An MBA provides greater economic mobility for women and minorities and narrows the pay gap. Source: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

The Association of MBAs notes that many graduates said their MBA has helped them to experience career growth. This qualification has been known to support professionals to achieve promotions, expand their area of expertise, equip them to start their own business, improve their business and professional network of contacts, build confidence, to name a few.

The financial returns of a graduate degree are also well documented. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary survey, which contains annual salary projections for college graduates in the US forecasts that the average salary for this year’s MBA graduates stands at about US$79,043.

While the programme has continued to cement its status as a popular postgraduate business degree among professionals, little has been discussed about its impact on women.

The non-profit Forté Foundation which focuses on women’s advancement has conducted a study on how getting an MBA can dramatically impact women’s pay and position within their industry and organisation in the US.

An attractive ROI for MBA graduates

Some of their key findings include that women with postgraduate degrees see pay gains of 55% to 65% of their pre-MBA salary within five years of graduation.

Meanwhile, companies with female board directors, experience on average, a 53% higher return on equity while 85% of MBA graduates attribute their qualification as a key factor that has enabled them to advance in their careers.

In addition, 95% of women found the experience personally rewarding, while the average amount of time to recoup their ROI on the degree was four years. Some of the top industries for women with MBAs include marketing and advertising, and management consulting.


Mary Barra, a female MBA as well as the chairman and CEO of General Motors, and United Auto Workers President Gary Jones open the 2019 GM-UAW contract talks with the traditional ceremonial handshake on July 16, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Source: Bill Pugliano / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Despite women improving their earnings with the qualification, the foundation found mixed results in a separate research that aims to understand if the degree helps women and minorities boost their earning power and increase equality in the workplace.

On a positive note, despite the gender pay gap, Forté Foundation’s data shows a positive return on investment from the MBA with an over 63% salary bump, or higher, for both minority and non-minority women and men.

“It is encouraging to see that an MBA provides greater economic mobility for women and minorities and narrows the pay gap for minorities in their first job post MBA but the whopping gender pay gap and income disparity for women and minorities needs to be addressed, and soon,” Elissa Sangster, CEO, Forté Foundation was quoted as saying.

Last year, the foundation also saw an increase in the percentage of women who have enrolled in full-time MBA programmes in the US, to about 39% on average in the fall of 2019. It added that US schools continue to outpace non-US schools, which average 36% women enrolment.

STEM fields are currently facing a critical shortage of female representation which results in a lack of overall diversity. It has been found that only 3% of students enrolling in information and communication technology (ICT) courses across the globe are female.

That improves slightly to 5% for mathematics and statistics courses. The numbers are slightly better with 8% for engineering courses.

Female representation in some fields fares more poorly than others. For instance, in the computer science field, the gender gap leaves much to be desired. Females only make up 30% of master’s degrees and 20% of the doctorate degree holders.

The engineering field faces a similar challenge where females make up a mere 25% of master’s degrees and 23% of the doctorate degree holders.

Increasing the number of women in STEM fields will not only do wonders for diversity in the field but also plug the skills shortage plaguing the industry.

Currently, 38% of full-time business school students globally are female, and the representation of women in these programmes are rising.

According to a study conducted by Forte, female MBAs see a 55 to 65% increase in remuneration compared to their pre-MBA income within five years of graduation. The report also found that companies with female board directors experience on average, a 53% higher return on equity while 85% of graduates attribute their MBA to advance their careers.

Business school graduates have proven to be highly employable in the tech industry. In fact, 84% of those who graduated from the 131 MBA programmes found employment within three months, according to a survey of recent graduates.

With the more recent technology boom, these graduates are increasingly driven to seek opportunities with the tech giants of Silicon Valley, which opens great opportunities for more women in STEM fields.

Business schools are rushing to add STEM MBAs as part of their offerings, and the popularity of these qualifications is also increasing.

Columbia Business School, NYU Stern, UC Berkeley Haas, CMU Tepper, and Simon Business School all offer full-time STEM MBA programmes. In a nutshell, MBAs with STEM specialisations give you the advantage of general MBAs that will cover the key aspects of the qualification with the additional emphasis on technology.

This allows you, as the learner to gain the knowledge and skills related to general business, management, and leadership, on top of the specialisation in technology. Women still have many glass ceilings to shatter, but nevertheless, they appear to be getting there.