Leading in Equity for Women: GWSB Once Again at the Top for M.B.A. Enrollment

The school has earned praise from numerous outlets for its inclusion efforts.

February 6, 2023

Three women on top of building

Susanna McElroy (l), M.B.A. Association president; Chelsey Izegbu, M.B.A candidate; and Professor Susan Kulp, director of M.B.A. programs at GW Business. (William Atkins/GW Today)

George Washington University M.B.A. candidate Chelsey Izegbu has long thought business and technology can be catalysts for change if they are framed in such a manner. She believes tools such as applying data to derive impactful insights, exploring AI powered solutions for emerging economies and globalization are vital means to solving complex problems. 

Even if business leadership has been historically male-dominant, Izegbu plans to be on the frontlines of bringing the industry into a more inclusive future. 

Being an M.B.A. student at the GW School of Business (GW Business), globally recognized for its high rate of women enrollment, has only affirmed that stance as Izegbu has been surrounded by equally strong women professors, mentors and peers who have helped her establish a mindset that not only does she belong in every room she enters, but also that she should expect to succeed in those settings. 

“Having the appropriate representation and support within your business school experience before returning to the workforce is pivotal,” said Izegbu, who has held internships at Watson Living and Salesforce—where last summer she was a customer success manager in the company’s New York office—during her time at GW. ““It’s very important to be in a workspace where you are able to see others that look like you and are also targeting similar goals.” 

In 2021 and 2022, the Financial Times  named GW Business No. 1 for percentage of women enrolled in a full-time M.B.A. program in the United States. This academic year, 59% of students enrolled in the program are women. The program is No. 1 in the country for enrollment of women over the last few years. According to the Forte Foundation, a membership association for the 54 top business schools around the world committed to increasing equity in business education, only two other institutions–Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania–achieved that milestone for the class of 2024. 

While the statistics speak for themselves, director of M.B.A. programs Susan Kulp said this recognition reflects the overall inclusive environment at GW Business.

“More important than the numbers is that we have a culture that is open, inviting and helpful and creates a positive learning environment for all of our students,” said Kulp, who notes that the school has aimed to have an applicant pool and student group that most accurately reflects the diverse makeup of the world. “When you see a lot of people like you in a room it makes you more comfortable and more outspoken and more able to take advantage of everything that's offered.”

Bloomberg has also ranked GW Business No. 2 and No. 3 in the United States in the past two years for its overall diversity in the full-time M.B.A. program. In addition, more GWSB graduate programs than not have a majority of women enrolled, while GW Business undergraduate programs are also a 50-50 in gender balance.

GW Business frequently holds panels with women alumni who have found success in the industry, and last summer it hosted an inaugural Women in Business Education (WiBE) conference. The student group GW Women in Business is active on campus and hosts a spring conference every year.

"As the world continues to make progress towards having more women in corporate leadership positions, we remain committed and focused on supporting this progress by increasing the representation of women in business education," said GW Business Dean Anuj Mehrotra. “We will remain at the forefront of preparing women leaders for the more diverse and inclusive boardrooms of the future." 

GW has been ahead of the curve on a nationwide trend of more women enrolled in full-time M.B.A. programs. In the past decade, the national average has jumped nearly 10 percentage points from 31.8% enrolled in 2011 to 41.4% in 2022, according to data from the Forte Foundation.

Kulp attributes several factors to this rise. First, the number of women pursuing higher education has increased steadily over the past 40 years. Women earned 58% of the more than 2 million bachelor's degrees awarded from U.S. institutions during the 2019-2020 academic year, according to Best Colleges. Naturally, Kulp said, more educated women means more women seeking graduate degrees.

She also believes there’s been a shift, although she noted there’s still progress to be had, in the narrative surrounding societal expectations for women. She noted there has been more press coverage of the gender pay gap, lack of women CEOs and gender inequality in general over the past decade, forcing companies to become more supportive of inclusion efforts.

 The combination, Kulp said, of more degree-holding women and pressure to close gender gaps has led to more prominence for women in the business world.

 “Starting from the top there's more women CEOs, still not tons, but there's more out there,” she said. “So, we have more role models, more women on boards, more women up and down the chain, where women can see themselves after getting an M.B.A. degree. The track has been laid out to go forward.”

Students such as Izegbu, who are on the homestretch now, then pass the baton to future women with business aspirations coming up behind them. As others were for her, Izegbu embraces being that strong woman in the field who can be an aspirational source for someone else.

 “If there's a door that I can open that can help someone else and make it easier for them to go through, then I'll continue to do that,” Izegbu. “I’m always very open and willing to do what I can to continue opening doors and sharing information, especially when it's for women and other marginalized groups.” 

 She advises those she’s holding the door open for to be blunt, confident and feel deserving of entering any boardroom or meeting space.

 “You get that opportunity for a reason,” Izegbu said. “Be confident in it and continue striving and moving forward.”