Online, career support, creativity and ethical leadership are all part of the recipe to get more women studying MBAs

05 April 2022

Andrew Crisp delves into the data from CarringtonCrisp’s most recent study of prospective MBAs, Tomorrow’s MBA

For years, business schools have struggled to get a better gender balance on their MBA degrees and some have made significant progress in recent years. The most recent Tomorrow’s MBA study with EFMD suggests some areas where schools might be able to move further, faster.

Around a quarter of men and women definitely agree that the pandemic has made them more likely to study an MBA – there is no doubt the demand is present. However, how men and women want to study and what they want from an MBA varies in some respects.

Asked if they were now considering online study having not done so before the pandemic, 26% of women definitely agree while only 21% of men have the same opinion. When asked to identify their preferred form of study, 18% of women prefer online or blended MBAs compared with only 13% of men. Similarly, 22% of women prefer part-time study compared to 17% of men, while 62% of men prefer full-time study compared with 54% of women. Building flexibility into programmes, whether that’s timing of study or delivery of study would seem likely to attract more women to the MBA degree.

There are also differences when prospective students are asked what they value in an MBA. For men the most valuable topic is Artificial Intelligence, selected by 36% of respondents compared with only 26% of women. There are shared interests in the value of courses on Business Law, Corporate Finance and Change Management, however women (20%) are more interested in Entrepreneurship than men (15%) and there is a small difference when it comes to creativity/innovation, valued by 18% of women compared to 15% of men.

While responsible management is a content thread that both men and women want to see running through their studies, slightly more women than men want content on diversity, equality and inclusion as well as global challenges in their MBA. Most notably, 37% of women want ethical leadership as a strand in their MBA compared to only 31% of men.

When deciding where to study, women responding to the Tomorrow’s MBA survey are also more concerned with cost of study and the strength of career support. Perhaps conscious of ongoing discrimination in the workplace, women seek further support to meet their career ambitions following an MBA. A preference for online study among women may also be explained by a perception that it will cost less, at least in terms of living expenses if not always course fees.

There is no doubt that society will be better served by a more diverse leadership in business and other organisations. Business schools can play their part by growing the MBA class diversity and there are plenty of clues as to how to attract more women students.

Subscribe to our newsletter