Forté News

Forté is 20: Celebrating Our Progress and Looking Ahead

Two decades ago, a woman stepping foot on an MBA campus found herself in the minority. Back then, MBA schools averaged less than 28% women, while law and medical schools had achieved gender parity. So, where were all the women? In 2003, Forté was founded to answer this question and increase the representation of women at business schools.

How Far We’ve Come

Fast forward 20 years to 2023, and women’s participation in full-time MBA programs averages 41.4%, and nearly one-third (17) of Forté’s 56 business school partners enroll at least 45% women in full-time MBA programs. Over the last 10 years, the growth has been exponential: the 17 MBA programs in 2022 is an increase from 10 in 2021, two in 2017, and zero in 2012. (Source

How We Did It

Since opening its doors, Forté — with tremendous support from its corporate and school partners — has initiated programs to help thousands of young women pursue business education and launch successful business careers. 

  • Funding MBA Dreams
    The Forté Fellows scholarship program has been key to increasing the number of women MBAs. Since 2003, Forté partner business schools have awarded approximately $400 million in scholarships to 16,400 talented women who may not otherwise have pursued an MBA.
  • Easing the Application Process
    Forté MBALaunch helps women bridge business school applications from beginning to end, preparing hundreds each year to take the next step toward an advanced degree. Since 2014, MBALaunch has prepared nearly 5,000 women to apply to business schools.
  • Learning and Networking
    Each year, Forté conferences inspire thousands of women to pursue careers in business, connect talented women to top companies, and provide a format for them to network with and learn from women leaders across industries.

    • Forté has hosted an annual MBA Women’s Leadership Conference, attracting approximately 8,000 women since 2005. 
    • In 2002, Forté launched MBA Forums in cities around the United States for women to learn more about the value of an MBA. Since then, more than 50,000 women have attended an MBA Forum.
    • Forté offers programs to help undergraduates prepare for their first professional roles and explore career opportunities in business. Undergraduate conferences, such as the Women of Color Leadership Symposium and the College Fast Track to Finance Conference, have drawn more than 3,300 conference attendees and over 400 Career Ready Certificate earners over the years.
    • Forté connects professional women to opportunities at partner companies through virtual career fairs, job postings, and resume uploads. Nearly 3,000 women have participated in bi-annual career fairs since they were implemented in 2019.
  • Making Allies
    What about men and women who champion other women? Forté delivers toolkits, training, and resources to individuals and companies interested in starting allyship groups on campus and in the workplace. Henry Frost, a graduate of University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, had a “lightbulb moment” while attending Forté’s Inclusive Leadership Program. “I could walk through the world with my eyes open or closed,” he said, but he chose to keep them open by launching an Allies for Gender Equity chapter on campus.

How We’re Approaching the Next 20

Despite incredible strides over the last 20 years, the hard truth is that there is still a long way to go to make business more equitable for women. Some sobering statistics:

In looking ahead to the next 20 years, Forté plans to expand its parity goals to include the entire arc of a woman’s career — from business education through all the stages of her professional career, including C-suite and Board representation. 

As women’s representation evolves, so does Forté’s approach. Examples of recent programs include:

  • Rise Leadership Program: Women are ambitious and want to advance, but face more headwinds than their male counterparts. Rise is an immersive program that develops mid-career women into executive leaders. 
  • Inclusive Leadership Program: Women should not carry the responsibility of gender equity alone; men have a role to play, too. This program gives participants tools to model allyship behaviors in their daily work lives while creating a more inclusive workplace. 
  • Global Board Ready Women: Women comprise just 28% of corporate board seats, and women of color hold only 6% of these positions. Forté’s official database of Global Board Ready Women provides headhunters and companies with a deep bench of 4,000+ talented senior women ready to sit on boards of nonprofits, portfolio companies, medium-sized businesses, and Fortune 100s. 

How Your Contributions Make an Impact

Donations are essential to effect change and enable Forté to continue to offer experiences like these to help women reach the highest ranks of leadership:

  • Free Forté memberships, which give women tools and resources to learn and advance
  • Travel stipends for individuals to participate in leadership events and conferences
  • Career Ready Certificate college program for undergraduates to accelerate their careers on Day One
  • MBALaunch, designed to help women build the strongest possible MBA application
  • Introductions to top b-schools and the Forté Fellowship scholarship program
  • Scholarships to eliminate the financial barriers that stand in the way of continuing education

There’s an African expression: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Let’s choose the latter, and together we can make even more extraordinary changes in the next 20 years.

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