Graduate Management News

March 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

GMAC Viewpoints: Educating Women about Business, B-School, and the GMAT™ Exam

Sabrina White answers questions about the business school pipeline and GMAC’s new initiative with the Forté Foundation that focuses on encouraging more women to pursue business careers and close the gender gap in the C-suite and the greater business world.

Educating Women in Business

Against the backdrop of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Graduate Management News sat down with Sabrina White, GMAC’s vice president, Market Development, Americas and Europe, to discuss the importance of bringing more women into the graduate management education pipeline. She also provided an overview of “Take the Test,” a digital media campaign GMAC is undertaking in partnership with the Forté Foundation that aims to reach women across US college campuses to inform them about the importance of business careers, the MBA, and the GMAT exam.

Why is it crucial to influence women while they are pursuing their undergraduate studies?

College — unlike the C-suite of corporate America — is a place of parity for women, and in fact women have outnumbered men in college enrollment and completion since the 1990s. But, according to recent Forté Foundation data, even women majoring in business as undergraduates are unaware of the steps they can take in their business education that could strengthen their career outcomes, help them stand out among the competition, and position them to successfully lead at all levels of an organization.

Why is business school an important step toward getting more women in leadership positions?

Graduate management education is a powerful investment that helps transform people and their careers. A graduate business degree — and specifically an MBA — changes the way individuals think and solve problems, which impacts the way they create, manage, and lead. The degree engages people, accelerates their careers, and expands their opportunities. Earning an MBA can put a woman light years ahead of her peers. GMAC’s alumni research revealed that women who earn a graduate management degree reap substantial benefits. Women with job offers from the MBA class of 2015 reported an average salary increase of 91 percent after graduation.

How does the GMAT exam factor into closing the gender gap?

We believe, as does Forté, that the most effective way to close the gender gap in the business world is to recruit qualified women into graduate business programs. And the first step toward a quality graduate management education is the GMAT exam, as graduate business programs worldwide have used the exam for decades to make informed admissions decisions.

The percentage of US female GMAT test takers (49 percent) is already the highest in college and fairly even with the percentage of male test takers (51 percent). Our research also shows, globally, that women who take the GMAT exam in college often score higher than at any other time in their lives. So, we believe that taking the test while - in college gives a candidate (or a woman) greater control and creates additional opportunities. And because scores are good for five years, they’ll be there when the candidate is ready to apply to b-school.

Following college graduation, a gender gap in US test takers emerges, widening significantly as women near 30 years of age. GMAC data show women ages 28 to 30 are merely 31 percent of all test takers. We’re seeing that for many women, life happens, and even with having the best intentions of taking the exam, they never do.

What is the “Take the Test” campaign? What do you hope to achieve?

Other than paying for b-school, anxiety about the GMAT exam is the primary concern of women considering the MBA. Their lack of confidence tied to the GMAT only increases the further they progress in their careers, so we want to reach them in college to minimize their apprehension.

“Take the Test” is a digital media campaign initiated by The Forté Foundation and 27 of their member schools and supported by GMAC to target women on US college campuses — this spring and fall — to inform them about business careers, the MBA, and the reasons to take the GMAT exam before they graduate. GMAC is committed to the development of the graduate business school pipeline. Our mission is to make sure that no talent goes undiscovered, so joining Forte in this campaign was a perfect fit.

Who are the other partners and where can we see the campaign? Emails? Posters? Media ads?

The all-digital media plan for the campaign is built around a marketing funnel framework – reaching women in college when they are consuming content in a variety of digital formats and getting them into the b-school pipeline. We’ll build awareness through Facebook ads, display banners and paid search ads.

The heart of the campaign is the “Driving Forces” email nurture program, which includes a weekly communication to students featuring articles about impressive women who are making a difference with an MBA, GMAT prep information, exclusive job postings, career advice and b-school application tips from the prestigious group of schools that have partnered on the campaign (see sidebar for list). Students also receive Forte’s college member benefits, including a monthly newsletter, invitations to college leadership conferences, access to webinars, a career exploration microsite and the opportunity to become a part of a network of 65,000 women business leaders.

Any final thoughts on why it’s so important to take the GMAT early for career success?

As many of us may have experienced, once you graduate college and leave campus, life gets more complicated. You may put many of the things you had great intentions to accomplish on the back burner. So, if we can help more women stay on track by encouraging them to take the GMAT as an undergraduate, then we are also helping them control their options and gain a significant edge in an increasingly complex world. Fortunately, we are moving the needle, as the representation of women in MBA and specialized master’s programs is growing. In fact, we saw in 2015 that women accounted for 44.4 percent of all GMAT exams taken, which is a record high.

About the Author

Sabrina WhiteSabrina White is vice president, Americas and Europe at the Graduate Management Admission Council.