When asked about pay equity for women during the second presidential debate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney sparked the imagination of pundits and meme creators with his now infamous "binders full of women" comment.
Binders Full of Women social media spoofs aside, studies have long shown that gender gaps exist in executive pay. But women who are considering applying to business school may find encouragement in recent data from the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas—Austin.
Of the 201 members of McCombs's full time MBA class of 2012 who reported base salary data to the school—which excludes students who started their own businesses, returned to sponsoring companies, pursued further education, or are currently looking for work—women posted higher average salaries than their male counterparts.
[Read about how pay gaps persist in female-dominated fields.]
Women represented just 31.8 percent of the overall class, but held a disproportionate percentage (33.3 percent) of the jobs reported by the class three months after graduation. Their average postgraduate base salary of $106,073 was also higher than their male counterparts, who earned $104,631 on average. That was despite the fact that the women had an average pre-MBA average salary of $60,792, compared with $64,047 on average for the men.
"For women who are considering an MBA, the takeaway should be an incentive to apply to business school if they are caught between weighing the benefits and risks," says Stacey Rudnick, director of MBA career management at McCombs.
Another noteworthy statistic, according to Rudnick, is the high percentage of women who accepted consulting positions this year. Of the women in the class, 28.4 percent went into consulting, compared with 22.4 percent of men.
"The data point to a high [return on investment] for women, a trend toward women considering higher risk/reward jobs like consulting, and the importance of joining the right program," she says, "which can demonstrate a culture in which women thrive in the leadership positions that employers value most."
[Learn more about business school diversity.]
But in the current market, the ROI on an MBA for both men and women is less certain, says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. "The decision to apply to b-school should be carefully considered," he says.
He's also skeptical of the data. "Business schools are notorious for skewing the numbers to tell a story," he says. "Imagine what this [data] will do for applications for September 2013."
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