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How to win a (kickass MBA applicant) woman

June 28, 2017

Last week at the 2017 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Annual Conference, I had the honor of co-presenting How to win a (kickass MBA applicant) woman, outlining ways that MBA admissions teams can attract more women to MBA programs globally. While more than 1.5 million women visit each year, a website exclusively focused on the MBA experience, far fewer apply to business school. The result: the percentage of women in MBA programs nationwide remains stuck at ~36%, with lost opportunities to learn for all MBA students.

I was especially excited to present with Shelby Colby from GMAC, who co-authored a GMAC whitepaper (What Women Want: A Blueprint for Change in Business Education), and who is, herself, about to be a kickass full-time MBA student.

More than 100 people (primarily admissions team members) from around the world were equally excited to discuss what schools could do to make the process more effective for female applicants. I definitely came away from the discussion and follow-up conversations more confident that schools continue seeking ways to build diversity into their student bodies.

In addition to the data shared in the presentation, showcasing women’s belief in the value of an MBA, their curiosity / desire to learn, and their motivations for pursuing an MBA, we also shared video clips that revealed 2016-17 applicant’s experiences to provide greater perspective. The videos helped to highlight the need to make a clear financial case for the value of the MBA, to improve transparency into actual cost of programs, and to help with early planning for financing. Making the financial case for an MBA is something we continually encourage our clients to consider, as all-in costs are often the largest purchase MBA applicants have ever made. We also highlighted the value of encouraging candidates to envision their career path and to explore choices as part of the application process, noting that candidates had much greater confidence when they were fully convinced of their own plans. This includes encouraging candidates to test ideas with friends and family. Finally, it became clear that showcasing candidates who have “unconventional” backgrounds would help a broader pool of candidates envision themselves in programs. Having coached aspiring astronauts, successful photographers, and fashion models towards successful MBA experiences, I’ve seen first-hand how unconventional people can thrive at business school!

We want to thank our clients who took the time to share their insights, both through phone interviews and via video, to provide these perspectives that we shared with MBA Admissions professionals. By gathering the insights, honesty, and perspective of the MBA women in our Sparrey Consulting Group network, we hope to boost the number of women at business school, and thus improve the experience for all MBA students!