Just over a year ago, the bschool applicant forums were buzzing with talk about a damning article that came out in the New York Times about gender inequality at Harvard Business School . A subsequent article was also published about class and accusations of elitism surrounding a clique of rich kids at HBS . EssaySnark offered our reaction after speaking with some students.
As with so many things in the world today, that news cycle has come and gone, and this year, in MBA admissions circles, nobody even remembers that all of that happened.
Those articles were definitely noticed last year, though. One thing that came of them was a discussion at many of the top MBA programs about gender. HBS held some (unfortunately closed-door) sessions with the Times journalist, and we know that those articles prompted many conversations at all the schools. Whether or not the Times article specifically was the catalyst, it also coincided with an initiative from the Columbia Women in Business last year that researched the issue on their campus. They generated a report in the Spring which was passed along to us, and we wanted to share it with all of you.
Here’s what our insider said when sending it over a few months back:
One of the things that I took on this year was a comprehensive look at the state of women at Columbia. Part of what I would say to those considering Columbia is that I have seen the culture move and change through the sheer will of the students behind an initiative. I’m not sure how many other business schools resemble ours, but I was certainly grateful that students were empowered to change the culture of the school.
Anyway, what started as a report called “State of Women” turned into an entire program called CBS Reflects , which aims to study our community from within and identify the best ways we might be able to change and adapt to better meet the needs of the entire student body. This year, obviously, we studied gender. … I am so proud of the work we accomplished [and] I obviously wanted to share with friends and family and colleagues. [I also wanted to share it with you as] someone in the professional world of MBA admissions who could post the work externally on the blahg to benefit the future prospective students looking at Columbia.
There is some truly fascinating information in this report (quotes are from the Executive Summary on page 6):
- Regarding admissions: “There is a relatively small pool of qualified female applicants to all MBA programs; however, the portion of applicants to Columbia Business School that is female is at its highest point in four years.” In fact, a chart on page 10 shows that there are only around 2,000 women with an appropriate amount of work experience (4 to 9 years) who get a GMAT score above 640 every year. A “relatively small pool” indeed. It’s no wonder that the schools are fighting for the strongest female candidates. If Columbia wanted to have a 50% female student body each year, they’d need to pull in and convert apps from 25% of all available female candidates – in the world. Or, they’d need to lower their standards, which we’ve never seen them do. The report states that apps from women increased 2% in the prior year but their yield is lower for women than for men.
- This “relatively small pool” is the reason why the average GMAT score for female students at Columbia is 707, compared to 726 for men (data from page 8). Columbia’s student body was 36% female last year – not the highest among its peers but not bad, historically speaking for bschools in general, and also not bad considering that they have so many students from the finance industry, which has a comparable skew in gender proportions. Pre-MBA, 18% of female students came from finance, compared to 26% of male.
- Regarding academics: “The school is highly responsive to student feedback and institutes changes into the curriculum on an ongoing basis. The school is in the process of revising the pre-MBA program, with an emphasis on leveling the playing field for students who do not have finance or quantitative backgrounds.” Why do we mention this? Because women’s grades at Columbia are lower than men’s are – yet the average undergraduate GPA for women is 3.6, compared to 3.5 for men. Women’s grades are a lot lower in “technical” courses like finance and accounting, but they’re also lower in “social” courses like leadership and marketing. And, only 22% of female students report “high confidence” in their academic abilities, compared to 46% of men*. A full discussion of this phenomenon starts on page 18.
- Regarding careers: “Women and men share similar short- and long-term career aspirations, but differences exist in expected salary” – women expect $125,000 to $149,000 while men expect $150,000 to $199,000 – “and future work force participation. Notably, both men and women are highly satisfied with their career outcomes.” Actual post-MBA salary data was not reported.
Those are just a few highlights. The report has interesting observations about the Columbia community, dating, happy hours, and lots of other aspects about the culture – along with plenty of commentary around academics and gender. They also asked questions in their students survey about things like whether they interviewed with a male or a female when they went through admissions, and if they felt any impact on gender during that process. Interesting stuff.
If any current student or recent grad at any of the other top schools has additional insight or commentary, or formal reporting, that they’d like to share on similar initiatives happening on their campus, you may contribute in the comments to this post or send an email to the EssaySnark Team at gethelpnow at essaysnark dot com.
*It is worth highlighting that statistic: A vast majority of all students do NOT report “high confidence” in their abilities at bschool. Bschool is grad school and it is designed to kick your butt. This is why factors like GMAT score and undergraduate grades count for so much in admissions.