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Women in Business

Women Learners Become Women Leaders

Caryn L. Beck-Dudley

President & CEO, AACSB International

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic stress across all demographics, but the crisis has struck women particularly hard.

Not only have more women than men lost their jobs during this time, but working mothers of school-aged children also took on more responsibilities at home as schools transitioned to online learning. Both factors might have derailed some women from their academic and corporate ambitions. 

However, there’s also good news. A time of economic upheaval presents an opportunity for people to rethink their career aspirations, and business education is a great place to start. Many enroll in business school to refresh their skills, improve their employment prospects, or launch themselves into leadership roles. Others enroll to enhance their business acumen as they pursue a new entrepreneurial venture. The appetite for lifelong learning is robust.  

Women who follow this path will find that graduate business education is now more accessible than ever. In efforts to make their student populations diverse and global, business schools are creating initiatives that not only encourage women, underrepresented minorities, and first-generation students to enroll, but also provide support for them to thrive in their programs. 

And while schools still offer traditional two-year full-time MBA programs for students who seek it, many options exist for people whose time is less flexible or who want to pursue education in a particular area of interest. For instance, fully online programs allow students to learn wherever they are, whenever they want. One-year specialized programs give students deep expertise in high-demand disciplines in a shorter timeframe. At AACSB-accredited business schools, these online and hybrid programs ensure the same high-quality education as traditional, full-time programs.  

While a graduate business degree can give anyone the essential tools to succeed, historically only about half as many women as men earn MBAs — but that number is growing. AACSB data reports a more than 14 percent increase in the number of women earning MBAs in the United States since 2016.   

And the degree pays off. According to 2018 U.S. Census records, the median annual salary for women with master’s degrees is $56,545. By contrast, the average starting salary for men and women who earned their MBAs in the July 2018 to June 2019 time frame is $104,200.  

When women pursue an MBA education, they learn foundational business skills, develop critical leadership abilities, and build powerful networks. When they join companies and take leadership positions, they bring broader perspectives to every challenge. Their presence drives innovations that benefit both business and society. 

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