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Women and Men MBA Graduates Satisfied With Value of MBA Degree and With Careers Overall

Yet Women’s Enrollment in Top-Tier Business School Remains Static at 30 Percent

Ninety-five percent of both women and men graduates from 12 of the nation’s top business schools report being satisfied with their MBA education, according to a joint study released today by Catalyst, the University of Michigan Business School, and the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan. Despite high satisfaction among women who have actually earned an MBA, female enrollment at top business schools averages just 30 percent. The study suggests there are obstacles to more women taking advantage of the opportunity an MBA provides, including a disconnect between young women’s perceptions of business careers and the actual experiences of the women MBAs surveyed.

With women’s enrollment at top-tier business schools at 30 percent compared with 44 percent at top-tier law and medical schools, the study of more than 1,600 male and female MBAs was undertaken to shed light on the business school environment, career outcomes of MBA graduates, and why women do not pursue MBAs in greater numbers. The study, Women and the MBA: Gateway to Opportunity, indicates that the business school environment is better for women than conventional wisdom suggests, but that survey respondents believe that business school and business careers are not perceived by many women to be in line with their personal and professional goals.

"Both men and women graduates say their MBA was worth it and they are living the benefits," said Sheila Wellington, president of Catalyst. "They report that their employer puts value on their MBA, they are satisfied with the job opportunities in their industries and both men (84 percent) and women (81 percent) generally see themselves as having job assignments that provide visibility with senior management."

In addition, 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 they believe steer women away from pursuing an MBA.

"We have an opportunity gap—high satisfaction among women who attend MBA programs but few women investing themselves in those programs in the first place," said B. Joseph White, Dean of the University of Michigan Business school. "Getting more women into MBA programs means better access to the total talent pool for business, and can mean greater economic empowerment and influence for women themselves."

The most rewarding experiences of business school are the interaction with other students, curriculum, and class size, the survey respondents said. In open-ended responses about the most problematic aspects of the business school experience, men and women both agree that the area most ripe for improvement is the environment, described as "lack of focus on learning, overly-competitive, and lack of diversity in class."

Nearly one-third of all women MBA graduates and 46 percent of African-American women MBAs find the business school culture to be overly aggressive and competitive. More than half of the women can not relate to people in case studies and nearly 40 percent say they do not have an adequate opportunity to work with female professors.

"Partnerships among business schools and businesses are critical to attracting more women to the MBA," said Carol Hollenshead, Director, Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan. "Key strategies include aggressively recruiting women to business schools, providing additional financial aid, developing more inclusive business and business school cultures, and addressing work/life balance issues." Also cited as an important strategy is the need to increase the number of female professors and women involved in recruitment.

While women (86 percent) say they are satisfied with their careers overall, nearly 30 percent report greater difficulty with career advancement and less access to options that facilitate advancement, such as mentoring, sponsorship from senior management, and working in line positions. More men (42 percent) than women (33 percent) indicate finding mentors has been easy at their current job. Forty-six percent of all men MBA graduates hold line jobs, while only 37 percent of women MBA graduates do.

The study includes detailed recommendations for business schools and business organizations. Key points include improving women’s awareness of and educational preparation for business school, improving women’s professional preparation for business school, and countering negative images of business held by women.

Recommendations for business schools: Highlight the value of a top-tier business program and improve the business school environment. Recommendations for business organizations: Provide structured career support to women and support for work/life balance.

The research is sponsored by a consortium of 13 leading companies: BP Amoco plc, The Chase Manhattan Corporation, Citigroup, Cummins Engine, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Eli Lilly, Equity Group Investments, Ford, Kraft Foods, McKinsey & Co., Motorola, Procter & Gamble, and Whirlpool.

Survey findings are based on a written survey of MBA graduates from the following 12 top-ranked business schools that shared contact information for their graduates: Columbia University Graduate School of Business; Dartmouth College, Amos Tuck School; Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business; John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA; MIT Sloan School of Management; New York University, Stern School of Business; Stanford Graduate School of Business; University of California at Berkeley, Haas School of Management; University of Chicago Graduate School of Business; The University of Michigan Business School; University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business; and the University of Virginia, The Darden School.

Catalyst is the nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to advance women in business. Its dual mission is to enable professional women to achieve their maximum potential and to help employers capitalize fully on the talents of their female employees. For more information about Catalyst, visit our web site at www.catalystwomen.org.

The University of Michigan Business School (UMBS) is home to top-rated undergraduate, MBA, Ph.D., and executive education programs and has been rated in surveys of business executives as the most innovative business school in the world. UMBS’s programs combine full-range academic prowess with intensive developmental experiences to turn out results-producing business leaders. The School is one of the most richly diverse of the top business schools, which UMBS considers vital for excellent management education and development. UMBS has a strong point of view that getting the best talent into business schools and business requires tapping and developing people from all demographic groups. www.bus.umich.edu


The Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan is nationally recognized for its work on women and higher education, employment, careers, and leadership. Since its founding 35 years ago, the Center’s mission has been three-fold: research to increase our knowledge of women’s lives; advocacy to reduce barriers to women’s advancement; and service to help women further their educational and employment goals. www.umich.edu/~cew/