Elite Schools Don't Have Gender Equity

An analysis of 20 top schools shows none can claim that 30 percent of faculty are women.
Elite Schools Don't Have Gender Equality

THE WORLD’S TOP business schools are not exactly leading the way in promoting gender equity among either faculty or students, according to a new analysis by 20-first, a global consultancy focused on gender balance as a business and economic opportunity.

“Business schools are key gateways to management and leadership,” says 20-first’s CEO Avivah Wittenberg-Cox. When business schools lack gender equity, she continues, “this impacts who creates and runs businesses, what problems and needs they address, and what assumptions and management skills are being taught to the next generation.”

Using data from the Financial Times’ Global MBA rankings from 2018 and 2019, the organization identified 20 elite business schools and categorized them by whether they were asleep (having fewer than 20 percent female students or faculty), starting (20 to 29 percent), progressing (30 to 39 percent) or balanced (having a maximum of 60 percent of either gender). Overall, 20-first determined that the gender balance of the top 20 global business schools was 39 percent female and 61 percent male, compared to 23 percent and 77 percent a year ago.

More specifically, 12 of the top 20 schools have a balanced gender mix of students in 2019. While this is the same number as 2018, some of the schools have switched spots, according to 20-first’s calculations: In 2019, London Business School and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business achieved gender balance, while Columbia Business School and the University of Oxford’s Saïd School of Business lost it.

Even less encouraging: None of the 20 schools in the analysis could boast 30 percent female faculty. Fifteen of the schools fell into the “starting” category, with between 20 and 29 percent female faculty members; the remaining five were “asleep,” claiming fewer than 20 percent female faculty.

20-first has created an infographic that summarizes its analysis—and includes photos of deans at the surveyed schools. That’s because “leaders are responsible for the gender balance they design, and it is clear that some schools are making this more of a priority than others,” says Wittenberg-Cox.

What will it take for business schools to achieve gender parity? “First, putting it on the agenda in a strategic way,” says Wittenberg-Cox. It also will require business schools to stop trying to make women “become more like male students and faculty. Instead, schools should adapt their curricula, case studies, cultures, and faculties so they have more gender-balanced talent pools.”

It’s imperative for schools to balance their gender representation, she continues. “The business world thrives on talent,” she says. “If business schools want to claim an innovative edge, they better become more innovative in their own approach to a key 21st-century business challenge.”

See an infographic with the complete results of the 20-first analysis.