National differences in MBA gender gap: China and Hong Kong lead the way

The continuing preponderance of men enrolling in MBA courses has been the subject of much debate, most recently in the Financial Times. What may be less well known is that the size of the gender gap differs markedly between countries.

Looking at the FT’s data, which include schools in the business school rankings as well as those that did not make it into the rankings, Hong Kong and China lead the way. Women comprise 47.2 per cent of MBA students in Hong Kong and 39 per cent in China, which compares favourably with Switzerland, where about one in five MBAs is female (20.9 per cent) and only 11.5 per cent of faculty are women. The UK and US hover near the world average (31.6 per cent) at 29.5 per cent and 32.1 per cent, respectively.

In a recent video interview with the FT, Zhang Xin, the billionaire co-founder of Soho China, the property developer, said:

“China has, as a business community, more women like me than elsewhere … There are more Chinese women in senior positions in business than outside China. When I go to the World Economic Forum in Davos, like this year, there were hardly any women.”

Not only has the economic boom in China created huge opportunities for female entrepreneurs such as Zhang Xin, but it has also meant the new generation of future corporate high-flyers is more evenly drawn from men and women. The rest of the world should watch out.

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The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen.

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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.