Historic Percentages of Women, International Students Begin Full-Time Berkeley MBA Program

The full-time MBA students who began classes at the Haas School of Business this week include a record 43 percent women.

Not coincidentally, the 241 new students come from an applicant pool that also had one of the highest percentages of women ever, says Stephanie Fujii, assistant dean of the Full-time MBA Program and Admissions.

 “Our goal every year is to strengthen the diversity of the applicant pool across many dimensions, and we are thrilled to see our efforts reflected in this class,” says Fujii. “We continually hear from our students and alumni that working with people who think differently, and who have experienced the world differently, was critical to their development as leaders.”

The incoming class also includes a record percentage of international students:

  • Forty-three percent of students are from outside the U.S., coming from 38 different countries. If dual citizenship is included, they represent 46 countries.
  • More than two-thirds speak two or more languages
  • Among the 42 languages spoken are Georgian, Sinhalese, Farsi, Polish, and Haitian Kreyol.

Of the U.S. students, 41 percent are minorities (defined as African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, East Indian/Pakistani). 

Haas leaders—including Dean Rich Lyons, admissions and program staff, faculty, and students—have made it a priority to improve gender balance at the school.

Lyons was among a group of 14 top business school deans who met at the White House earlier this year to begin laying out best practices for cultivating women leaders and improving workforce conditions for women and families.

Students and alumni have also played a significant role in efforts to increase the ranks of women at Haas over the years.  This year, a group of male and female students came together of their own accord to work on gender balance and to highlight the strong and inclusive culture at Haas.

Julie Barmeyer, MBA 15, and president of the student group Women in Leadership (WIL), said Haas culture had been a big selling point for her, even though women were only about 30 percent of her class. "The four Defining Principles resonated with my personal mantras. When I made my final decision between Haas and a peer, it boiled down to coming to a school where I felt like I could be 100 percent myself and thrive," she said. "My female classmates are incredible—they are the most talented, brilliant, and accomplished group of women I have ever been surrounded by."

WIL organized several events for newly admitted women, including a talk by Haas Assistant Professor Kellie McElhaney on her research and teaching about women and business, and discussions with male and female students about Haas culture.

Based on feedback from students, the school also increased efforts to build relationships between newly admitted women and female faculty and senior staff, as well as with alumnae in leadership roles.

"We are always looking for ways to build a community among our admitted students, to bring them into our culture and family at Haas," Fujii said. “Women in particular were interested in connecting with other women and senior leaders who could talk about their experiences and the community at Haas.” 

Akilah Huguley, MBA 15, and the class vice president of admissions, says there have been many thoughtful conversations over the past year about gender balance and why it's important to MBA programs across the country and specifically to the Haas community. "I don’t believe any of us can say we weren’t surprised to see that 43 percent of this class is female. But what a pleasant surprise it is," she says. "However, I do not believe this number happened by chance."

Berkeley-Haas remains one of the most selective MBA programs. The new full-time MBA class is a highly academically accomplished group, with an average GMAT score of 717 and an average GPA above 3.6. They come from a wide range of industries and bring fascinating experiences to share. Students in the class have:

·       Started a franchise of private schools in Pakistan

·       Co-founded a company that has provided electricity to more than 10,000 rural Mexicans

·       Won three US national championship swimming titles

·       Been nominated for the General MacArthur Leadership Excellence Award

·       Received a medal for distinguished leadership commanding a team of Green Berets through 200 missions in Afghanistan, liaising with tribal leaders, helping to establish a local police force, and improving the employment situation among Afghan leaders

·       Helped convince Goldman Sachs, IFC, and commercial banks to fund $600 million in loans for the first financing mechanism dedicated to lending capital to women entrepreneurs in developing countries

·       Developed a motorcycle ambulance program for women in Uganda