The number of women leading US business schools is on the rise

BestColleges reports on the growing number of women leading business schools.


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Business education is changing, with schools embracing high-demand business concentrations dedicated to tech fields and offering online master of business administration (MBA) programs.

BestColleges explains that curriculum isn't the only thing changing in business education: Business school leadership is also becoming more diverse, according to a new report. According to a new report by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB),  the number of women leading business schools is on the rise.

The number of deans identifying as female rose to 30% in 2023-2024, up from 26% in 2020-2021, according to the AACSB Deans Survey.

The international accrediting body surveyed 434 deans and 36 interim deans as part of its report and found increasing diversity in business school leadership. The number of white, non-Hispanic business school deans is also starting to mirror population levels, according to the report. Additionally, representation of Asian or Pacific Islander deans doubled over the past six years.

Top business schools report progress toward gender parity in their programs

Sharon Matusik, the dean of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, said in an emailed statement that the growing number of women deans at business schools was "encouraging."

"This not only provides encouragement for women faculty who aspire to academic leadership roles in the future, but it also provides examples for young women who may be considering a business education of the different ways that women can use a business education to make an impact in the world," Matusik said in the statement. "My hope is that these increases inspire even more women to pursue a business education at all levels – undergraduate, master's level, and PhD."

Debora Jackson, the dean of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Business School, said the increasing number of women leading business schools reflects a changing education landscape.

"At the WPI Business School, I am the first female, first African American, and first non-academic hired as dean of the business school," Jackson said in an emailed statement.

"My presence demonstrates that changing times and changing demands have paved the way for a different kind of leadership. This is not unique to WPI. The changing demographic of leadership at the dean's level demonstrates that many institutions are sensing the winds of change and moving in accordance."

That changing landscape has meant more external partnerships with businesses, government agencies, and other higher education institutions for WPI, Jackson said.

"Believing that we have a responsibility to positively impact society, our focus has been on constructing and connecting a broad and diverse community of collaborating partners with whom to engage," Jackson said

A number of the nation's top business schools have women leaders. Some of those deans include:

  • Erika James, who became the first woman and first person of color appointed as dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2020
  • Anne Harrison, who has led the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley since 2019
  • Sharon Matusik, who was appointed as the dean of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan starting in 2022

The increasing gender representation in business school leadership comes alongside an increasing number of women enrolled at top schools. The Forté Foundation reported last year that its 58 influential member schools reported an all-time high of 42% enrolled women in their master of business administration programs.

That figure has risen consistently over the past decade. The percentage of women enrolled in full-time MBA programs was 34% in 2013.

Five schools reported that their MBA programs achieved gender parity: The Oxford University Saïd Business School, Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, and Pennsylvania State University's Smeal College of Business.

"Our efforts over the past two decades, along with our member schools and companies, have significantly impacted the increase in women interested in business careers and advancing to leadership," Forté Foundation CEO Elissa Sangster said in a 2023 press release.

"Every year, we see about a percentage point gain in women's enrollment, and, trust me, it's not easy to achieve."

An MBA can lead to higher earnings and upward career mobility by unlocking leadership roles for graduates, but women who earn an MBA still face barriers. Underrepresentation in higher-paying industries and barriers to negotiation lead to pay gaps for women MBA graduates, BestColleges previously reported.

Sangster said in the 2023 release that gender parity in business schools will help close those gaps.

"Getting to gender parity in MBA programs is an uphill climb, but it's critical to drive change and help more women lead in the C-suite, on boards, and as business owners," Sangster said.

This story was produced by BestColleges and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media. 

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