How Business Schools Can Help Close the Gender Gap

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Raising the quantitative performance of women in business schools can help increase the representation of talented women in finance, consulting, and mainstream tech, which are also generally more lucrative. To do this, female instructors are essential. While women’s grades in quantitative courses are 11% one standard deviation lower than men’s on average, when taught by female teachers, their performance improves by 7.7%. The authors found that female teachers increased female students’ interest and performance expectations in quantitative courses and were seen as role models by female students. When women perform better in “quants” courses, it translates into more gender-healthy pipelines for leadership positions.

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in high paying leadership positions. Although the figures vary from industry to industry, a recent poll in the financial services industry found that while women made up 58% of human resources, 46% of marketing management positions, and 35% of legal management positions, they held only 13% of technology management positions, 17 % of finance functions and 21% of operations management positions. Unfortunately, gender pay gaps arise because leadership positions with fewer women pay more. How does the gender imbalance between professions occur and can it be corrected?

Because business school enrollment is fairly balanced in the United States, with women making up 43-47% of the business student body, in our study we turned our attention to the differences in academic achievement of male and female students in an undergraduate business undergraduate program. Our empirical analyzes use the grades of 6,312 undergraduates from the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, in the 2005-2018 graduates. We focused on the academic performance of students in the introductory core program courses, where courses are compulsory and students are randomly assigned to different sections of a course. We also conducted a survey of current undergraduate business students to gauge their expectations, interests and perceptions across different types of courses. What we have found is that the gender gap is rooted in quantitative courses, where women, on average, score 11% less standard deviation than men.

Why should a man and woman, otherwise similar in academic skills, family background, and other demographics, perform differently in business school courses? It could be argued that men naturally prefer quantitative courses and careers, while women naturally prefer non-quantitative courses; and that this leads to the differences. Students may also have gender stereotypes and believe that women do less well in “quant” classes and better in “poet” classes, which affects their motivation and interest, and then affects their performance.

Our research supports the stereotype hypothesis, not the innate preference hypothesis. We found that female instructors increased the interest and performance expectations of women in quantitative courses, and also increased the actual performance of female students. The fact that students’ academic performance in a subject changes depending on the gender of the instructor negates the innate preference hypothesis. At the same time, our survey indicates that female instructors teaching quantitative courses are more likely to be seen as inspiring role models by women. These findings suggest a gender stereotyping process for narrowing the gender gap in quantitative courses when there is female faculty – female faculty serving as powerful examples who challenge gender stereotypes and increase student results.

Female teachers are one possible solution to closing the academic performance gap: while women’s grades in quantitative courses are 11% of one standard deviation lower than men’s on average, when taught by teachers. teachers, their performance improved by 7.7%. . Supporting why we think female students perform poorly in the first place, we have found that female teachers increase female students’ interest and performance expectations in quantitative courses and are seen as role models by female students.

Business schools have long understood that representation can help combat student self-doubt by providing a successful counterexample to the stereotype. Our research provides evidence that not only is this true, but that by specifically employing more female instructors who can teach quantitative courses, business schools can make significant cracks in the glass ceiling. We would advise, however, that female professors themselves be subject to bias in teaching assessments, especially in quantitative courses, because of the very stereotypes they help to combat. As such, business schools must not only have policies in place to help female students, but also to help female teachers. Besides hiring more female teachers, gender stereotypes can also be tackled by taking active steps to have more female speakers, alumni events, student leaders, club presidents. , teaching assistants, etc.

Raising the quantitative performance of women in business schools can help increase the representation of talented women in finance, consulting, and mainstream tech, which are also generally more lucrative. Plus, recruiters can hire and retain a more diverse workforce and stop bemoaning the lack of women. It will also translate into more gender-specific streams for leadership positions.


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