Women MBAs

Why do men outperform women at Harvard Biz School?

April 28, 2011: 11:31 AM ET

Men outpace women by a significant margin when it comes to earning academic honors at Harvard Business School. What's behind the gap? 

By John A. Byrne, contributor

(poetsandquants.com) -- Is there an academic gender gap at Harvard Business School? Apparently so. A new study has found that proportionally more men than women receive academic honors at Harvard, and that has been the case for many years.

Though women accounted for 36% of Harvard's 2009 class, only 11% of the school's Baker Scholars were female, an honor given to students who are in the top 5% of HBS' graduating class.

Harvard Business School

Meantime, women in the class of 2009 received only 21% of the first-year honors (awarded to the top 20% of the class) and 22% of the second-year honors.

The gap narrowed only slightly last year for the class of 2010, according to the study. Though women accounted for 38% of the class, only 20% of the Baker Scholars were female. Some 23% of the first-year honors and only 28% of the second-year honors were awarded to female MBA students.

What makes these differences even more striking is that a subsequent study at Harvard found that women place more importance on academics than men and spend significantly more time preparing for class.

Apparently, the issue is not exclusive to Harvard Business School. A recent study by Harvard students found "a similarly marked academic gender gap" at eight peer business schools. "However, there is little to no awareness of the issue at other schools, especially among students," the study found. "Women's groups at other schools tend to focus almost exclusively on career-oriented efforts or increasing the percentage of women in the student body."

Some of those peer schools, which were not identified by name in the study, have 20-plus percentage point gaps between the proportion of female students and the number of women receiving academic honors. More

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