Why Don’t More Women Apply to Business School?


By now most people know that far more young women than men attend college, law school, and grad school. U.S. colleges and universities typically enroll between 52-60 percent women, but among top MBA programs only about 40-45 percent are women. Why don’t more bright, motivated, college-educated young women apply to business school?

It All Begins in High School

A future career path begins in high school. Looking at GPAs alone, women often dominate academically in high school and college. But looking closer, their transcripts might tell a different story. As math and science classes get more complex and analytical, some young women start to shy away from them. Many young women take Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus, then declare that they are “done” with math, even if they are in the top 10% of their class. Or they may take AP Calculus AB and AP Biology, but not AP Chemistry, Physics, Macroeconomics, or Computer Science. STEM subjects require strong quantitative and analytical skills and can lead to well-paying careers, including finance and consulting.

And yet young women take AP courses in other subjects in droves. Subjects that attract 55-73.5% female test-takers include: English Language, English Literature, Psychology, Biology, Spanish Language, Human Geography, Studio Art, and Art History. The only STEM courses with more female than male test-takers are Biology and Statistics, but Stats attracts only slightly more (statistically insignificant!).

Fewer College Women Choose Quantitative Majors

Many young women head towards the humanities and social sciences rather than more quantitative college majors. Unfortunately, without acquiring strong analytical skills in high school, it’s harder to develop them in college where expectations are greater and competition is fiercer. And majors that emphasize “soft skills” rather than technical skills (such as psychology, environmental science, or communications) may limit job choices. And, if a few years later, a young woman wants to apply to business school to improve her career prospects, she may need to take several quant classes before she even feels ready to apply.

Take Quant Classes to Keep Options Open

For high school girls who have no idea where their futures might lead them, taking as much math and science as possible will keep options open. For college women who aren’t sure what to major in or what classes might be important later, consider taking calculus, statistics, economics, and accounting. For college graduates, you can take additional quantitative classes during the evenings or weekends at community colleges or university extension programs. These will prepare you for job responsibilities requiring analytical skills and give you the option to get an MBA – and a higher-paying job.

But, as I said, it all begins in high school. The academic choices one makes between the ages of 15 and 20 can influence an entire career, so choose wisely!

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss some ways that women can present themselves well to MBA admissions committees – and how that might be different from how men present themselves.

If you would like a personal evaluation and assistance with getting admitted to business school, please contact us at Admissions Unlimited.