Minding the Gap: Tapping the Potential of Women to Transform Business

Diversity Enrollment, Research, Global, 2016, White Paper

P. Bruggeman and H. Chan

This white paper, authored by staff members in the GMAC Research Services Department, highlights the advancement of women in the workplace, in higher education, and in graduate business education, in particular, and discusses the barriers and obstacles that impede women from progressing to the top levels of business leadership. It offers some thoughts on how changing the gender dynamics in businesses and in business schools can help expand opportunities for women to advance in their business careers and in turn, help their organizations become more diverse and prepared for the 21st century economy. 


For 40 years, women have been transforming society through their growing contributions to the world economy—their participation rate in the labor force today nearly equals men. Globally, women are earning higher educational credentials at a growing rate—female college graduates now often match or exceed men both in college attendance and graduation rates. Women are just as likely as men to have advanced degrees in many countries. Yet in spite of these achievements, there is a persistent gap in women’s earnings and a lack of female participation in the top leadership roles in businesses, indicative of work still needed to address the barriers and obstacles that make it harder for women to advance in business careers and accrue the same financial rewards as men.

Women, by virtue of their higher education credentials are among the most skilled workers in the job market, and this paper argues that businesses would be remiss not to develop this high-potential talent pool as their next generation of business leaders. This is where the role of graduate schools of business becomes increasingly important as they are a primary talent pipeline for future business leaders.

This paper presents:

  • A snapshot of recent GMAC and industry data that tracks women’s progress in the pipeline for graduate management education and the outcomes they’ve achieved since earning their MBA degrees;
  • Discussion of the gender pay gap and diversity gap in business leadership as they impact women’s careers; and
  • Thoughts on how changing the gender dynamics in businesses and in business schools can expand opportunities for women.