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Business School leads Australia and the world in MBA gender balance

06 Jul 2015

In keeping with its commitment to ‘inclusive leadership’ the University of Sydney Business School has become the only school in Australia and one of the first 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 percent of MBA participants in Australia and worldwide, they make up slightly more than half of the Business School’s commencing cohort this semester (semester two, 2015).

The number of women in the program has been boosted by another United Nations’ Women’s Committee (Australia) MBA scholarship and by four ‘Women in Leadership’ scholarships awarded by the Business School.

“It is common practice to see gender equality as a laudable goal but something that can only be achieved in the long-term,” said the School’s Dean, Professor Greg Whitwell. “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 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 Business School’s commitment to diversity and inclusive leadership, the Australian National Committee for UN Women has awarded a MBA scholarship to the NSW Department of Planning and the Environment’s Principal Demographer, Dr Kim Johnstone.

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.”

Dr Johnstone is the third recipient of a UN Women MBA Scholarship. Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women, Julie McKay, says that Dr Johnstone’s experience in the public sector and her commitment to advancing gender equality will make her a unique and valuable 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,” concluded Professor Whitwell. “Our achievement of gender balance in our most recent cohort is a great example of our commitment to inclusive leadership.”