Who run the world? (Not girls ... yet)
High enrollment of women in RBS does not solve issue of inequality
Rutgers Business School has long been touted by the University as one of its most improved departments, especially since its construction on the Livingston campus is finally just about finished. This year, the new class of full-time master’s of business administration students is 51 percent female, compared to the national average of just 37 percent. This is a marker that all the top institutions from UCLA to Harvard Business School have been trying to reach for years, but Rutgers has found itself setting the record as the first school in the entire country that has apparently closed the huge gender gap.
It all sounds great: Rutgers prides itself on diversity, and these new numbers coming out of the business school seem to further solidify its status as a University wholly committed to representing minorities across the board. But numbers are really just numbers, and the fact that a 51 percent female enrollment — barely making it equal — is being regarded as such a major achievement indicates that we still have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the professional world.
Maybe there’s an equal distribution of gender among students enrolled in the MBA program at Rutgers, but we can’t say the same about its faculty. Take a cursory look at the faculty directory, and you can see that it’s overwhelmingly made up of male professors. It’s one thing to admit more female students to try to claim a level playing field, but without an administration to match, that’s not a true reflection of a commitment to diversity.
Rutgers generally does well when it comes to opening opportunities for women in fields that are typically male-dominated, such as science, technology, engineering and math fields. But that doesn’t mean this new statistic in the business school is necessarily a product of that. Simply admitting a higher number of female students does not necessarily guarantee their success in business.
Douglass Residential College is the women’s college within Rutgers and one of the largest of its kind in the country. It does an excellent job of empowering women and providing opportunities for advancement, through leadership positions, guest speakers and unique events geared toward women’s leadership and other programming. If the business school wants to truly embrace gender diversity, Douglass is the perfect resource for that. But beyond just having extracurricular clubs that encourage networking between students, having professors who are successful businesswomen is important to fostering an encouraging environment.
According to an internal report conducted by UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management in 2006, although the school hired more than enough female faculty members, it had trouble getting them to stay. Another report was conducted again just this month, and it seems like nothing has really changed. The numbers might indicate that there are more women in the field, but there are severe flaws in the institutions themselves that might continue to hold women back or discourage them from pursuing careers in business in the first place.
Twenty-six women hold just five percent of Fortune 500’s chief executive positions. While admitting more female students might be a good start, the problem remains that in the bigger picture, there are a lot more serious challenges that women currently face in getting ahead in business. Rutgers Business School may foster a good environment for its female students, but it still needs a more balanced faculty to close the circle. So instead of congratulating our business school for a superficial level of apparent diversity, we need to take a hard look at underlying reasons for continued inequality for women in business.