Graduate Management News

March 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

3 Tips to Finding the Right Pool of Female Applicants

As graduate management education continues to become more diverse, efforts to select a highly qualified class has intensified for some programs.

Recruiting Women with GMASS

The timing of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month offer an opportunity this month to explore some of the ways schools are seeking to recruit women using the Graduate Management Admission Search Service® (GMASS®).

The GMASS database is an invaluable tool that lets you tailor your approach to reaching potential women applicants (and other targeted populations). In addition to a candidate pool that can be searched to fit your admissions targets, it also offers early access to women candidates even before they sit for the GMAT® exam. This is especially important among younger women candidates considering master’s programs even before they complete their undergraduate program. 

Here are three suggestions to connect with women candidates for your next class: 

  1. Know (and leverage) trends for women applicants by program type.

    In 2014, a total of 105,476 women around the globe sat for the GMAT exam, the 6th consecutive year that women took more than 100,000 exams. Although women represent 43 percent of all GMAT exams taken worldwide, the proportion of women applying to graduate business school in each incoming cycle varies significantly by program type.

    In the GMAC 2014 Application Trends Survey, women constitute the majority of applicants in the following programs: Master in Marketing & Communications (65%), Master of Accounting (62%), and Master in Management (54%). Women also represent 40 percent or more of the applicants to the following programs: part-time lockstep MBA (41%), part-time self-paced MBA (40%), flexible MBA (43%), and Master of Finance (46%).

    Representation of Women 

    To leverage these trends:

    • First, examine what curriculum or programmatic aspects may overlap with the more popular degree programs, and communicate those messages about your program. 
    • Also, look at your recent GMASS searches and outreach to determine if you are reaching out to women in your GMASS searches that you may have overlooked—like undergraduate women and women considering other program types? 
    • Finally, gauge the competition. How are your competitor and peer schools faring in recruiting women candidates and what approaches are they taking that you can mimic or use as inspiration?
  2. When and Where: Build a rapport with women candidates before they are ready to make a decision.

    Sending messages to women before they have sat for the GMAT (using pre-exam search criteria) can be a powerful way to extend brand awareness to potential women applicants who are just beginning their information gathering process. Gaining this early awareness can increase the likelihood to be on a candidate’s radar when they start creating their short list.

    Action steps for your program may be to evaluate whether messaging resonates with early consideration or pre-exam timelines. For example, are you sharing answers to some of the early questions candidates may have about your program or school? Our data in the recent highlights webinar showed us that candidates are looking at six key areas:

    • Faculty quality 
    • Specific curriculum 
    • Desired program type 
    • Percentage of graduating class with job offers 
    • Average years of work experience 
    • Tuition and fees 

    So, what new or creative ways can you share this with candidates from your GMASS search results?

    Beyond the when, have you determined where you’re sending messages or hosting events targeting women? For example, does your school have distinct outreach in any of the nine US metropolitan areas that saw the greatest representation of women unique GMAT test takers in 2014?

    US Map  
  3. Women are more likely to have “co-investors” who may be influencers for your program.

    On average, women are more likely than men to rely on parents, a spouse, loans, or funds from scholarships and grants to pay for business school, according to research of mba.com prospective students. Do you have a sense of how your typical women prospective students expect to cover the costs of their MBA or master’s program?

    • The financing mix of all candidates varies quite a lot by citizenship, intended program type, age, gender, and whether people plan to study domestically or abroad. The interactive tool “How Do I Pay for School?” (Based on survey data) lets you see the financial mix for how women (and others) in their situation plan to pay for school. Use this information to shape your outreach and messaging about costs, and share it with prospective students where applicable. 
    • Also consider what information you’re sharing with candidates that’s easy for them to forward to these co-investors. Ask yourself if your information sessions or other events are VIP friendly so women candidates can bring along these others that would enable you to get your program in front of potential candidates and those involved in decision-making for program funding.
Consider consulting our additional resources and tips to use in your marketing and outreach efforts for recruiting women. And, as your program explores its strategies, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

About the Author

Paula McKayPaula McKay is director of School Products at the Graduate Management Admission Council.