If We Want More Female CEOs, Then Start in Universities

Not only are women underrepresented in leadership and executive roles in the corporate world, but they are also outnumbered in MBA programs. If we are to level the playing field, then we need to start with making educational programs more appealing to the women of the world, not just the men.

women in business 2013

(Photo Credit: Spirit-Fire/Flickr)

Women make up nearly half of the people who take the GMAT exam, but they only account for 30 percent of MBA programs, according to About.com’s Business Schools site. Research also shows that women make up nearly half of the workforce; however, they only account for a mere 4.2 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. How do we expect more powerful female CEOs and leaders to emerge, if the corporate world and the education system are “a man’s world?”

If more women obtain MBA degrees, then there will be a much greater chance for those same women to have the confidence, know-how, and backing to climb the corporate ladder and join their male counterparts at the top. Additionally, younger generations of women will be encouraged to pursue higher education and executive roles if they see other women pave the path to success first. Joe Fox, associate dean and director of MBA programs at Washington University’s Olin Business School, says, “The students that we have drawn here have opened up the door and have helped recruit the class that comes behind them. Some alums and current students have taken it as part of a charge to make a great investment in the group that comes behind them.” Like the saying goes, “Build it and they will come.”

Thankfully, a few key leading ladies have made headlines in their efforts to break down the barriers that hold women back in their careers, and they are showing the rest of the women, young and old, that they, too, can break the mold. Take Sheryl Sandberg, for instance: she didn’t become a household name until early 2013 when she released her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, despite her admirable career as COO of Facebook, Google’s Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations, and chief of staff for the United States Secretary of Treasury. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, had the media in a frenzy when she announced her pregnancy shortly after taking over the helm at one of the biggest tech companies in the world – again, another Google prodigy with a notable, yet unrecognized, early career. 

Hillary Clinton said that, “The great unfinished business of the 21st century is helping women and girls break through those ceilings, once and for all.” You’ve come this far, ladies, so there’s no turning back now. It’s your time to shine and to be the change that you want to see in the world of business for you and for women everywhere. 

Tell Us What You Think

Are you female and have an MBA? If so, what was your experience as a woman in your MBA program? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.