GRADUATE business schools nationwide are reporting a significant drop in the numbers of women pursuing degrees. Fewer women are matriculating at many schools, especially at less-prestigious schools.
Between 1971 and 1990, the number of women earning undergraduate business degrees rose from 10,500 to more than 116,000, according to a study commissioned by the St. Louis-based American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business.
Because "glass ceilings" still limit business opportunities for women, pursuing a master of business administration (MBA) degree is widely perceived to lack a payoff over the long term.
"When economic times are tough, people all reexamine whether they want to make an investment," says Linda Green, a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. "And since there is some reason to believe that women have less likelihood of getting a good return on that investment, it is not unnatural that they may be ones who start having second thoughts about actually coming to business school."
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of women earning MBAs rose from 3.7 percent of total business degrees conferred in 1962-63 to 33.9 percent in 1989-90. And women now earn about one-quarter of the doctoral degrees in business.
One factor that may be contributing to the decline is the preference admissions committees have for applicants with several years of work experience. Admissions officers have moved up the age of the typical entering student from 23 a decade ago to an average of 27 today. Many women at age 27 say they will not be able to work long enough after earning an MBA to establish their careers before taking time off to have children.