What value does an MBA bring to the table for female professionals?

SOURCE: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/AFP
American philanthropist Melinda Gates has an MBA from Duke University.

By U2B Staff 

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MBAs are often seen as a highway for professional success. 

For instance, the Association of MBAs notes that many graduates said their MBA has helped them to achieve a promotion, expand their area of expertise, equip them to start their own business, improve their business and professional network of contacts, build confidence, to name a few. 

The financial returns of a graduate degree are also well documented. 


The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary survey – which contains annual salary projections for the Class of 2020 college graduates in the US – forecast that the average salary for this year’s MBA graduates stands at about US$79,043. This is more than US$20,000 higher than the projected salaries of business undergraduates at US$$57,939.

The figure is higher for graduates from elite institutions.

While the programme has continued to cement its status as a popular postgraduate business degree among professionals. But little has been discussed about its impact on women in particular. 

Can an MBA position women for better success?

Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta. Source: Mike Coppola/Getty Images/AFP

Non-profit Forté Foundation – which focuses on women’s advancement – has conducted a study on how getting an MBA can dramatically impact women’s pay and position within their industry and organisation in the US. 

Some of their key findings include that women with the postgraduate degree see pay gains of 55 to 65% of their pre-MBA salary within five years of graduation. Meanwhile, companies with female board directors, experience on average, a 53% higher return on equity while 85% of MBA graduates attribute their MBA in advancing their careers.

In addition, 95% of women found their MBA experience personally rewarding, while the average amount of time to recoup their ROI on the degree was four years. Some of the top industries for women with MBAs include marketing and advertising, and management consulting.

Despite women improving their earnings with an MBA, the foundation found mixed results in a separate research that aims to understand if an MBA helps women and minorities boost their earning power and increase equality in the workplace. 


On a positive note, despite the gender pay gap, Forté Foundation’s data shows a positive return on investment from the MBA with an over 63% salary bump, or higher, for both minority and non-minority women and men. 

“It’s encouraging to see an MBA provides greater economic mobility for women and minorities and narrows the pay gap for minorities in their first job post MBA but the whopping gender pay gap and income disparity for women and minorities needs to be addressed, and soon,” Elissa Sangster, CEO, Forté Foundation was quoted as saying.

Last year, the foundation also saw an increase in the percentage of women who have enrolled in full-time MBA programmes in the US, to about 39% on average in the fall of 2019. It added that US schools continue to outpace non-US schools, which average 36% women enrolment.

It’s clear that women still have many glass ceilings to shatter, but nevertheless, they appear to be getting there.