Graduate Management News

GMAC Survey Sheds Light on Women and the MBA

Overall, the survey showed strong interest in full-time MBA programs. Seventy-seven percent of full-time programs said application volume rose in 2008, up from 64 percent last year. Among women, the figure was 65 percent, up from 57 percent.

Applications from women were strong in several core disciplines. At a ratio of 65 to 35, for example, the survey found that in 2008, more women actually applied for part-time master’s in accounting programs than did men. An equal percentage of women and men applied for master’s in finance programs. In three other categories—full-time master’s in accounting, MSc in management or business administration, and Other Master’s-part time—nearly the same percentage of women applied as did men (47 percent to 53 percent in each category).

At the other end of the spectrum, however, far more men (77 percent) applied for executive MBA programs than did women (23 percent). In addition, women constituted less than less a third of applicants to part-time lockstep MBA programs (31 percent), full-time traditional MBA programs (30 percent), and full-time accelerated MBA programs (29 percent). While the average number of applications to full-time MBA programs rose by 10 percent in 2008, the average number of applications to full-time programs from women grew just 8.5 percent. The percentage of women applying to either full-time or accelerated MBA and EMBA programs has essentially been flat for the last three years.

A bright spot in the survey results comes in applicants to part-time MBA programs. While the average number of applications to part-time MBA programs overall was essentially unchanged in 2008, the average number of applications to part-time programs from women grew more than 13 percent. In 2008, 42 percent of applicants to part-time, self-paced MBA programs were women, up from 39 percent last year and 35 percent in 2006. As Wall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger recently suggested, increased offerings of part-time programs on the part of business schools “are slowly brightening the work-life landscape for aspiring female business leaders.”

The strong interest among women in part-time programs parallels increased outreach on the part of business schools. In the GMAC survey, 60 percent of full-time MBA programs said they made a particular effort to attract women in 2008, up from 56 percent in 2007. Notably, too, a fast-growing proportion of part-time MBA programs are making a special pitch to recruit female applicants—46 percent of part-time programs said they conducted special marketing programs aimed at women in 2008, up from 29 percent in 2007.

The ninth GMAC Application Trends Survey was conducted from May 28 to July 2, 2008. Two hundred seventy-three graduate business schools and faculties submitted data for 521 graduate management programs. Overall, 364 programs from 181 responding schools were in the United States, 86 programs from 52 schools were in Europe, and 71 programs from 40 responding schools were in other world regions.