There’s no question that women are underrepresented in EMBA education. Despite B-school rhetoric and new initiatives, the gender gap expanded even further last year: females comprised a mere 36% of EMBA applicants in 2013, down seven percentage points from 43% in 2012.
“Business schools are failing women,” Cambridge’s Director of MBA and EMBA Programs Simon Learmount said in a press release. “We have an important role in enabling individuals to reach the highest levels in their organizations, and we’re complicit in producing a secondary discrimination if we’re not giving women the education and training to enable them to be shortlisted for the highest roles in business.”
New research from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School sheds light on why women are more hesitant to apply for EMBA programs than men. The researchers scrutinized the most recent Graduate Management Admissions Council report and determined that barriers for female applicants range from financial concerns to limited family time to the admissions tests.
One of the biggest barriers proved to be the time in life when women consider applying. Men tend to apply when they’re older and more established in their careers, whereas women begin the process at an earlier life stage, according to researcher Monica Wirz. “The consequence is that they [the men] are usually in a more comfortable financial position when they apply and at a stage in their careers when the MBA more easily translates into a significant promotion or salary increase. Women are applying when they’re younger, have less work experience, and may still be saddled with the debts of an undergraduate program at university,” Wirz said in a Cambridge press release. Women are also more likely to be the primary caregivers, which again limits their time and resources to devote to an EMBA program, she adds.
But executive business education can benefit those women willing to enroll. Some 86% of female EMBA graduates between 2000 and 2012 connected their postgraduate business education with subsequent career advancement, and more than half (57%) received a promotion after earning their degree.
There is also evidence that women who complete a graduate business degree are more satisfied than their male counterparts. Some 96% of women, compared with 93% of men, rated their programs as having good, excellent, or outstanding value, according GMAC’s European Alumni Perspectives Survey 2013.
So what factors incentivize females to apply? Nearly three-quarters of women EMBA applicants cited increased job opportunities as a motivator. Other top incentives included higher salaries and more challenging work.
In short, B-schools still have a long way to go before bridging the gender gap, particularly in attracting female applicants. However, women who do enroll in EMBA programs report satisfying and rewarding experiences.