Percentage of Female MBAs Climbing at Wharton

Daily Pennsylvanian
September 24, 2009

By Olivia Jung

Since women hold the title of CEO at renowned companies like Yahoo!, PepsiCo and Sunoco, it should be no surprise that the percentage of female MBAs at the Wharton School has been steadily increasing.

According to Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid J.J. Cutler, the latest class to enter the program – the class of 2011 – is an unprecedented 40-percent female, up from 36-percent female last year and 37 percent for the class of 2009.

Just a few years earlier, the class of 2005 was only 33-percent female.

This number is especially high when compared to other top U.S. business schools. Harvard Business School’s class of 2011 is 37-percent female, while the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is 35-percent and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is 33-percent.

In an effort to attract a more diverse MBA class, Cutler explained that Wharton has taken a number of measures, such as holding admissions presentations around the country specifically targeted at women and developing a relationship with undergraduate organizations like Wharton Women and Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business.

Similarly, other business schools are actively seeking to level their gender ratio, though their numbers may not be as strong as those of Wharton.

“We believe that women make great business leaders, and our job is to find those professional women who are interested in higher education,” said Booth senior associate director of Admissions Eddie Pulliam.

Steve Goodman, an educational consultant and admissions strategist at Top Colleges, confirmed that many schools are engaged in a movement to raise the percentage of woman MBA students.

Collaborative learning and teamwork are crucial business skills, he explained, and many surveys have shown these to be strengths commonly seen in women. As a result, many business schools and companies have been actively recruiting women.

Historically, there have been fewer women in business because of issues like balancing work with home responsibilities and a lack of female role models in the field.

However, as more women are acquiring business degrees and becoming contributing professionals, such tendencies are beginning to diminish, as reported by current students in Wharton’s MBA Program.

Second-year MBA student Chloe Thompson said she has felt “the palpable awkwardness around the discussion of having a family and a career” while also attending graduate school at Wharton. Despite this, she plans to enter corporate strategy or general management upon graduation. She added that she would like to work “at a company with strong female mentors who can offer support and guidance in making tough decisions.”

Rani Yadav, another second-year MBA student, also emphasized the importance of having female mentors.

She said she chose Wharton “because all of my favorite managers at work went to Wharton, and I figured that was no coincidence.”

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