The 20-First Gender Balance Scorecard

8th May 2015

Posted In: Women Mean Business
Lesley Symons

20-first has released its new Gender Balance Scorecard focused on the world’s leading business schools. The report gives an overview of the TOP 100 business schools (Financial Times ranking, 2015).

It also takes an in-depth look at the TOP 12, or ‘top tier’. It focuses on the gender balance achieved at two levels: among MBA students and among faculty.

The key findings are:

– BETTER MBA BALANCE: Most of the TOP 100 business schools show some improvement in the gender balance of the MBA student body since 2010.

– STATIC FACULTY BALANCE: Gender balance on the faculty, however, seems more challenging.

– THE MOST BALANCED: Star performing schools with female student numbers over 40% and female faculty numbers over 30% are: University of Hong Kong, Imperial College, Lancaster, Bath, Queens, Birmingham and Fudan business schools. None are in the FT’s “top 12 tier” of schools and 2 have a female Dean.

– THE BEST ARE MOST BALANCED re MBAs: 4 of the top 12 schools now have student participation at 40% and above: Harvard, Wharton, Stanford and University of California.

– AND LEAST BALANCED re FACULTY: However, only 1 school in this group has female faculty numbers above 30% (IE Business school) and a third have less than 20%: INSEAD, Colombia Business School, University of Chicago Booth and CEIBS.


‘Educated By Men’ by Lesley Symons (pictured), 20-first

A raft of research shows that improving gender balance leads to enhanced business performance. But business schools, a feeder pool into companies themselves working on balancing their talent, seem stuck in yesterday’s statistics. Is this good for careers in a more gender balanced 21st century?

Despite the fact that women are 60% of university graduates, the number falls precipitously at business schools. Female faculty are in even shorter supply. The learning tools used on MBA programmes feature case studies dominated by men. The faculty are mostly men (tenured faculty even more so). And executive programs are even more male dominated than the MBA classes. Add all this up, and neither women nor men are getting much experience of gender balance at business schools.

There is a deeper issue here: embedding change across the internal culture of these schools. Phase 1 seems underway with schools recognising the need to attract more female students. Phase 2 – addressing the cultures and styles that dominate in most leading schools – has barely begun.

As Harvard has courageously confessed, even when the ratios improve, the cultures don’t automatically become more gender bilingual. You’d think business schools would be leading the way, not trailing their customers. It’s time for business schools to deliver on their purpose – access to the world’s best talent. All the talent.


20-first is one of the world’s leading global consultancies focused on gender balance as a business and economic opportunity. They work with many of the best known global companies that seek to move from 20th century mindsets, management styles and marketing approaches into more progressive 21st century forms – and to stay first at the game. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is the CEO and has spoken at the WMB Conference & Awards.