Gender gap in MBA program improves, lags behind top business schools

Ashley Tsao

The gender gap in the McCombs School of Business MBA program is decreasing but still remains larger than other top business schools in America.

The gender gap between men and women in MBA programs is a national issue. Fortune magazine reported women make up roughly 39.1 percent of the 2017 class at the top dozen American business schools, but McCombs’ percentage of women is lower. For the full-time MBA program’s latest class, 29 percent of the applicant pool was female while 32 percent of the enrollment was female, according to Rodrigo Malta, director of admissions for the MBA program.

“Our class enrollment tends to reflect the applicant pool we have for any given year,” Malta said.

Graphic by Iliana Storch | Daily Texan Staff

According to Emily Amanatullah, bus iness management assistant professor,the gap can be attributed to the supply and demand of women in business administration positions.

“Women entering the field of business experience a barrier because they see business as a more masculine environment and don’t think they fit,” Amanatullah said. “There is an assumption that jobs dominated by men are better suited for men, so women end up seeking degrees and work in female-dominated industries.”

The expectations for men and women in the workforce are different, Amanatullah said.

“For women to be perceived as competent, they have to overexert themselves, but when women do that they incur a social punishment,” Amanatullah said. “If men and women both act the same way, if they both act masculine, women are seen as less likable. While men would be seen as assertive, women would be seen as aggressive. It’s a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t' situation.”

In an effort to reduce the gender gap in its MBA program, McCombs helped to found and remains associated with the Forté Foundation, a national nonprofit seeking to increase the number of women business leaders. Through the Forté Foundation, McCombs offers informational fairs, scholarships and networking opportunities to women interested in getting their MBA, Malta said.

According to Malta, UT holds Texas MBA Women’s Forums, an annual on-campus recruitment event tailored for female prospective students.

Amanatullah suggests the best way to reduce the gender biases is to acknowledge them.

“If you don’t admit it, you’re just putting a Band-Aid on the issue,” Amanatullah said. “Instead of focuses on differences, institutions need to focus on the similarities. Often, a hypersensitivity to the differences between men and women only helps to accentuate them.”

There are empirical studies that demonstrate women in high-level executive positions bring nothing but financial benefits, according to Amanatullah.

Accounting professional program senior Fizza Samad said she has never personally experienced gender bias, but there are many careers such as investment banking where there is not enough representation for women.

“It is important for UT students to recognize this issue because these people will be future business leaders,” Samad said. “So they need to recognize there is a gap and that it shouldn’t continue.”