They’re making history in Southern California. For the first time, the USC Marshall School of Business undergraduate business administration degree program has reached gender parity in its first-year class. The school announced Tuesday (September 7) that its incoming Class of 2025 was comprised of 52% women as of the first day of classes.
Reaching gender parity in the overall undergraduate program was a goal for 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 says 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.”
‘THIS IS IMPORTANT’
USC Marshall has made impressive strides to reach parity in its graduate programs. In 2018 it became the first top-20 business school to reach gender parity in the full-time MBA. This year’s undergraduate class builds on a familiar trajectory in recent years, with the percentage of women in the incoming undergraduate programs moving from 43% in 2019, to 49% in 2020, and now 52% in 2021.
“Dean Garrett came in and said, ‘This is important,’” said Ramandeep Randhawa, vice dean for undergraduate programs. “The mission came into focus and we put a plan in place to build a class that reflects the gender parity ultimately needed at the top levels of business leadership.”
Garrett and Randhawa began by working towards this goal in partnership with USC admissions, who make the first decisions about who is accepted.
“That in itself was a significant help,” says Tiffiani Frye, director of undergraduate admissions for Marshall. The admitted class was comprised of 50% women. “Then my office built intentional and strategic messaging to encourage outstanding women students to choose Marshall.”
DIFFERENTIATORS INCLUDE PROMINENT WOMEN FACULTY
The admissions team highlighted other Marshall School differentiators, including prominent women faculty, leadership opportunities such as the Robert J. Coury Applied Leadership Program, international programs like the Global Leadership Program, and active-learning approaches like the Experiential Learning Center. Marshall also has created new scholarships aimed at attracting women students.
Further outreach to future class members included events such as a virtual leadership forum for admitted-but-not-yet-committed students in April. The virtual forum was hosted by Violina Rindova, Management and Organization (MOR) professor and interim vice dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A panel of four successful Marshall alumni shared their experiences as students, praising the academic excellence and unmatched social support of the Trojan family they gained and leveraged in their career success. More than 110 students, both men and women, watched the forum.
“I was surprised to hear that Marshall reached gender parity,” says Jerne Ward ’25, an incoming first year. “When I was accepted, I expected to enter a majority male environment, since I had never heard of a business school, especially a prestigious school, with equal males and females. This makes me proud to be a Trojan, but especially proud to be a Marshall student!”
Marshall’s focus on gender equity has resonated amongst current students as well.
“I am so proud to be a part of an institution that promotes gender parity and shows results,” says Vaanyasri Goel, a fourth-year student and the president of the Marshall Women’s Leadership Board. “It is the first-year students who bring the new level of excitement and perspective into Marshall each year. Being a part of this change and milestone is a beautiful moment and another step toward diversity and inclusion.”
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