Forté And the Study Behind It
In 2000, the University of Michigan Business School partnered with the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan and Catalyst, Inc. to publish a comprehensive, groundbreaking study of graduates of leading MBA programs. The study was designed to shed much-needed light — facts, not speculation — on women's experiences with the business school environment, the career outcomes of MBA graduates and why more women are not pursuing MBAs. The study, Women and the MBA: Gateway to Opportunity, was the first to look across the top tier of business schools to examine these issues with women MBA graduates and compare them to those of men. The study's findings were the impetus for diverse organizations committed to women's leadership in business to come together to create Forté Foundation.
The study focused on the issue of the relatively low enrollment of women in leading business schools by asking MBA alumni why they thought women are under-represented in the classroom. The study's main objectives were:
- To understand the experiences and career outcomes of men and women MBA graduates.
- To explore what educational and business organizations can do to encourage more women to apply for and enroll in top-tier MBA programs.
- To understand the strengths and weaknesses of MBA programs and careers in business for women.
The study revealed high satisfaction with the MBA experience and high career satisfaction among both male and female MBA graduates. Respondents also cited a number of factors they felt discouraged women from pursuing an MBA and associated career paths. These factors included lack of female role models, concerns with the compatibility of careers in business with work/life balance and need for greater encouragement from employers to pursue an MBA.
The study also included detailed recommendations for business schools and business organizations. The key points are to:
- Aggressively recruit women to business schools and business careers through education, marketing, mentoring and financial support
- Develop inclusive academic and business cultures and environments by gaining commitment at senior levels of leadership, being accountable for diversity efforts and engaging colleagues in a dialogue
- Enhance career outcomes for women MBAs by providing structured career support, improving work/life policies and nominating women employees to boards of companies and nonprofit organizations
For business schools, this means highlighting the value of a top-tier business program and improving the business school environment; and for business organizations, providing structured career support to women and supporting work/life balance initiatives are imperative to increasing the number of women pursuing an MBA. For both organizations, this means creating a work environment that supports all types of diversity.
In direct response to the findings of this study, an organization was formed to positively promote the MBA and other forms of business education as a practical, high-potential career investment for women that addresses all of the key recommendations from the study. This organization is now known as Forté Foundation.