Women and the Full-Time MBA: Continuing the Push for Progress

March 2019


This research brief presents four topics related to women’s full-time MBA recruitment. Discussions of each are paired with GMAC market intelligence insights and views from school professionals with the aim to spark ideas, aid in reflection, and develop new perspectives as your institution strives to move the needle on women’s applications and enrollment in your full-time MBA program.

Quick Facts

The four topics discussed in the brief are:

  • Connect female candidates with current students and alumnae to enable authentic exchanges about the student experience. While 7 percent of female candidates considering full-time MBA programs report being influenced by admissions professionals, 27 percent report being influenced by current students or alumni. Director of diversity and inclusion at Berkeley Haas, Dr. Élida Bautista, shares her perspectives on how connections between candidates and current students and alumni from historically marginalized groups enable authentic exchanges about the student experience and allow candidates to better assess their fit to the program.
  • Thoughtfully frame women-specific recruitment events with a clear value proposition to the individual candidate. Most full-time MBA programs have a special recruitment or outreach initiative for women, and for many women-specific recruitment events are a key component of their overall strategy. Unless these events and their content are thoughtfully framed, planned, and executed, they can easily send the wrong signal to candidates, making them feel like a statistic and that the school’s motivations are driven primarily by achieving a target female enrollment percentage. Andrew Dalik, Senior marketing manager at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, shares insights from focus group research. 
  • Promote the broad spectrum of MBA career possibilities and embolden women’s leadership aspirations. Findings from the mba.com Prospective Students Survey demonstrate that the industries and job functions women MBA candidates intend to pursue are equally varied to that of men, and not limited to roles or fields that have been historically stereotyped as being better suited to women. While career outcomes are a key motivator for women, survey findings also demonstrate that often female candidates do not set their sights as high as their male counterparts. Jamie Belinne, assistant dean at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and board member of the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance, shares her perspectives on women MBAs' career goals and encouraging them to pursue leadership positions.
  • Create new pathways to the MBA with a deferred admission program. More so than for men, early planning is a key factor in the business school application journey for female candidates. Survey findings show that women are more likely than men to first start considering an MBA while they are still enrolled as undergraduates. For these women, deferred admissions programs can be a particularly appealing pathway to the MBA, enabling them to plan for their future education and career earlier than the standard trajectory to a full-time MBA program. Senior associate director of admissions Katherine Alford and assistant director of admissions Taylor Fisher discuss the Future Year Scholars Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and its appeal to female candidates.