This strategy is based on evidence that in some cases online MBA programmes attract a significantly higher proportion of women than full-time or executive programmes, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

At Warwick Business School (UK), for example, women comprise 24% of the students taking the full-time course and 22% of those studying for an executive MBA, but account for 32% of the students seeking a Distance Learning MBA. At Babson College (US), women comprise 40% of the intake on the Blended Learning MBA — a programme that is mostly online with face-to face elements — for the 2015-16 academic year. That compares with 34% for the school’s two-year Full-time MBA.

Education consultancy Carrington­Crisp has noted a similar trend. When it asked prospective MBA students to select their preferred method of study, full-time options were relatively gender-balanced. One-year campus courses were picked by 28% of men and 26% of women. For two-year programmes the split was 27% for men and 23% for women. This was reversed for online MBAs, which were chosen by 22% of women compared with 16% of men.

Industry-wide data are scarce and inconclusive, however. FT statistics show that women account for 32% of students on 20 programmes in the 2017 Online MBA Ranking. Directly comparable figures are unavailable because of the way and times data are gathered but the overall proportion of women on 100 FT-ranked full-time MBAs is slightly higher at 35%. What is clear is that the proportion of women on certain online programmes — including some highly ranked MBAs — outstrips that for campus degrees. What might be the appeal? Some reasons are well understood. Andrew Crisp, co-founder of CarringtonCrisp, says:

It’s the flexibility of the online study that makes it easier for women, particularly if they have young children.

Babson lays the schedule out very far in advance — at least a year, to make it as easy as possible for parents to attend the face-to-face components of its course.

Cost may be another factor. In a separate study, CarringtonCrisp found that 47% of women, compared with 38% of men, would choose one school over another because its fees were lower. Beyond flexibility and cost, subtle factors such as culture may be at work. MBAs have a reputation for being quite masculine in their orientation, says Julie Cogin, director of the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of New South Wales Business School.

Studying online provides a more gender-blind form of learning. It eliminates many of the physical biases in a classroom because you don’t know what someone looks like, says Cogin.

Check out: Women in Business School

Warwick Business School is using several strategies to attract more women, says Vikki Abusidualghoul, assistant dean for blended programmes. It’s about increasing awareness of the flexibility, using more women to promote the course and having more women teaching, she says.

Scholarships are another tool schools can use. For example, AGSM offers scholarships to women who want to study online, including one for those who want to focus on technology. For business schools, in reputational terms there is more at stake than filling courses with top female candidates. The apparent greater appeal of online MBA programmes to women presents an opportunity to help them tackle the broader problem of the persistent gender imbalance in management education.

Source: The Financial Times