In Historic First, More Than Half of Oxford MBA Students Are Women

For the first time in its history, the Oxford University Saïd Business School enrolled more women in its master of business administration (MBA) program than men.
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Published on October 5, 2023
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  • More than half of the students in Oxford University's 2023-2024 master of business administration (MBA) class are women.
  • School officials say that is a historic first for the school and for top European business schools as a whole.
  • Oxford joins the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in achieving gender parity in its MBA program.
  • Oxford offers various scholarships for women to help pay for the MBA program.

More than half of the students in the Oxford University Saïd Business School's 2023-2024 master of business administration (MBA) class are women, a figure school officials said is a milestone for the school and all of Europe.

Oxford officials said 51% of its 2023-2024 one-year MBA students are women. That's the first time in school history that women have outnumbered men in its MBA program. And it also marks the first time that women have outnumbered men at one of Europe's "top-tier" MBA programs, according to a press release from the school.

"Business schools like Oxford Saïd can help create a climate for change by aspiring for equal numbers of male and female students in our MBA class, and by doing all we can to create a truly diverse community with a multitude of backgrounds," Kathy Harvey, associate dean of MBA and executive degrees at Oxford Saïd, said in the release.

"We hope that by striving for equality in our community, our graduates will go on to champion this throughout their careers."

Harvey has long worked toward gender parity in the MBA program, according to the release, and the program has seen the ratio of women rise by 20 percentage points in the last decade.

Ifeoma Donnellan, a member of the 2023-2024 Oxford MBA cohort, underscored the importance of representation in the release.

"As a woman of African heritage, it is one of the first instances in my life where I find myself in the majority," Donnellan said. "My hope is that this can motivate other MBA programs and businesses to strive for gender parity."

The 2023-2024 Oxford Saïd MBA class is made up of 97% international students from 63 nationalities, according to the release.

Oxford isn't the only top business school to achieve gender parity in its MBA program: The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School achieved its first female majority with its MBA class of 2023, school officials announced in 2021.

"Every board chair or CEO you talk to wants more women in the C-suite and on the board," Maryellen Reilly, Wharton's deputy vice dean of the MBA program, said in a release at the time. "And the best way to do that is to have a pipeline that's robust all the way through. Now, having a 52 percent female class, we're able to fill that pipeline from the early stages."

An MBA degree can bring a strong return on investment, but women have historically been underrepresented in those programs.

Women comprise 41.4% of enrolled students at member schools of the Forte Foundation, but disparities exist between female and male MBA graduates. BestColleges previously reported that continued underrepresentation in high-paying industries, barriers to negotiation, absence of women in leadership, and other factors contribute to pay gaps for female MBA graduates.

The high cost of an MBA can create barriers to women looking to pursue the degree, according to the Oxford release, although the school offers various scholarships and fellowships for women to make the degree more accessible.

"Women make up half the population, but as their careers progress, the gender gap in senior roles begins to widen," Harvey said in the Oxford release.

"We need to acknowledge that many of our students make significant sacrifices to pay for their MBA, but the scholarships for female candidates play a specific role. They tell the world that Oxford is committed to increasing female representation in its MBA class and, therefore in the workplace. We are tremendously grateful for our donors' support in achieving these aspirations. When female candidates see these scholarships advertised on our website, they know we care about their aspirations."