March 2, 2012
New data released this week from the Graduate Management Admissions Council indicated that more women are working towards MBAs than ever before.
According to the GMAC, women accounted for 41 percent of the close to 259,000 people who took the Graduate Management Admission Test last year, which is a requirement for most MBA programs. The number of exams taken by women was 106,800, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth for women test-takers. This was also the third year in a row that over 100,000 women took the exam.
In the United States, women took nearly 46,000 exams -- the largest number out of any country in the world. The greatest percentage of women who took the GMAT, however, was in China, where 64 percent, or about 33,000, of those who sat for the test were women.
Nevertheless, the GMAC research also found that female MBAs who graduated from 2000 to 2011 and are working full-time earned just 81 percent of what their male counterparts did.
As reported by Life Inc., Elissa Ellis Sangster, who is executive director of the Forte Foundation advocacy group, noted that the GMAC report should be viewed as "a call to action" for U.S. government and businesses. She pointed out that countries such as China are encouraging women's leadership in business far more than the United States.
Life Inc. also reported that according to a study by the research firm Catalyst, last year, women held only about 16 percent of board seats and 14 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies.
Some argue that part of the problem is that business schools do not adequately prepare women for senior leadership roles with companies. "Business schools primarily think about female and male students as future employees rather than as women and men with complex lives for whom employment is a significant, but not the only, activity," wrote Erica Dhawan, an MBA candidate at MIT's Sloan School of Management, in an article featured in Forbes. "If MBA programs truly want to develop principled leaders, they need to address the different sets of concerns students can expect to encounter in the classroom, as well as when they graduate and enter the workforce."
In a related story, Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that according to Alex Chisholm, the GMAT's senior manager of statistical analysis, many who take the GMAT are increasingly pursuing specialized masters degrees in management and finance rather than MBAs. He added that the number of women taking the GMAT will continue to increase along with those who seek out such specialized graduate programs.
"As that pipeline gets larger and larger relative to the MBA, we expect to see a continued upwards trend in this area," he told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman
"B-School Applicants Getting Younger, Pickier," businessweek.com, February 14, 2012, Alison Damast
"Business Schools Don't Prepare Women for Leadership Roles in the Workplace," forbes.com, February 9, 2012, Erica Dhawan
"More Women Seeking MBAs, but Pay Gap Persists," lifeinc.today.msnbc.msn.com, March 1, 2012, Eve Tahmincioglu
"Women and Graduate Management Education," img.gmac.com, February 28, 2012