Women MBA Grads On The Rise: Reasons To Join Them Post-Covid

The pandemic changed so much of how we live life—from how we shop for our groceries and everyday supplies, to how we attend worship services and school classes. 

Every aspect of our lives, it seems, looks a bit different now than it did in the time before the spring of 2020.

One thing that significantly changed was the number of women seeking higher business degrees. That number was nearly 40% higher in 2020 over 2019, as we’ll see later on. 

Today we’re going to look at why that number increased, as well as why (and how) you should join those women seeking their advanced business degrees. 

We’ll start with some of the cold, hard numbers, then work our way through some fairly persuasive reasons why every woman in business should be considering an MBA. 

By the time we’re done, it’s our hope to have made you excited about getting your own MBA underway and that you’ll join the thousands of women already pursuing their own advanced degrees. 

How Many Women in the United States Have an MBA?

We can’t really say for certain how many women graduate with an MBA degree each year. What we do know, and have solid facts for, is the number of women who apply for entrance into MBA programs. And we know that by the prerequisite test they have to take.

Students from 110 countries worldwide take the GMAT exam to enter a Master’s program of some kind. That exam is overseen by the GMAC, which collects data on their examinees each year. 

 An average of 250,000 students take the exam every year to pursue higher education.

The pandemic year of 2020 saw testing sites and even entire universities closed, so that number fell to just over 173,000.

Worldwide, just over 50% of female GMAT applicants, or 79,000, applied to MBA programs. Just over 17,000 US women took the GMAT in 2020. Of those, 76% were applying to an MBA program. 

The number of female students applying for the GMAT was significantly (nearly 50%) lower than in 2016. However, the percentage of women seeking higher business degrees was over 96%, if you count MBA candidates and “other” business degree candidates, too.  

So, while 17,000 compared to the total population of 330 million may seem small, the significance of the number of women seeking higher business degrees is still quite large. Headline-making large, in fact. 

Let’s look at that percentage in more detail. 

The Percentage of Female MBA Students

What matters most when looking at the numbers of women seeking higher business degrees is the MBA gender ratio. Traditionally, MBA programs were the playgrounds for the Old Boys’ Club, with a majority of the students being male. 

Today, there’s still a male majority seeking MBAs, but women are seriously making up ground and may even soon surpass those old boys. 

There are three logical reasons for this projected outcome:

  • Online programs like Quantic make getting an MBA easier and more attainable than ever before.
  • There’s a recent trend of increasingly fewer and fewer male students applying for colleges and universities at every level each year.
  • Women are making greater headway in the business world in general, with better earnings and career prospects.

The statistics don’t lie. In 2021, women made up 41% of MBA candidates nationwide. That figure was up from 39% in 2019. A decade ago, in 2011, only 31% of MBA candidates were female. 

mba candidates gender statistics

Three top business schools—the Wharton School, George Washington School of Business, and the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School—all reported enrolling more than 50% women in 2021.

Just one of the nation’s top ten B-schools had a female enrollment below 40%, and the overall average of the nation’s top ten MBA programs was 44%. Again, no school had a female enrollment of over 45% ten years ago.

Let’s compare those numbers to Quantic. At Quantic, our 2021 female MBA candidates counted for 35% of our students. GMAC also reported that women seeking online MBAs such as ours rose from 15% in 2020 to 24% in 2021. 

Quantic may be below the national average in female MBA candidates, but we’re part of a growing trend. 

Is It Easier to Get Into Business School as a Woman?

The simple answer to this is yes. And no.

One of the reasons experts give for the uptick in female enrollment in MBA programs is that many business schools are actively recruiting female undergraduates and older, so-called “nontraditional” students. 

A survey of business schools conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek found that the top schools in their survey for female MBA students recruited from undergraduate programs as varied as visual art, Spanish, and dance. 

Many schools have also dropped the GMAT requirement, implementing a program of pre-requisite courses in finance, accounting, statistics, and working with case studies to level the playing field. 

For about five years now, many schools have been handing out new scholarships created just for women, in another effort to increase female enrollment.

All of this has led to the perception that it has become easier for women to get into business school. And that’s all it is. A perception. Or in this case, rather, a misconception. 

Women still have to jump through the same hoops, pass the same pre-requisite courses, meet the same GPA requirements, and pay the same tuition. What has changed is that the doors to business schools have been opened to women in ways we’ve never seen before.

Why Women Don’t Pursue MBAs

Why have the schools had to work so hard to increase their female MBA enrollees? Because traditionally, MBA programs just weren’t seen as attractive by many women. There are a variety of reasons for this, and we’re going to look at the main ones in detail.

Lack of Women in Undergraduate Business Programs

Business schools discovered that there is one big area where gender equity is not present: in their business programs as a whole. 

Young women aren’t recruited to enroll in business undergraduate programs. Fewer women earning Bachelor’s degrees equals fewer women to apply for MBAs and other business postgrad programs.

And it’s not happening at the high school level. The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), the nation’s largest business-oriented student organization, reports that 58% of their members are female. 

Compare that to 44% of young women in business undergraduate programs and you can see the issue in black and white.

Lack of Women in Faculty and Advisor Positions

Representation matters. And when women look at the faculty and advisors of postgraduate business programs, they don’t see a lot of it. 

Women make up 31% of business school faculties nationwide. At some schools, like Chicago University, they account for only 18% of all professors

Some of this missing representation is most likely due to the fact that most women see an MBA as “work” preparation, getting that corner office and breaking that glass ceiling. They don’t see an MBA as a stepping stone to the PhD required of most professors.

