Scholarships and Business Programs for Women

Learn about the different business programs for women and scholarships and admissions tips in this Q & A.

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How can I find info on business schools that are supportive of women?

While it is true that business programs for women tend to have a lower enrollment rate than their male peers, that does not mean that business schools are unfriendly to women. In fact, the opposite is true: most business degree programs want women to enroll and offer support and specialized programs to meet the needs of aspiring business women.

You can use this site to find schools that have special programs for women, then read these schools’ fact sheets to find out what unique benefits they’re offering female students.

Do equal numbers of women and men enroll in MBA programs?

No. According to The Economist, on average, women account for 34 percent or less of students enrolled in MBA programs—and this number has remained relatively constant over the past several years, despite many schools’ efforts to recruit more women.

Why don’t more women enroll in business school?

Although 95 percent of women who participated in the prominent study “Women and the MBA: Gateway to Opportunity” reported a high level of satisfaction with their b-school experience, women often mistakenly perceive business school as a place where they’ll be made to feel unwelcome, or where they’ll be intimidated by the male-dominated, competitive atmosphere. According to the study, women also cite the lack of female business leaders to serve as role models, few opportunities to study with female professors, and the incompatibility of other life goals with attending business school in explaining why they choose not to enroll in MBA programs.

What are schools doing to make business programs for women more attractive?

Many business schools are actively seeking to recruit female professors, establishing mentorship programs that allow students to work closely with female business leaders, offering women in business scholarships, and holding receptions and other outreach events for the purpose of recruiting female students.

Is a woman more likely to be admitted to an MBA program than a comparably qualified man?

While it’s highly unlikely that any school would give preference to a woman with lesser qualifications than her male counterparts, given that women are a conspicuously under-represented group in graduate business programs, it stands to reason that if a male and female applicant are equally qualified, the woman may have at least a slightly better chance of being admitted. This is likely to be especially true for top-tier programs, which attract a lot more attention than smaller schools, and are therefore under greater pressure to admit equal numbers of men and women.

What will I study? What focus can I choose?

All MBA programs are going require you to take some core courses in subjects like accounting and finance, which will require you to use your quantitative skills, but most MBA programs will allow you to specialize in areas that won’t force you to spend all your time crunching numbers. Some popular MBA concentrations are:

What scholarships are available for women planning to attend b-school?

In addition to the scholarship funds that individual business schools may make available specifically for women, many professional women’s organizations offer scholarships to women who are planning to attend business school. Some of these organizations are:

  • C200: Run by a group of women CEOs, senior executives, and highly successful entrepreneurs, this organization offers $25,000 scholarships to women entering MBA programs.
  • Chief Executive Women: Dedicated to “helping young women achieve their full potential,” CEW awards scholarships to women entering business school in the amount of $10,000 a year for two years.
  • American Business Women’s Association: “One of the largest sources of funding exclusively for graduate women in the world, [ABWA] supports aspiring scholars around the globe, teachers and activists in local communities, women at critical stages of their careers, and those pursuing professions where women are underrepresented.”
  • Business Professional Women/USA: Through its Career Advancement Scholarships Program, the BPW Foundation, “has awarded over $7 million in scholarships, research grants, and loans since 1969.”
  • American Association of University Women Education Foundation: “As one of the largest sources of funding in the world exclusively for graduate women, the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2015-16 will distribute more than $3.7 million in fellowships, grants, and awards.”

What kinds of student organizations for women will I be able to join while in b-school?

Most business schools either host chapters of the national organization Graduate Women in Business or have their own clubs for women—usually called something like “Women in Management,” “Women in Business,” or “Association of Women MBAs.” These activities of these clubs are designed to allow women to build powerful alliances with each other and with women business leaders as well.

Will my career prospects really be improved by an MBA?

Yes. The MBA is a flexible degree that will allow you to develop and hone a core of general management skills that will be applicable in almost any industry. Earning an MBA will not only give you a better chance at moving into senior-level positions, it will also likely ensure that you are among the most highly paid employees in the U.S.

What’s more, the percentage of women rising to the top echelons of their professions is steadily increasing. The Economist reports that one in five high-tier executives are women. Earning an MBA will help prepare you to take advantage of the growing opportunities for women to gain entry into these types of positions.

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