Women who achieve an MBA report tremendous satisfaction with their business school experience, as well as the value employers place on the degree and the resulting job opportunities. And that’s not surprising, since an MBA provides women with the education and credentials to follow a diverse array of career paths-and an opportunity to stand out from the crowd along the way. Yet women remain vastly outnumbered by men in business school, with enrollment of women in top MBA programs averaging 30 percent, versus the numbers for female enrollment in law and medical schools, which nears 50 percent MBA .
The good news is that business schools aren’t happy with the discrepancy. Even better, more and more are working hard to close the gender gap with a variety of initiatives targeted to help dispel the attitudes, myths and barriers women may (or may not) face in what, historically, has been a predominantly male world.
According to a prominent study, women cite a number of reasons for not enrolling in MBA programs including the perception that the male-dominated business school environment is too competitive and intimidating. Other issues of concern: the lack of opportunity to study with female professors; and the absence of female role models in the business world.
Women also frequently cite the challenges of combining other life goals with the demands of an MBA program-primarily because the average age for starting business school is 28, which tends to coincide with the same age most women are focusing on marriage and children. This paradox also helps explain why female enrollment is so much higher in other graduate programs.
Law and medical school programs are typically entered immediately following college graduation and, of course, it’s also not possible to practice as a lawyer or M.D. without the requisite degree. In contrast, there’s no professional credential required to enter the business world and begin climbing the corporate ladder. Plus MBA admissions have typically been contingent upon a significant accumulation of work experience and achievements, although this trend is beginning to change.