Latest Research

What Our Research Reveals About the Post-MBA Pay Gap

An MBA delivers big benefits, from career opportunities to earning potential and respect among business leaders. It can address a lot of things, but it can’t fully address built-in systemic biases. Further effort — at the individual level and the corporate leadership level — will be required.

An MBA can boost the pay of women and minorities by 57% or higher in their first post-MBA job but does not eliminate the gender pay and promotion gap, particularly for underrepresented minority (URM) women, according to our latest research.

Forté conducted an online survey of 1,476 MBA alumni between October 18, 2022, to November 21, 2022. Michelle Wieser, Ph.D., Dean, School of Business and Technology at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, led the research.

There has been a slow and steady increase in women’s enrollment in MBA programs, but the gender pay gap continues to be harder to handle. Let’s frankly address some of our key findings:

  • Compensation: Women and men, including underrepresented minorities, see a substantial salary surge in their first post-MBA job, but pay gaps by gender and race emerge and widen. 
  • Pay Gap Over Time: The overall MBA gender pay gap for “current compensation” has narrowed from 2016 to 2022 but still exists, especially for underrepresented minority women.
  • “Line” Versus “Staff” Roles: Men are more likely than women to hold “line” versus “staff” roles. Line roles (with profit and loss responsibility), pay more than staff roles (with no profit and loss responsibility), Forté found. However, women still make less than men when they hold line roles. 

The gender pay gap has narrowed since 2016 and 2018 but has not budged during the pandemic despite calls for pay equity and transparency. One of the top reasons cited by women who reported dissatisfaction with their careers was “current salary.” 

Here’s the good news, you can increase the quality and quantity of job opportunities, and experience greater career satisfaction — and more pay if that’s what you’re after — by taking ownership of your journey. 

“The fellowship and MBA opportunity gave me unprecedented access to top employers that I would not have had without Forté’s support,” says 2017 Forté Fellow Megan Delph. “When I joined my consulting firm in 2017, my pre- versus post-MBA base salary jumped 130%. In the last two years, my base salary jumped again by 36%. I thought I had to choose between doing meaningful work, advancing in my career, and finding a healthy work-life balance. Forté played a huge role in granting me access to an employer whose policies match and support my values.”

Are you taking ownership of your career trajectory? Building business leadership skills, establishing a supportive professional network, and enhancing your marketability as a professional, are all steps you can take to regain control — and an MBA can help — but further effort will be required.

Just like anything worth pursuing, this will require effort on your part. Take stock of your current situation. Be vocal about your aspirations and seek greater responsibilities. Invest in yourself by making time to research which MBA program could be the right fit for you. Establish a network of people around you who are committed to your success, but above all, chase your ambitions with vigor. 

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