White House Wants More Women In Business Schools

This week, the White House told business schools they weren?t going to get off easy for their role in making corporate America overwhelmingly male.

In a seven-hour meeting Wednesday with 150 business school deans and other institutional leaders at an office west of the White House, the government’s Council on Women and Girls urged schools to do a better job at recruiting female?WOMstudents and training MBAs to support a workforce that would be more flexible for women.

The council outlined its goals in a best-practices document that, among other targets, asked B-schools to fix their gender imbalance (just 36 percent of all U.S. MBA degrees went to women in 2014, which is about a percentage point lower than in 2010, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the schools? accrediting body). Thirty-seven percent of Ph.D.s in business went to women. The document, released Wednesday in conjunction with the meeting, was signed by 47 of the country?s top B-schools.?

?We often focus so much on our students and the learning experiences, we don?t often become introspective and look at ourselves and say, ?are we really practicing what we preach here??? says Linda Livingstone, the dean of George Washington University School of Business, who attended the meeting. ?How are we doing as business schools in hiring and promoting and developing women? How are we doing with diversity??

The obstacles women encounter at work?from unequal pay rates to limited promotion opportunities?are well documented. Many corporations have worked to make it easier for women to rise to the top or to get in at the bottom. Yet broadly speaking, business schools, the places that serve as a pipeline for the most coveted corporate jobs, have not had wide success attracting and graduating women.

Lopsided gender numbers show up in business school faculty, too. Livingstone pointed to the fact that she is one of a vanishingly small number of women leading American business schools. More than 77 percent of all B-school deans are men, according to the AACSB.?

?It?s a narrow pipeline, and then at each stage in the process it becomes narrower and narrower,? says Livingstone. She?s referring to the fact that after that small slice of women get their doctorate in business, they still have to fight to get tenure and then vie for a string of administrative jobs before landing a deanship. Two-thirds of assistant deans of business schools are women. But when you go one rung up, to assistant dean, the share of women drops to 31 percent, according to data from the AASCB. ?That becomes really challenging when it comes to getting women in senior roles in business schools,? Livingstone says.?