This coming fall men and women will make up the student body of the incoming class in close to equal numbers at the University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School. It is the first time such a highly-ranked business school in the US can claim gender parity in its full-time MBA program. The milestone was achieved this year with a 20% jump in the number of women enrolled, from 32% last year to 52% this coming year.
“We know industry is looking for more women for leadership-level positions, so it will give us a chance to satisfy those needs from our employers,” said Dean James G. Ellis. He added that the gender gap in business runs “from boards to senior leadership down to entry level.”
Presently, many of the nation’s primary business schools favor men by about 20%, with women making up 40% while men are represented by 60% enrollment.
Ellis explained the several factors that contributed to USC made the jump to parity in just one year.
“The quality of the pool was strong, and the yield was good. A lot of our students were helping with recruiting,” he said. The school also had “positive reputational stuff” combined with a large climb in MBA rankings, which also helped. US News ranked USC as the 20th top business school in 2018, up from 31st in 2016.
According to global non-profit Catalyst, gender parity at the highest levels of business is few and far between. Women make up about 54% of the labor force among the S&P’s top 500 companies in the financial services sector, but they constitute only 29% of the executive and senior-level manager positions. Women only occupy 2% of the CEO positions. The tech world has similar figures.
Around the world business schools are struggling to improve gender diversity, hoping that these efforts will translate to more women in positions of power and influence when they graduate. Some of the methods used to encourage women to come to MBA programs are scholarships and executive coaching for women, to yearly gender diversity seminars.