Washington, DC - Business schools play a critical role in helping workers, companies, and leaders adapt to meet the needs of the 21st-century workforce. Today, the Council on Women and Girls and the Council of Economic Advisers will host a convening at the White House focusing on opportunities for the business community and business schools to work together to encourage success for women in business, helping our companies to incorporate the full range of talent and diversity of American workers.
The convening will bring together leaders from the business and business school communities as well as other stakeholders for a conversation on recruiting, training, and retaining leaders for the 21st-century workplace and the importance of implementing policies that work for families.
In conjunction with today’s convening at the White House, over 45 business schools have committed to a set of best practices. These best practices offer concrete strategies for business schools to help women succeed throughout school and their careers and to build a business school experience that prepares students for the workforce of tomorrow. These best practices focus on four key areas:
- Ensuring access to business schools and business careers
- Building a business school experience that prepares students for the workforce of tomorrow
- Ensuring career services that go beyond the needs of traditional students
- Exemplifying how organizations should be run
Additionally, several schools have announced specific tangible actions that they will be taking to make further progress on these goals.
Commitments Aim to Address Long-Term Changes to Workforce
Over the last few decades, the American workforce has evolved dramatically, with women entering the labor market in large numbers and now making up nearly half of our workforce. Today, in more than six out of 10 households with children, all parents work. In 1970, it was only four in 10. At the same time, as women continue to outpace men in education at all levels—undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral—women are increasingly representing the majority of the young skilled labor in the United States. Men have increasingly taken on childcare responsibilities and other duties in the home, with many couples splitting home and workplace responsibilities more evenly than ever before.
Yet the U.S. labor market has not fully adapted to these changes, with too few businesses recognizing that many of their workers—men and women—need to be able to balance home and professional responsibilities. When businesses fail to make these adjustments, workers are often left choosing jobs based on their flexibility and structure of work, rather than the job best suited to their skills. Businesses must address the needs of working families in order to remain competitive, and many companies have already made changes to increase workplace flexibility and offer greater access to paid leave, along with other changes to attract and retain the most talented workers and increase overall productivity. However, it is imperative that future business leaders, both men and women, be well-prepared to address the challenges and opportunities of the 21st-century workplace.
Actions Address Unique Barriers Women in Business Careers Face
To inform today’s convening of business and business school leaders, the Council of Economic Advisers will release a new Issue Brief highlighting the unique barriers that women face in business careers and the need for business schools and the business community alike to work together to encourage women’s success. Together, these changes would help businesses fully reap the benefits of diversity, maximize innovation, and boost productivity. Among the Issue Brief’s highlights:
- Although women have become more equal players in the labor market and have increasingly entered previously male-dominated occupations like medicine and law, women have made relatively fewer strides in business careers. In 2014, only 5 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies were female, and in 2013 only 17 percent of board seats in the Fortune 500 were held by women.
- Undergraduate women are currently about 30 percent less likely than male undergraduates to major in business.
- A recent study by a global organization to accredit business schools found that enrollment in North American MBA programs is sharply skewed towards men, with women representing only 38 percent of students. Among specialized master’s degree programs offered by business schools, however, men and women were enrolled at essentially equal rates.
- While men and women in MBA programs have fairly similar earnings at graduation, after 5 years, men earn approximately 30 percent more than women, and after 10 or more years, this gap stretches to 60 percent.
- An increased role for women in business is good news for our economy, in part because research has shown that greater diversity in the workforce increases productivity, improves decision making, and heightens performance.
Today’s convening builds on earlier meetings hosted by the Administration on this critical issue. In order to identify strategies and best practices to better prepare students to lead the changing 21st-century workforce, the White House convened a meeting between senior Administration officials and a group of business school deans in April 2014. In the discussion, participants described the challenges business schools face in expanding opportunities and adapting to the changing workforce, as well as the many successful strategies they have used to address these challenges.
Following today’s event, the best practices will be housed on the website of AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). As the global membership association for more than 1,450 business schools, and the accrediting body for more than 700 institutions worldwide, AACSB has committed to supporting business schools in their efforts to expand opportunity for women in business careers. To help lead these efforts, AACSB announced on Monday, August 3rd the appointment of its first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Advocate, Christine Clements, who will lead this effort.
The American workforce has changed dramatically over the past few decades, and businesses are increasingly recognizing the benefits of attracting a diverse range of talent and supporting both men and women as they balance work and home responsibilities. Business schools and the business community as a whole have a critical role to play in helping prepare future leaders for a 21st century workplace. Today’s convening, along with the commitments by business schools and the AACSB, is a concrete step forward in helping women succeed throughout the business community and broader workforce.