Executive Education

2018 Top EMBA Programs for Women Leaders

emba programs for women leaders | emba programs for female leaders | women leaders | female leaders

The glass ceiling is very real, or at least it seems to be. While roughly half of all people who hold management positions are women, only a small percentage of executive officers are female. According to the Wall Street Journal, “almost 50.6% of U.S. women in business hold management or professional positions, but only 15.7% of Fortune 500 corporate officers are women.”

One of the issues holding females from the C-suite is the lack of advanced degrees. Some people blame it on the pressure that many women feel to balance home and work, but newer business degree programs make it easier to fit grad school into the mix than ever before. Executive MBA (EMBA) programs give women leaders the degree they need to get ahead while offering a class schedule that is easier to accommodate than traditional, full-time MBA programs.

The tide is already starting to change. The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) reports that the number of women in EMBA programs has been on the rise for the past six years. “An Executive MBA is an investment in one’s future,” says Michael Desiderio, executive director of EMBAC. “With an increase in demand for future leaders, these programs are a catalyst for students to explore new professions, new industries and even new countries.” As of 2017, some 30 percent of EMBA students are women – but there is still room to go.

Here are some of the top EMBA programs for women leaders.

INSEAD Global Executive MBA

The INSEAD Global Executive MBA is a 14-month program that takes place over a series of modules conducted at INSEAD campuses around the world. With locations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, you will have a chance to experience different cultures while you earn your degree. The program is ranked number one in European EMBA rankings and number one in the world overall. There is also a dedicated Women Leaders program.

The INSEAD Women Leaders Programme was created to foster a network that allows females to share their experiences in a forum-based learning environment. “Women face unique and varied challenges as they ascend to leadership positions”, says Jennifer Petriglieri, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. By leveraging a community of peers, female MBA students have the opportunity to learn strategies and techniques to overcome those issues as well as develop the confidence necessary to put those ideas into action.

Rutgers Executive MBA Program

The Rutgers Executive MBA Program takes 20 months to complete. Classes meet every other week on the weekend plus one week each term and a 10-day international experience in Shanghai. The average cohort is 30% female, but its full-time MBA is more than half women. “Women can really stand out here,” says Rita Galen, the assistant dean of Rutgers Business School and director of graduate admissions. “This is a place where women are respected and supported and it’s a place where they feel like they can compete with men.”

UC Irvine Executive MBA Program

The UC Irvine Executive MBA Program is a 21-month program that meets for four weekends every quarter. It also includes an immersive week in another country to help you gain first-hand experience working with businesses in that location. It is also highly customizable, with more than 50 electives on offer every year. Students can choose from an Executive MBA or a Health Care Executive MBA. The average cohort at the UC Irvine EMBA is 34% female and the program has a higher percentage of female faculty than any other EMBA program in the world. The school offers female-specific networkingopportunities and seminars as well.

Melissa Beck, the CEO of Big Brothers-Big Sisters of OC, is a graduate of the program. After earning her EMBA and serving as the executive director of the UC Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business Center for Investment and Wealth Management (CIWM), she moved to Big Brothers Big Sisters where she pioneered a workplace mentoring program.

Fisher Executive MBA

The Fisher Executive MBA at Ohio State University takes 16 months to complete. Classes meet for a three-day session once a month. Students are also required to attend both a domestic and an international educational trip.  The school is home to the Fisher Graduate Women in Business (FGWIB) networking group and it features several partnerships with female-driven organizations like the Forté Foundation, the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA), and The Women’s Place. The Fisher College of Business offers competitive scholarships for women as well. Plus, it has programs designed for women, including its Pathways for Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Program.

Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce attended the Fisher EMBA program. She used it to transform a clinical role into an administrative role. Moffatt-Bruce was promoted to Executive Director of University Hospital in 2017, after serving as Wexner Medical Center’s chief quality and patient safety officer for six years.

TRIUM Global Executive MBA

The TRIUM Global Executive MBA is a joint offering from New York University, the London School of Economics, and the HEC Paris School of Management. It is an 18-month program that features six modules that each last for 10-12 days. The immersive experiences are spread over three continents. Roughly 25% of the students in the TRIUM EMBA are female.

TRIUM exhibits a dedication towards its female students and women leaders in general with efforts like its Women in Leadership almuni panel and its TRIUM Women networking opportunities that take advantage of the extensive alumni networks of HEC Paris, LSE, and NYU Stern.

Leesa Soulodre was a member of the 2014 TRIUM cohort. She is the global innovation director for Inspirit IoT – a role she credits TRIUM for helping her achieve. “My skills strengthened as an expert critical thinker,” says Soulodre. “It reinforced my ability to analyze a topic at lightning speed, distill it into its core parts, apply the relevant models, and emerge with critical insights.”

IESE Global Executive MBA

The IESE Global Executive MBA from Spain’s University of Navarra also made our list. The program, which features both an Americas and a European track, takes 16 months to complete. Students can also choose from electives in different major business hubs. On average, 30% of the EMBA cohort is female. IESE provides scholarships to women who have proven their ability to lead.

The school also offers female-specific initiatives. IESE has a platform called IESE Women in Leadership (I-WIL) that is dedicated to helping women leaders make connections, conduct research, and develop professionally. Activities include conferences and workshops that help females learn while making networking connections with former IESE students and industry leaders. The IESE I-WIL is also dedicated to conducting research that raises awareness of the gender disparities in the number of women in leadership positions and board membership.

London Business School Executive MBA

The London Business School Executive MBA is a 20-month program with a London and Dubai track. Classes meet on alternating weekends or short monthly modules, depending on which track you select. The average LBS EMBA cohort is 30% female.

Women who choose the London Business School EMBA can enjoy the popular Women in Business club as well as specialized events, development, and mentoring. “We hold events and have relationships across industries: tech, VC, entrepreneurship, consulting and investment banking,” says Carolyne Quinn, co-president of the Women in Business Club, 2017-2018. “We have a strong alumni community and run a flagship conference every year.” The school also offers scholarships designed to help encourage female applicants, such as the Nestle Emerging Markets Scholarship for Women.

Women who want to move up the corporate ladder should consider an EMBA. In less than two years, you could have the degree and the experience you need to break through your own glass ceiling and get the job you’ve always wanted.


Ivy Exec’s goal in releasing its annual EMBA program rankings is to support its members and the broader, global professional community in making better-informed decisions when selecting the best-fit Executive MBA program for themselves. Pursuing an EMBA is a significant investment of time, not to mention money, so these rankings may help a professional consider potential ROI ahead of time.

About the Author

Renee Ann Butler is a business writer whose writing has appeared in numerous outlets related to finance and investing, from TheStreet to SCORE. She has an MBA, degrees in psychology, and over 15 years of experience working with hedge funds and startups.