So has the MBA world changed over the years and are there more women in business now? Let’s explore some of the latest MBA trends for women.

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus

While scientists are still trying to agree on whether biological, social or evolutionary factors have influenced gender inequality, many laugh that men and women simply live on different planets, using John Gray’s pop-psychology book “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” as a reference. Yet we all have to accept that we are from Earth, no matter how different we are or how badly we want to reach Mars. And we should accept the fact that there is no such thing as women’s issues. From child marriages through restricted education for girls to period stigma, women’s issues are human issues!

Although the so-called developed world has managed to overcome certain challenges, the pandemic has shown how far we are from achieving equality. The gender pay gap, the digital divide, bans on reproductive rights and domestic violence cases have aggravated significantly in the past two years. But are things better in the business education sector? Or is Simona Catana, Executive MBA student at ESMT Berlin (Germany), right when she says that “Business schools educate both men and women on hidden, second-generation biases.”?

Women in business school

The topic of women in business has been acquiring considerable traction in the last years. Although most university graduates in the past decades have been females, women remain a minority in the business education sector. Lack of flexibility and access to funding have been cited as the most common obstacles, along with insufficient female role models and encouragement, as reported by the non-profit organisation Catalyst.

Yet some women see the MBA sector as an opportunity to face and overcome existing challenges. As MBA graduate, entrepreneur, speaker and impact catalyst Ana Marinescu from the John Molson School of Business - Concordia University (Canada) says, “The MBA is about saying yes to the challenges, even if you don’t have all the answers yet.” Interestingly, according to data presented by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the pandemic has helped set new business trends. MBA applications from women have grown during the coronavirus pandemic, with 62% of business schools having reported such growth, compared to 42% in 2019, as presented by Fortune. Forte Foundation’s CEO Elissa Sangster explains these changes: “I think that it couldn’t hurt that they had time to sit down and think about what they wanted to do with their careers and a large group of women thought, ‘I want to invest in myself and get more education’.

Of women, MBAs and leadership

It is a fact that completing an MBA comes with numerous benefits for both males and females, with improved career prospects and an increase in salary being two of the most cited reasons to enrol. As an example, Forte Foundation reveals that women with an MBA report an increase of 55-65% of their pre-MBA remuneration, usually within five years of graduation. MBAs can also equip people with the skills needed to start their own venture. Because both for men and women, as Amanda Chan, consulting manager and a graduate of the ESSEC Business School (France), says, “Your value is only defined by yourself. When in doubt, think win-win and don’t settle for less.” When it comes to women and entrepreneurship, we should note that according to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, 34.4% of the self-employed in the EU and 30% of start-up entrepreneurs are women.

Although progress is evident, the process is slow. Cultural discouragement and stereotyping are still global problems. According to Gender and the Economy, achieving 30% female representation on boards of directors in the US alone would require at least three decades. In Canada, 45% of companies admit having no women in corporate leadership (according to Gender and the Economy). Imposing quotas is not enough, however. Shari Hubert at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business explains, “It’s not enough to just bring in under-represented populations; they also have to come in and feel as though they can thrive.” It’s time to change the business landscape globally to the point of no return. As Dr Loredana Padurean, Senior Associate Dean at Asia School of Business (Malaysia), says, “Let’s shatter the association of women being soft once and for all.

Why are women in business important?

The benefits of females in leadership go beyond individual and economic aspects. Women in business are a driving force, with companies with female board directors yielding on average a 53% higher return on equity, as per a report by the Catalyst. Private tech companies with women in C-suite positions in particular achieve a 35% higher return on investment, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Moreover, data presented by Fundera show that women-owned businesses open jobs – with half a million jobs added between 1997 and 2007 in the US.

Recognising the value of gender and women’s equality is also essential in developing countries to increase sustainable economic growth and crisis management. Female leaders can also improve the health of their countries. An analysis involving daily data available from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for a total of 35 countries between 31 December 2019 and 11 May 2020 showed that countries led by female leaders “have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from COVID-19 than countries with governments led by men.

So how can MBAs empower women globally? By changing business education trends! As Dr Lisa Ordonez, PhD, Dean of the Rady School of Management University of California in San Diego (US), concluded: “In this rapidly changing world of business where all hands on deck are needed to survive…why would we limit which hands we select? Women represent almost 50% of the workforce but comprise less than 5% of CEOs of Fortune 500 firms. One way to close this gender leadership gap is to equip women with leadership skills. Women can increase their confidence, earning potential and leadership opportunities by completing an MBA degree.