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USC Marshall Becomes First Prominent MBA Program With 50 Percent Women

Earlier this year, we wrote about how gender parity has been an elusive goal at top business schools in the United States. While some less prominent MBA programs have enrolled classes with 50 percent women, higher-ranked programs have generally failed to get their percentages past the low-to-mid 40s.

Recently, however, University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business cracked that threshold in dramatic fashion. The school announced that its full-time MBA Class of 2020 would include 52 percent women.

That makes USC Marshall the first prominent business school in the U.S. to enroll an MBA program with at least as many women as men. The school is already embracing its trailblazer status, billing itself as the first to 50.

What makes USC Marshall’s accomplishment especially unexpected is that in previous years, the school has been nowhere near 50. As Poets & Quants points out, the portion of women in Marshall’s MBA class has hovered at 32 percent the last two years, and even lower the years before that.

The school itself, however, sees its latest achievement as following from a historical commitment to gender equity. The school notes that its first class, enrolled in 1920, counted three women among its members, setting the school apart for its time.

According to James G. Ellis, Marshall’s dean, the school’s distinction as the first to break the 50 percent barrier comes from an “ongoing focus on diversity and inclusion” that is “playing out in real numbers now.”

Marshall’s latest cohort is exceptional in more than one way. Besides being the class with the highest percentage of women in USC Marshall’s history, it’s also the class with the highest GMAT and average GPA.

Evan Bouffides, assistant dean as well as director of the full-time MBA program, says that “this year’s applicant pool was the strongest in our program’s history” and that “the women in particular were extraordinarily well prepared.”

With the school’s headline-grabbing achievement, it seems plausible that the school will attract another strong cohort next year. In fact, it seems likely that some applicants who weren’t planning on applying to Marshall before will be reconsidering whether the school should be on their list.

If you’re one of those applicants, we can help you evaluate how the school fits with your profile as an applicant. We’ll also give you feedback on how adcoms will respond to your application – contact us for a free assessment!