And while the percentage of women entering PhD programs has increased, the number of graduates seems to have remained fairly steady since 2005. In that year, 40.3% of business PhDs were granted to women. In 2015, that number was only 41%. 

The Glass Ceiling

First coined in the 1980s, the phrase “glass ceiling” refers to that invisible barrier that prevents women from advancing to the same positions with the same ease as men. 

And while advances by women in the workplace, and even in executive positions have been made, certain aspects of the glass ceiling remain. 

There’s the widely publicized “wage gap” that shows women still earning less than men, even at the executive corner office levels. 

And then there’s the fact that women only make up 6% of all CEOs on the Fortune 500 and S&P 500, even though they represent over 50% of the workforce. And speaking of the Fortune 500 and S&P 500, women account for only 26% of their collective boardrooms

Many women look at this version of the Old Boys’ Club and think, “Why bother?” 

Why go through the expense, effort, and time commitment of getting an MBA when they’ll never break down the barriers that have stood so long in place?

Too Expensive

We’ve mentioned that some schools have initiated scholarships specifically for female business students. Unfortunately, many haven’t. 

The average traditional MBA costs between $55,000 and $161,000. Add that to the average cost of a Bachelor’s degree at $142,000, and you can see why a lack of funding causes many women to drop the idea of postgraduate studies altogether. 

The “Mom” Factor

The pandemic has been hardest on women in the workplace. Many have had to quit their jobs to care for their families, or take a remote-only position even as their firms have returned to Cubicle City. 

Our society expects this. While many women hold the family purse strings, holding 83% of the nation’s purchasing power, they aren’t typically expected to be the ones filling the purse.

That “mom” factor plays a part in many young womens’ decisions about postgraduate studies, including MBAs. Many don’t see themselves as staying in positions long enough to reach the higher echelons an MBA is needed for.

This doesn’t exactly play out in real life, however, as a recent Harvard study proved. Only 11% of Harvard Business School female MBA graduates over a 20 year period had “dropped out” of the business world to become full-time wives and moms. 

The “Other” Mom Factor

There’s an old saying among economists: “When the economy is good, work. When the economy is bad, go back to school.”

And while it’s not uncommon for a man to pursue a higher degree, including an MBA, in his 30s, 40s, and even 50s, many women do not. They typically cite “family obligations” as the main reason. 

And they have good reason to do so. 

While our society has come a long way in breaking gender stereotypes, especially in sharing household responsibilities, the burden of childcare still falls on the mother. 

Surveys suggest that women shoulder anywhere from 54% to 90% of childcare responsibilities.

And all of this while statistics tells us that 65% of the nation’s mothers work outside the home. Or at least they did pre-pandemic.

All this family responsibility means that there’s little time left for the kind of serious study and time commitment an MBA requires. 

Why Women SHOULD Get an MBA

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons why women don’t pursue MBA degrees, let’s take a moment to discuss the three reasons why they should, and all the ways Quantic makes it easier to do. 

The 3 Reasons Why Every Woman Should Pursue an MBA

  • Earnings. Women with an MBA can see pay gains of 35-40% of their pre-MBA salary upon completion of their degree. In 5 years, that figure rises to 55-65%. 
  • Personal gains. 95% of women say earning their MBA boosted their self confidence, as well as their credibility with peers, colleagues, and managers.
  • Career gains. 85% of MBA earners credit their degree with the contentment they have with their career, as well as the advancements they make. The skills and knowledge required by the MBA translate into expertise and excellence in job performance. 

Companies should sit up and take notice of women in executive positions, too. Studies show that those with women in the boardroom have a 42% higher return on sales, and 66% higher return on investments than those without. 

How COVID Has Changed the MBA Landscape for Women

Whether voluntarily or through cuts, 2.4 million women left the American workforce in the 12 months between February 2020 and February 2021.

Jobs were lost through layoffs, furloughs, reduced hours, and the role of caretaker after disruptions in school and childcare. 

Women are now trying to better prepare themselves for their return to the workforce through business education, especially MBA degrees. And as we’ve seen, schools are actively responding by changing requirements and actively recruiting women.

The opportunities for a woman to earn her MBA have possibly never been greater, nor more accessible, than now. 

How Quantic Can Help

Quantic’s unique online programs can help you achieve your MBA goals, whether they be in response to the pandemic, or have been on your radar for some time. 

All the Old Boys’ stuff is not a factor as we strive to create an environment and student culture that is both respectful and inclusive for all. 

We defeat the “Mom factors” with study programs that allow you to study on your own time, whenever that time may be. 

We combat the cost factors by offering partial and complete tuition assistance. To date, 1 in 3 of our students has earned their MBA completely free

Our Female MBA Graduates

Don’t just take our word for it that Quantic is the best place for you. Here are testimonials from three very satisfied female MBA students. Two are hard-working moms who found our program to be just what they needed.

Rosa speaks of our inclusive and friendly student culture and learning environment. And Rose kindly attests to our accessibility for disabled students, something we hadn’t even thought of in terms of being a barrier to an MBA.

“As a hard of hearing, deaf individual, distance learning education can be a trial by fire…I had been looking for years at MBA programs. Quantic’s EMBA program has filled that gap. Like my previous online degrees, Quantic gave me the freedom to work on my own time using the course app coupled with modern technology (Slack and Zoom) to communicate with my classmates. I have used Blackboard, LoudCloud and other education-made classrooms for years. Quantic’s version blows everything I’ve used in the past out of the water… If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, this program is amazing and it focuses on what you see not what you hear. If you are a working adult, this is a program that will answer a million of those small questions that you have had over the years. If you are a small business owner—this is an absolute must! It’s like the mentor that you never had.”

Rose H


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