Investments, Ford, Kraft Foods, McKinsey & Co., Motorola, Proctor & Gamble, Whirlpool