Here’s an uncomfortable truth:
If you’re female, you don’t have to have as high of a GMAT score to make it into a top MBA program.
That’s a very broad generalization of course – if it’s Harvard, then yeah, you need to have a stellar GMAT. And stellar everything else. Also, the bottom threshold of tolerable scores may be higher for Indian females than for American (North or South) or European women applying to the same school. These facts are just due to the realities of who’s applying to which schools and the level of competition.
The fact of the matter though: There are fewer females applying overall, and even though the numbers have been increasing, we still don’t see a gender breakdown in the bschool student population that reflects real life.
We’re not going to offer any absolutes in this post – it’s not like you can say “If your GMAT score is X then you’re fine” or “If your score is lower than Y you’re in trouble.” It’s not that simple. All the factors of a profile are weighed together.
All we’re offering is the truth that the standards are different based on who the applicant is. Women are slightly more sought-after as MBA students than men, simply due to the imbalance in the ratio of men to women. And this means that adcoms are, to put it bluntly, more lenient when evaluating female applicants.
Before the men reading this post get up in arms about this, please think about it. Do you really want to go to school with only dudes around? (“Sausage fest” is a term that comes to mind.) There have been several studies in recent years showing that more women in executive roles and as board members in major corporations correlates to better stock performance. Diversity of all kinds is good for us all.
The reasons behind fewer numbers of females applying to bschool are complex and complicated, and go way beyond the walls of any Wharton or Harvard. It’s a societal issue, obviously, intertwined with the realities that many women are operating with a different career timeline in mind based on the desire to start a family that often hits right around the same time that many people become interested in business school. Because of this reality, many adcoms are also more flexible in accepting younger women who are earlier in the careers, with less work experience. This is due to the knowledge that the school may miss out on such candidates if they pass them up, since priorities may change and a next-year reapp is somewhat less likely for her than it would be for a man in a similar situation.
Adcoms may also be more accommodating for a female applicant with a good GMAT score that’s heavily weighted to the verbal side. If the profile is right, then a male applicant with a similar score would also do fine in admissions, but we see it slightly more frequently with women. We’re talking like a 730 total but comprised of like a 60-something percentile on the quant and a high-90s percentile on the verbal. This score breakdown may get a “pass” more easily if you’re a woman than if you’re a man.
But what happens when that woman starts her MBA program?
The whole experience of how women are treated once they get on campus is another story entirely (if you weren’t involved in the MBA scene last fall then you may have missed the major uproar following the publication of a New York Times article by Jodi Kantor on women at Harvard – September 8, 2013). We’re not going to go into that today, mostly because we lack any definitive information to support Kantor’s claims. Everyone we spoke to at Harvard said that women and men are treated equally there; but of course, that’s what they would say. You gotta protect the brand. Our experience at bschool was not anything like what was described in that article, and we have never heard complaints from former BSers on that topic. We can’t say that Kantor’s accusations are wrong but we just don’t have enough to go on to offer any further insights or opinions.
But this whole getting-in thing, and being successful, particularly around women and the GMAT, we have lots to say about that. We’ll pick this topic up again another day (edit: picked up here).