Gender equality on MBA programmes is one step closer – but there is still a long way to go

The proportion of women applying and enrolling for MBA programmes between 2017 and 2018 increased by 1% and 2% respectively and, in 2018, 39% of those applying and 38% of those enrolling on to MBA programmes were women, research from AMBA & BGA reveals.

AMBA’s annual Application and Enrolment research measured the application, enrolment, diversity and graduation figures for the 2018 calendar year at 236 Business Schools (232 of which offered MBA programmes) and compared the figures for 202 identical accredited Business Schools between 2017 and 2018. Research from AMBA & BGA taken from its Application and Enrolment report, to coincide with international Women’s Day on 8 March 2020, finds that despite there being continued gender inequality in terms of MBA applications and enrolments, the proportion of women applying and enrolling onto AMBA-accredited programmes has increased by approximately six percentage points in the past five years. Meanwhile, the global application to enrolment conversion rate was two percentage points higher for men than women (40% vs 38%).

Will Dawes, Research and Insight Manager at AMBA & BGA, said: ‘the findings show that the representation of women in overall MBA applications and cohorts continues to be on the rise, following on from similar progress in recent years. This demonstrates that AMBA-accredited Schools are continuing to focus on more diverse and gender-balanced intakes. We should, however, remain mindful that women are still in the minority and that the good work that has led to these positive steps should not make way for any complacency in the goal of reaching gender diversity.’

Applications and enrolments by gender
Looking at all 232 Schools that responded, in 2018, 39% of those applying and 38% of those enrolled onto MBA programmes were women. This represents a one percentage point increase in the proportion of women applying and a two-percentage point increase in the proportion of women enrolling onto programmes compared with 2017.

While this is a positive increase, women were still a minority group in MBA cohorts globally. This was most significant in India where just 16% of MBA cohorts were female. In contrast to this, the most equal MBA cohorts were found in China (including Hong Kong, China) and Asia and the Middle East where almost half (46% and 45% respectively) were women.

Globally the application to enrolment conversion rate was two percentage points higher for men than women (40% vs 38%). Regions with the lower levels of female conversion rates also typically had lower levels of male conversion rates. In Asia and Middle East and China (including Hong Kong, China) the conversion rates of women were significantly lower than men (five percentage points and four percentage points lower respectively). On the other hand, in Oceania and Europe the conversion rate was higher for women, indicating that there were regions where there were positive strides for more equal gender cohorts.

Female and male applicants have been analysed in the application and enrolment study since 2013. Overall, the proportion of women who applied and enrolled to AMBA-accredited programmes has increased over time. Women have become increasingly more likely to both apply and enrol on to MBA programmes across this period (a 6% increase in the proportion who have been applied and enrolled).

Diversity in applications and enrolments (2018 vs. 2017)
The study also explored trends based on 202 like-for-like Schools that participated in the study for cohorts in 2018 and 2017. At a global level there was a one percentage point increase in the proportion of women applying to MBA programmes between 2017 and 2018. The largest proportionate increase in applications from women was in Africa and North America Caribbean (+4 percentage points increase in each area). The only region where the percentage of women decreased was in India, where female applications dropped by 9 percentage points.

Overall there was a one percent increase of women enrolled in MBA programmes globally. The regions with those most significant increase in the proportion of women enrolled was Africa, in which the percentage of women rose by 4%. This correlates exactly to the proportion of women applying.
It is notable that despite the proportion of female applications made by women in India dropping significantly, there was no change in the proportion of women who enrolled. This would suggest that Schools in India are still keen on diverse cohorts, but more focus is perhaps needed to encourage women to apply to MBA programmes.

China (including Hong Kong, China) had the most balanced MBA cohorts (45% who enrolled were women), although this was three percentage points lower than in 2017.
The conversion rates of men and women was unchanged globally (40% for men and 38% for women).

In April 2019, data sheets were sent to 256 Business Schools that were accredited by AMBA in 2018. The data sheets asked Schools to provide relevant application and enrolment figures on their MBA, MBM and DBA programmes, and any other AMBA-accredited programme delivered by the Business School for 2018. In total, 236 AMBA-accredited Business Schools returned their data, representing a response rate of 92%, with 232 Schools providing MBA specific data to analyse.
Due to the different start and end dates of programmes across Schools, data was collected for the whole calendar year of 2018 (1 January – 31 December) in order to ensure valid comparisons could be made.
As well as application and enrolment data, the data sheet collected supplementary data on gender, and information on whether the applicant was domestically or internationally based. It also collected data on the method and mode of programme delivery. The findings presented are based on data provided to AMBA by participating accredited Business Schools for the calendar year 2018. MBM (Masters in Business and Management) or DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) programmes are not analysed in this report. Meanwhile, the ‘graduate’ figures are based on the number of individuals who completed a programme in 2018.

Data has been analysed across nine regions which reflect the geographic spread of AMBA-accredited Business Schools and the composition of the MBA market. For example, Business Schools India and China (including Hong Kong, China) are covered as separate regions within this report due to their distinct and separate markets, and the high volume of AMBA-accredited Business Schools in each country. The regions grouped within the report are Africa, Asia (excluding India and China), China (including Hong Kong, China), Europe (excluding the UK), India, Latin America, North America and the Caribbean, Oceania and the UK. When discussing these regions in this report, we are referring to AMBA-accredited Business Schools according where they are based, unless otherwise stated. Separate analysis which bases results according to the region in which programmes are taught is specifically highlighted.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here