Knowledge Center

Women and the M.B.A.: Gateway to Opportunity, conducted in cooperation with the University of Michigan Business School and the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, examines career outcomes for women M.B.A. graduates. 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.

Impetus: Women’s enrollment in M.B.A. programs has reached a plateau at 25 to 30 percent.


  • A survey was conducted of those who had graduated from top business schools since 1980. The sample consists of 1,684 respondents (53 percent women and 47 percent men).

Findings: Ninety-five percent of both women and men graduates from 12 of the nation’s top business schools report being satisfied with their M.B.A. education. Women graduates cite lack of female role models (56 percent); incompatibility of careers in business with work/life balance (47 percent); lack of confidence in math skills (45 percent); and a lack of encouragement by employer (42 percent), as barriers that keep women from pursuing M.B.A. 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 M.B.A. grads and 46 percent of African-American women M.B.A.s 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 percent 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