What drives women to pursue a graduate business education?

An MBA opens many doors, as demonstrated by many female business leaders such as ex-Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi.

By U2B Staff 

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We’re seeing a growing number of female representation in C-suite roles, and a graduate business education is often seen as a pathway to these roles.

GMAC Industry Insights & Research Communications director Dr. Rahul Choudaha said over the years, an increasing number of women are pursuing graduate business education and assuming management and leadership roles. Business schools are seen as a platform in creating a pipeline for future women leaders through Graduate Management Education (GME). 


Understanding the graduate business education journey of female candidates 

Female candidates consider graduate business education at varying times and for different reasons. 

According to the data collected through Prospective Students Survey, Choudaha said more than half (52%) of female candidates reported that they first considered graduate business education while completing their undergraduate degrees or high school. 

Nearly one-third (32%) of the female candidates considered GME after two years in the workplace.

Nearly 84% of prospective female students say “having opportunities for promotion or advancement” is extremely or very important, and they see GME as a route to achieving career advancement.

A total of 85% of prospective female students agree that “a graduate business degree helps you stand out at work”.

Findings of prospective female students also suggested that female candidates were more concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their plans to pursue a GME.

This includes intensifying the concerns and challenges for women candidates, such as the opportunity cost of attending school full-time, wanting to complete a programme in the shortest possible time, or balancing familial expectations. 

Women are also more likely to work in lower-paying sectors and face a gender pay gap, which may increase their reliance on external sources of finances such as parents or scholarships for pursuing GME. 

Funding their higher education

Survey data shows that business master’s candidates were more likely to report support from parents as their funding sources than MBA candidates, reflecting the younger age of business master’s candidates. 

Female international candidates who are planning to pursue business master’s reported 41% of their financing coming from parents. 

For women preferring to pursue an MBA:

  • international candidates were expecting one-third of their funding to come from grants, fellowships, and scholarships
  • domestic candidates expected 39% of their budget to come from other sources like personal savings and earnings

Still a high demand for the programme

A large proportion of GME programmes across regions and programmes saw a spike from female candidates in 2020 (60%) as compared to 2019 (41%), said the 2020 Application Trends Survey. 

The pandemic is also affecting students’ plans, with more domestic female candidates changing their plans compared to international female candidates.

“Data suggests that domestic female candidates are slightly more likely to prefer online learning over considering a business school closer to home,” said Choudaha. 

“In contrast, international female candidates are considering alternatives at a lower rate than domestic candidates. This suggests the preference for global mobility as one of the critical drivers for international candidates, and they do not see online as an adequate substitute.”

There is a slightly higher preference for international female candidates who are considering alternatives to stay closer to home than choose online learning. 

Despite the challenges brought upon by the pandemic, data shows that many women candidates are still pursuing GME as a part of their career advancement goals.