What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education

Diversity Enrollment, Research, Global, 2017, White Paper

S. Colby and P. Bruggeman

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What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education, a white paper authored by GMAC analysts and researchers, shares insights about women's motivations to pursue graduate management education (GME), their approach to the application journey, and the biggest challenges they face along the way. These insights are examined in the context of findings from the Council's recent global GME candidate segmentation study along with other GMAC survey research and admissions testing data. The analysis provides market intelligence that schools can use to create a new value proposition for women and make progress toward gender parity in the business school classroom.


Analysis in this white paper focused primarily on the results of a global graduate management education (GME) study that GMAC conducted in 2016, designed to differentiate candidate segments based on what motivates them to pursue GME and to apply to a specific graduate business school. Analysis of global segmentation findings explore global results for men and women and further differentiates behaviors and motivations of female applicants in countries or regions that have the largest respondent samples in the original study, namely: China, India, the United States and Europe. Other data sources reviewed for this paper include recent GMAC Application Trends and mba.com Prospective Students Surveys, GMAT testing data, and external sources including AACSB, U.S. Department of Education, and the World Economic Forum.

Quick Facts

  • The share of women in MBA classrooms has consistently remained below 50 percent in parity to men, yet women are at or near parity in many non-MBA master's programs. Even so, women are more likely than men to hold the MBA degree in high regard.
  • Overall, women are more pragmatic and outcomes-focused in their approach to GME, and are less intimidated by standardized testing than their male peers.
  • Women in Western countries differ in their motivations and approaches to the application journey than women in emerging economies like China and India.
  • Challenges related to funding are significant barriers for women.