What is the gender parity on the business school campus?

Last year, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School made history by enrolling more women than men in its 2023 MBA class. It was the first of the seven elite B schools to have a class composed mostly of women. That year, Wharton repeated the feat.

Bloomberg recently examined gender parity among top B schools and what Wharton’s female-majority MBA programs mean for other schools.


While B schools still have a long way to go to achieve true gender parity, many have struggled to improve over the years.

The Forte Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy and funding organization, has pursued gender parity among B schools for years. When Forte started, 28% of MBA classes in the US were women. However, just last year, that rate rose to about 40% among the 56 schools Forte tracks. Forte Foundation CEO Elissa Sangster says the odds of being the only woman on a team in an MBA program today are “very slim.”


One of the ways business schools actively seek to improve campus community is through alliance and support groups. Wharton was one of the first senior B schools to add a male Confederate club. It also helps that in 2020 Wharton appointed the school’s first woman and first person of color, Erika James, to lead the MBA program.

“I’m excited, and I acknowledge the historical nature of it, and I’m humbled by the opportunity,” James said in 2020. “Honestly, I believe my gender is the least I have to offer. Being a woman, I bring a perspective on decision making and how I engage in the community.”


While more women are earning an MBA today than years ago, men with a business degree still earn more than women with the same qualifications. According to a report by the Center on Education and the Workforce, while women held 43% of master’s degrees among study participants, they earned an average of $75,600 a year, or less than the $90,000 of men. It’s a study that aligns with the 83% gender pay gap in the US.

“It’s daunting when you’re a woman doing an MBA, and it’s frustrating when you’re getting it and you’re less than an equally qualified man,” Martin Van Der Werf, director of editorial and educational policy at Georgetown University’s Education Center Staff, says . “It can stop people from getting these degrees.”

Sources: Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal

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