While a number of professional degrees programs in the United States are at gender parity—there are more women than men enrolling in law school, for example, and more women than men earning graduate degrees overall—business schools have traditionally struggled to recruit women in equal numbers. So it’s notable that the University of Southern California will enroll more women than men into its MBA program this fall, making it the first top-tier business school to reach that milestone.
USC’s Marshall School of Business announced that 52% of the students in the incoming class of 2020 are women, an enormous jump from the 32% share of spots that went to women last year, according to Poets & Quants, a website that reports on business schools.
USC may soon be followed by other schools. The MBA classes enrolled at Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania were 44% women, and all of the top 10 programs ranked by Poets & Quants were at least 40% female. But according to the AACSB, a business school accrediting body, the share of women to receive full-time MBA degrees from US schools overall stayed below 38% from 2012 through 2017.
Sally Blount, dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, says the problem starts when women are undergraduates, when they decline to pursue careers in business perhaps because they may have negative perceptions about the business world or don’t have the degrees in math or science they believe are necessary.
That may be changing, as investment banks and consulting firms are working harder to recruit and hire women out of college, although they’re still failing to promote them into senior roles. In theory, at least, with more women entering business school, more will eventually rise to the top ranks.
The announcement is a rare bit of recent good news for women at USC, where a campus gynecologist is accused of sexually assaulting at least 200 former patients. USC president Max Nikias resigned under fire after it was revealed the university didn’t report the doctor to the state or notify his patients. The sordid case is another reminder why women are needed in the leadership ranks of every institution.