In 2015, the Pew Center for Research published the results of a massive project to chart the current state of women in leadership. The center found that, in politics as well as at the highest levels of corporate power, women had made great progress over the course of just one decade.
In 1995, female CEOs did not lead even a single Fortune 500 company. By 2014, however, 26 women had risen to the top of their professions and were leading Fortune 500 companies. During this same 10-year span, women also significantly increased their presence in corporate boardrooms. Women occupied fewer than 10 percent of Fortune 500 company board seats in 1995. By 2013, that percentage had nearly doubled to about 17 percent.
Women Are Outpacing Men in Education
While the Pew Center for Research team drew no direct correlation between these figures, they also reported that, over roughly this same period, women began to outpace men in terms of educational achievement: “In 2012, women earned 60% of all master’s degrees (up from 46% in 1977) and 51% of all doctorates (up from 21% in 1977).
In 2013 women earned 36% of MBAs (Master of Business Administration).” And that last number has only continued to rise. In November of 2015, Bloomberg reported that female enrollment at the nation’s most highly ranked business schools (Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, and Northwestern) had topped 40 percent.
The Culture of Business School Is Changing
The numbers only tell part of the story, however. Acclaimed author and advocate for gender parity Selena Rezvani, writing for The Washington Post, summed up many of her female colleagues’ opinions of business school in a single word: fraternity: “While the vast number of women deem their MBAs as valuable once conferred, many cite a shared perception that their ideas were dismissed in school, that late nights fueled by alcohol are a required part of fitting in socially, and that the business school environment can be rather valueless…”
Female MBA students are leading efforts to make sure that business schools continue to adapt to the changing nature of corporate culture. The same Bloomberg report also notes, “The increase [of women MBAs] has already changed the nature of a business school education. Women are influencing the debate over work flexibility and pay discrimination, and men are generally becoming more attuned to what women are looking for in the workplace.”
Inclusiveness and Diversity
As an MBA student, you are a member of a community of fellow learners. Like your colleagues, you have your own talents and experiences to contribute to class discussions, presentations and projects. Inclusiveness and diversity are not hypothetical constructs in this business environment. They are real-world phenomena that can affect everything from your negotiation strategy to your company’s reputation management efforts. If your ambition is to be a thought leader in your industry, you need to be a nuanced and creative thinker. One of the best ways to strengthen your mental agility is to expose yourself to and practice synthesizing many different points-of-view.
Expanding Your Network at Baylor
Furthermore, the connections you make in business school have the potential to be not only long-lasting but also life-changing. Expanding your networks is always a sound business practice. In addition to its extensive, 25,000-member strong alumni association, Baylor students have also organized Baylor Business Women. Founded in 2006, this group creates formal and informal programming to support the professional development of current women MBAs.
The Future of Women in Business
What does the future hold for women with MBAs? Real challenges still exist despite the progress the Pew Center for Research reported, but data suggest that there will be much change in the composition of upper management in the coming years.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics released findings that propose a firm link between women occupying positions of greater corporate responsibility and a business’s profitability. Similar research by MCSI supports the Peterson Institute’s conclusion: “A higher rate of diversity throughout the organization has a [net positive] impact.” Specifically, MSCI discovered that, of the companies they surveyed, those “with strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.4% for those without.”
Whether or not the growing number of women with business degrees will be enough to accelerate what MSCI terms the “glacial” pace of increasing female representation in executive suites and corporate boardrooms remains to be determined. Nevertheless, the MBA remains a key that can open doors to those suites and boardrooms. As Facebook COO and Leanin.org founder Sheryl Sandberg has advised, opportunity favors the opportunist: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
Learn more about how earning an MBA online from Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business can help you reach your goals and maximize your potential.
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