Is Higher Education the Answer to Solving the Gender Wage Gap?

Executive MBA

Higher education is a powerful tool for career advancement. In 2018, the median earnings for people with advanced degrees were nearly triple that of individuals with only a high school diploma. It seems promising, then, that women recently outnumbered men in graduate school by 137 to 100. If women earn more degrees, they’ll in turn receive higher incomes—which could present a straightforward, long-term solution for gender parity.

But, according to the 2018 EMBAC Membership Program Survey, only 29.6% of EMBA students are women. Why don’t more women attend EMBA programs, and what are schools doing to recruit more female students?

The EMBA Program and Scheduling Availability

Many schools are leveraging unique value propositions to make their EMBA programs more attractive to women. For example, the cohort at Pace University Executive MBA includes 40% men and 60% women. Why do so many women go to Pace? Scheduling flexibility might have something to do with it.

Most students in an EMBA program are around 38 years of age, or have just over a decade of experience in their chosen career path. By their mid-30s, about 80% of women will have children, which can increase the amount of time they choose to spend at home. And even if women choose not to have children, research indicates that overall, women spend more time on chores and caring for aging family members compared to men.

The Pace University Executive MBA program has an on-campus commitment of just 34 days—which means more women might have the time to attend classes.

Many schools take a similar approach, offering flexible scheduling and shorter program durations. For example, about 40% of the cohort at the Denver Executive MBA at Colorado State University includes women, and the college offers online instruction that can be completed at the student’s individual pace. The school streamlines the experience even further with a concierge process—they provide books, a class registration service, and meals on lecture days.

Hiring Women Faculty Members

Executive MBAWhen women lead the classroom, it can create an environment where female students feel encouraged to speak up. Having a more inclusive classroom produces a ripple-out effect on every level of an organization. From student participation to designing the curriculum, a gender-balanced faculty has a significant impact on a university. And having more women among the faculty could be another way to encourage gender parity among the student body.

The Saint Mary’s Executive MBA Program is one example. Women make up 49% of their student body, and the director of the EMBA program is also a woman—Natasha Munshi, PH.D. The Executive MBA at Loyola Marymount University also has greater gender parity among their faculty: 20% of their lecturers, including the Dean (Dayle M. Smith, PH.D.), are women. About 48% of the EMBA cohort at Loyola Marymount are women.

The Effect an EMBA Has on a Person’s Earning Potential

The EMBAC Membership Program Survey reported students received an average 14.6% compensation increase once they completed an Executive MBA program. Some schools demonstrated even higher gains—graduates from the Kennesaw State Executive MBA, for example, can see a 20% salary increase post-graduation. Kennesaw also has one of the highest ratings for gender balance: 48% of their students are women.

EMBA graduates around the world earn, on average, between $200,000 and $500,000 annually. According to the United States Census Bureau, the median income per household between 2013-2017 was $57,652. This disparity demonstrates that an EMBA has an exceptional influence on a person’s earning potential. The first offer after graduation is often $20,000+ higher than a person’s initial salary at the time of their enrollment—and an EMBA also positions recipients for an even greater earning potential in the future.

Reversing Decades of Gender Bias

In 2018, women earned about 85% of what men earned, according to the Pew Research Center. Some researchers say there’s an even further divide at the top levels of an organization, a phenomenon called the “double-pane glass ceiling.”

But, women today take more active roles in their careers, and an EMBA can accelerate those trajectories. Universities are doing their part to encourage female enrollment. Many now provide more balanced faculty boards, flexible scheduling, and online classes. Some also allow students to take time off without academic penalties, which can be helpful for women professionals who also want to have a family.

If Executive MBA programs follow other patterns in higher education, more women will pursue the degree over time. And having more women in leadership roles is beneficial for everyone.

Thinking about enrolling? Read Ivy Exec’s Executive MBA Rankings for 2019.


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