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Leadership Tuesdays -- Developing Women Leaders
July 3, 2012

When choosing to pursue a graduate degree, more women are choosing to get degrees in law, medicine and areas other than Business. Is a Master's of Business Administration as valuable as other degrees? Dean John Delaney of the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business in Pennsylvania talks about the potential reasons for this phenomenon. As you will read below, his blog was motivated by a conversation he and I had in May 2012.

The second part of this series will include my take on the subject as a MBA graduate and professional with more than 25 years of experience. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997. --V. Nona Ogunsula

The Great Business School Challenge Hidden in Plain Sight

by John T. Delaney, Ph.D.

I co-hosted an event in Washington DC last month with Pitt Law Dean Mary Crossley. It was an enjoyable event and gave me a chance to connect with several Katz and CBA alumni. I had a wonderful conversation with V. Nona Ogunsula, a Katz EMBA grad and consultant who has built a great blog and website on leadership for women and minorities. (See her work at www.womenatliberty.com.) Nona and I met prior to the alumni brunch. Our conversation caused me to think about an issue that is concerning for business schools: Why do we have difficulty enrolling women students in MBA programs? Whereas women make up half or more of the students in many professional programs, they typically comprise one-third or less of MBA enrollments.

In the past, this was a curiosity that received attention in a variety of ways (e.g., programs aimed at increasing female representation in select B-Schools). It is really the tip of an iceberg that may pose significant problems for B-Schools, however, given the gender composition of college enrollments today. Specifically, in each year since 1988, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, women have comprised more than half the enrollment in post-secondary education. In 2010, for example, women earned 62% of the Associate’s Degrees, 57% of the Bachelor’s Degrees, 60% of the Master’s Degrees, and 52% of the Doctoral Degrees awarded by U.S. Universities. That same year, graduation rates for women (4-year, 5-year, and 6-year) were higher than comparable graduation rates for men. And projections suggest that this wave of female dominance in higher education was going to grow even deeper in the future.

The wave is propelled by evidence that high school women are more likely to report an intention to secure a college degree today than are high school men. And other trends suggest that women are investing more than men in high school activities that will enhance their employability. For example, in 2010, a higher percentage of female than male students participated in all outside of class activities (e.g., newspaper/yearbook, music/performing arts, student council/government, other clubs/activities) except athletics.

Because women comprise a growing and dominant segment of college students and graduates, the inability of B-Schools to recruit women poses a serious problem for our enrollments and future resources.

Selected overall U.S. educational statistics illustrate the problem. The growing pool of female students favors areas of study other than business. The Condition of Education in 2012 reports that women are enrolled in...

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John T. Delaney became the 6th dean of the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Business in 2006. As Dean, he is responsible for more than 2,500 graduate and undergraduate students and 70 full-time faculty. One of his top priorities as dean is to encourage collaboration among faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends to create and deliver an outstanding education in business.

Dean Delaney earned a B.S. degree in industrial relations from LeMoyne College in 1977 and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in labor and industrial relations from the University of Illinois in 1980 and 1983, respectively. He has been on the faculty at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and the University of Iowa where he was promoted to the rank of professor of management. At Iowa, he also served as director of the Industrial Relations Center, university ombudsperson, and chair of the Department of Marketing. In 2000, Delaney joined the faculty of the Eli Broad College of Business and Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University (MSU), where he served as professor of management and associate dean for MBA Programs until moving to Pitt. 

Taking a look back...

Finding Future Women MBAs: B-Schools Still Face Challenges

A Problem Unique to Business

Despite more than a decade of work to increase the number of women in MBA programs, women continue to make up less than one-third of the student body at most top business schools.

The dearth of female representation is a problem other professional programs do not currently face. Women are well represented in law school, where the percentage of female students has grown from less than 10% in the 1970s to roughly 49% in 2001, according to the American Bar Association. In American medical schools, women make up about half the enrolled student body.

Bringing more women into management education and business leadership roles remains of paramount importance to business schools and companies around the world.

“Every [school] wants to have more women, but it’s not an easy thing to attain,” said David Standen, associate director of admissions at Instituto de Empresa (IE) in Madrid, Spain.

The reasons why there remains a lack of women in management education are numerous and complex.

A Host of Hurdles

The lack of female role models in upper management may be partly to blame. Women make up roughly half the U.S. work force but represented fewer than 16% of U.S. corporate officers in 2003, according to...