Why are women missing in action in MBAs?

Why are women missing in action in MBAs?

Macquarie University has launched a new initiative to break down barriers to entry into MBAs for women.

Women still dominate all university enrolments for every age group, including the study of business. Women also dominate in postgraduate studies in business – 58.7% of returning students to postgraduate studies in business are women.

However, when it comes to MBA level study, female enrolment levels drop off very sharply.

Macquarie University currently falls short of gender equity in MBA enrolments, but Dean of the Macquarie Graduate School of Management Alex Frino is committed to improving female participation levels.

When he began his tenure as Dean, Frino became determined to understand why women with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in business go “missing in action” when it comes to MBAs.

“Something happens as women approach the level where they are qualified to undertake an MBA that kills their ambition in business, and they go missing,” Frino said.
“While statistics like these come as no surprise to the business community, I think they should. When I started at MGSM, I started asking why. Where are all the women who go missing in action in business?”

Frino launched a comprehensive study to try and determine why female enrolments drop off at the MBA level. The study, conducted by the Macquarie School of Management earlier this year, found that several factors contribute to the persistent gender gap in MBA enrolments.

One of the major barriers to female participation in MBAs is the persistence of the gender pay gap. Women find it hard to believe that an MBA will be useful to their careers given their experience in the world of business has already led them to believe they face a thick glass ceiling in the industry.

Women also said work/life conflict concerns and financial concerns made them feel they could not complete an MBA.

These findings led Frino to establish the Women in MBA program, launched last week. The program provides 100 scholarships to women enrolling in MBAs which match any financial commitment made by the students’ employers towards her study. As part of the program, employers also provide practical support for the student to ensure she is able to balance work and study.

Liberal Senator and advisor to the Minister for Women Michaelia Cash said she considers the program a milestone.

“We as women are being discouraged from pursuing the path of an MBA, because we have a number of well-founded concerns preventing us from this course of study. But this program represents the largest ever investment from an Australian business school towards the business education of women,” she said.

“True gender equality can only be achieved when we have universities, industries and society working together, which is exactly what we are witnessing.”

The first scholarships will be given to female MBA students in January 2015, and Frino hopes they will quickly increase female participation in the program overall.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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