This fall, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business announced that it had achieved gender parity for the first time in its undergraduate freshman class. 51.4% of the class of 2025 are women, the school said, reaching a goal set by Marshall Dean Geoff Garrett, who arrived at Marshall in July 2020.
“Women are essential to fulfilling the unlimited potential and unprecedented responsibility that businesses face in the future,” Garrett said in a news release announcing the enrollment milestone. “Gender parity in the undergraduate program represents a real milestone on our path to giving women access to the skills, network and opportunities they need to realize their highest aspirations as business leaders.”
Attracting more women to their programs is often a stated goal of many top business schools and their associated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Marian University, for example, launched a groundbreaking Diversity in Leadership program in October to help close gaps in educational attainment, wealth, skills, and opportunity for minorities and women.
But, despite business schools’ lofty goals for gender parity, results are mixed.
TRACKING SCHOOL DEMOGRAPHICS
Poets&Quants released its annual ranking of the Best Undergraduate Business Schools on Thursday (January 27). The ranking includes 94 schools, up from 93 last year.
As part of the extensive data-collection process, we collect student demographic data for incoming business majors that, while not used in the ranking methodology, does offer important insights about the school environments. In this story, we’re looking at the percentage of women and first-generation students enrolling at the top business schools. (Find analysis on the percentage of international and underrepresented minority students here.)
SCHOOLS WITH THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN
At the higher end of the spectrum, there is Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business which reported 66.2% of its freshman class were women, a full 7 percentage points more than the next best school in our ranking.
University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business had the next highest with 59%, followed by Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) with 57.8%, the University of Houston (Bauer) with 55.6% and Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim) with 54%.
Other than the University of Southern California (Marshall), which had 51.4% and was ranked No. 3 overall, the only other top 10 school in this year’s ranking to achieve gender parity was Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) with 50% even.
In fact, just 14 schools had 50% or more women in their freshmen cohorts, including the 10 listed in the table above and Bucknell University with 50%, Seattle University (Albers) with 51.1%, and University of Texas-Austin (McCombs) with 51.4%.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ithaca College had the lowest percentage of women with 27% while three schools did not provide data: Marian University (Byrum), Rochester Institute of Technology (Saunders) and University of the Pacific (Eberhardt).
FIRST GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENTS
P&Q also asked schools to provide the percentage of freshmen who are their first in their families to attend business school.
Northern Illinois University had the highest percentage of first-generation college students in its freshman class with 55%. It was followed by University of Texas-Arlington with 51% and the University of Houston (Bauer) with 45.8%.
Next pages: Find data on percentage of women and first-generation students on all 94 ranked business schools on Page 2 and 3.