Women comprise nearly half the U.S. workforce. Yet, female undergraduates are 30 percent less likely to major in business than their male counterparts. And although women who graduate from an MBA program earn as much as men following graduation, within five years of graduation men earn 30 percent more than women MBA holders and 60 percent more after 10 years, according to a Council of Economic Advisers report released Wednesday.
To address these and other disparities, the University of Miami has joined 44 other business schools nationwide in pledging to increase opportunities for women in business. Standards were discussed at a White House event Wednesday attended by dozens of business school leaders from across the country.
Moving up the career ladder, the numbers of women dwindle, according to the report. Only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2014 were women and women held only 17 percent of board seats at these companies. Private companies have similar diversity issues.
“Fewer than 3 percent of venture-backed companies have a woman as their CEO, and yet we see again and again that companies with diverse leadership often outperform those who don’t,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday to announce the initiatives.
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The business schools involved — also including Stanford, Yale, Wharton, Babson and Kellogg — signed off on a set of best practices that focus on four areas: Ensuring access to business schools and business careers; building a business school experience that prepares students for the workforce of the future; ensuring career services that go beyond the needs of traditional students; and exemplifying how organizations should be run, according to a White House fact sheet. The business schools will be held accountable for operating under these best practices through internal assessments as well as monitoring by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the organization that accredits more than 700 institutions worldwide.
“All business is now global business and to compete effectively we need to make certain our best talent is able to rise to the highest possible level,” said Eugene Anderson, dean of the University of Miami School of Business Administration, who attended the White House event.
“Inclusion is an imperative and business schools are in a privileged position to facilitate the advancement of women and historically underrepresented minorities through building diverse pipelines, preparing students to add value to diverse teams, organizations and markets, and providing graduates with the right mix of career opportunities while offering recruiters access to the diverse talent they need for their organizations to be successful,” added Anderson, noting that half of UM’s most recent Professional MBA class is women.
The White House event on Wednesday followed President Barack Obama’s first-ever entrepreneurship Demo Day on Tuesday, which also included announcements on diversity and inclusion. Among them:
▪ Deans of 100 engineering schools, including Florida International University, signed a letter pledging four actions to increase diversity among engineering students: developing a diversity plan for their engineering programs; undertaking an annual survey of faculty, students and staff measuring the effectiveness of the plan; hosting at least one K-12 pipeline program; and developing partnerships between research-intensive engineering schools and non-Ph.D.-granting engineering schools serving populations underrepresented in the engineering field.
▪ Forty-five venture capital firms representing over $100 billion in assets under management pledged to lead and regularly participate in programs and initiatives that encourage women and underrepresented minorities to pursue and thrive in venture capital and entrepreneurship careers, and to participate in an annual survey measuring diversity in their industry.
▪ Dozens of companies made pledges to increase women and minorities in entreprenuership, including Miami-based Kairos. The facial-recognition software company pledged to support entrepreneurship in South Florida and nationally by committing to spending over 1,000 hours in underserved communities to help entrepreneurs build and scale their businesses.
“We've got to make sure that everybody is getting a fair shot — the next Steve Jobs might be named Stephanie or Esteban,” Obama said Tuesday. “We've got to unleash the full potential of every American — not leave more than half the team on the bench."
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.