Number of female MBAs declines, bucking national trend

As more women worldwide pursue graduate degrees in business, GW is facing a reverse trend, seeing the number of female MBA graduates decline 7 percent over the last two years.

The decline comes at a time when women have made major gains in the once male-dominated field, climbing to comprise 48 percent of MBA students worldwide in 2011, according to a recent study by Quacquarelli Symonds, a company specializing in international education. Five years ago, only 35 percent of MBA hopefuls were female.

Within the GW School of Business, female MBA students have made strides since 2006 to catch up with their male counterparts, but falling percentages in recent years have motivated administrators to push for targeted recruiting.

“Historically, we’ve enjoyed a female population in excess of 40 percent,” Judith Stockmon, director of admissions for the business school, said.

Female student representation in GW’s MBA program, ranked 73rd in the world by The Economist – a magazine specializing in international politics – reached a peak of 48 percent in 2008, and dropped to an estimated 41 percent this year.

To raise the percentage of female MBA students at GW, the business school has increased direct recruiting for women through targeted alumni and student panels, forums and MBA fairs geared toward closing the gender gap.

“We also, where possible, partner prospective female MBA candidates with current female students and alumni to provide more insight into our MBA program,” Stockmon said.

The University has also hosted several fairs for the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women in the business world.

As more women enter careers in business, Stockmon said MBA programs may become increasingly important for females.

“There’s a greater utility for MBAs in a wide variety of industries, be they nonprofit or small businesses that attract women in leadership roles,” Stockmon said. “It very much mirrors what’s happening in the overall economy.”

Compared to other graduate business schools, Stockmon said the University “is very much ahead of all the other programs.”

“We’ve been very happy with those results,” she added.

Rates for graduate business programs at other universities vary, with women accounting for just 29 percent of students at Georgetown University’s business school last year. Meanwhile, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, ranked the best business school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, is just under 40 percent female.

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