More women are getting an MBA, but women still face barriers to career advancement.
Getting an MBA is becoming more common for women, but females with masters in business administration still face discrimination in the workplace, reports Catalyst, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business.
Women earned nearly 37 percent of the master’s in business administration awarded in the United States in the 2010-2011 academic year, an increase of 2.3 percent from 2002-2003, according to Catalyst. First-year enrollment by women in the top ten U.S. MBA programs academic year averaged 34.2 percent in the 2010-2011.
The share was highest at the Wharton School of Business, where women accounted for 40 percent of first-year enrollment, and Stanford University, where women made up 39 percent of the entering business school class. Harvard had the third highest percentage with women making up 36 percent of first-year students.
Wharton beat its own record this year when the school succeeded in compiling a first-year class composed of 45 percent women getting an MBA. Ankur Kumar, deputy director of admissions at Wharton, told CNN Money that the school has worked to recruit more women by hosting special women visit days, partnering with women’s groups and mobilizing Wharton alumni, particularly the Wharton Women in Business club.
While the nation’s undergraduate colleges reached gender parity in the early 1980s, the percentage of women getting an MBA in many of the nation’s top business schools has remained stuck around 30 percent. And, women who succeed in getting an MBA often face barriers to advancement in the workplace.
According to a 2010 study by Catalyst, starting salaries for women are an average of $4,600 below those of men. A Catalyst survey of individuals who earned a master’s of business administration between 1996 and 2007 found that a smaller percentage of women had received promotions compared to men, 31 percent and 36 percent, respectively. In addition, women were more than three times as likely as men to have lost their jobs due to downsizing, 19 percent vs. 6 percent.
A shortage of role models, high-level sponsors and exclusion from informal decision-making groups may all be factors in the lower mobility for women. The obstacles to advancement also create barriers for women aspiring to build wealth. Nearly 40 percent of women with a high net worth – between $5 million and $25 million – are managers, business owners and senior corporate executives, according to Millionaire Corner research that establishes a high correlation between getting an MBA and achieving financial success.
“Our research establishes a strong link between earning an MBA and building wealth,” said Catherine McBreen, president of Millionaire Corner. “Women who earn an MBA greatly increase their chances for financial independence.”