Here’s a myth that haunts the hallways and classrooms of many a business school…
Do women get an unfair advantage when it comes to MBA admissions?
I’ve certainly heard it, and not necessarily said disparagingly. Back when I was applying to school, it was supposed to make me feel better when I was anxious about not getting into my target schools.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Plus, you’re a woman, and business schools are always looking for more women.”
And while it did reassure me at the time, the notion that I might be getting an unfair advantage as a female also came with a significant side of guilt. If a male friend received a rejection letter from a school that accepted me, I wondered if some unfortunate gender bias might be at play. And I’m sure I’m not the first woman to feel this way.
Well, here’s some interesting data…
Doing a little research of our own, we investigated the top 60 full-time MBA programs worldwide (per the Businessweek rankings) and compared the percentage of women who applied to the percentage of women actually enrolled. As it turns out, those percentages are virtually equal.
So what does this mean?
Granted, it’s an incomplete story: to answer the question of whether women get an unfair edge in MBA admissions, we would need to know the actual percentage of women who are accepted, and also how they compare in the quality of their applications. But the fact that the breakdown between men and women is equal across applications and enrollments, is a good indicator that any bias, if it even exists, is minimal.
What it does show, however is a significant self-selection bias. Women are simply less likely to apply to business school than men. So if MBA programs do strive for a more even mix of men and women, as many openly state, there is more than enough room for them to achieve it simply by attracting more women applicants.
As for the self-selection question, we’ll leave that for another post.