Australian business school leads the world in MBA gender balance

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MBA Scholarship winner Dr Kim Johnstone

The University of Sydney Business School has become one of the first school’s in the world to attract more women than men to its elite Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

While women average between 30 and 35 per cent of MBA students in Australia and worldwide, they will make up just over half of the Business School’s commencing cohort this semester.

Awards such as The United Nations’ Women’s Committee (Australia) MBA scholarship and four ‘Women in Leadership’ scholarships have contributed to boosting the number of women undertaking MBA programs.

The School’s Dean Professor Greg Whitwell said, “It is common practice to see gender equality as a laudable goal but something that can only be achieved in the long-term.”

“Our MBA is only two years old and we have already achieved the rare distinction of having more women than men entering the program.”

Explaining the traditional gender imbalance, the School’s MBA Director, Professor Guy Ford, said that many women believe that MBA programs are dominated by “alpha males” and are oriented towards technical skills such as accounting, finance and operations management.

“We have tackled these stereotypes by striking a balance between personal, interpersonal and technical skill development and by focusing on experiential learning with regular and ongoing feedback on the student’s specific leadership skills and competencies,” Professor Ford said.

Recognising the school’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusive leadership, the Australian National Committee for UN Women has awarded an MBA scholarship to Dr Kim Johnstone, Principal Demographer at the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

Dr Johnstone has worked extensively with women’s support services across Australia and is currently Vice-President of the Family Planning Association of NSW and the Australian Population Association.

“The UN Women scholarship will hopefully provide me with a platform for advocacy about gender equity and women’s issues – not just for women’s leadership, but for women’s rights generally,” Dr Johnstone said.

“I am expecting the MBA to give me the tools to apply my experience across a range of sectors in Australia and the Pacific.”

Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women Julia McKay said that Dr Johnstone’s experience in the public sector and her commitment to advancing gender equality will make her an invaluable member of the MBA cohort.

“The Australian National Committee for UN Women is proud to partner with the Business School, which has not only achieved gender parity in its MBA cohorts, it is also embedding within the curriculum an understanding of the business case and the value of diversity and inclusion,” Ms McKay said.

“Such was the calibre of the UN scholarship applicants, the Business School also decided to create a number of ‘Women In Leadership’ scholarships,” said Professor Ford.

“I am delighted that as a result of our commitment to support women with their career aspirations our most recent MBA cohort has achieved a gender balance.”

“MBA programs have a long entrenched reputation for being very much male-dominated,” Professor Whitwell said. “Our achievement of gender balance in our most recent cohort is a great example of our commitment to inclusive leadership.”

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).