Study: Female dean at business schools doesn't impact female enrollment


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As female students continue to enroll in the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, one report says implementing a woman as dean won’t increase female enrollment.

“My belief is whenever you’ve got an underrepresented group, gender, race, or ethnicity, the people in the underrepresented group are going to feel more welcome in an environment where they see people like themselves,” said Sarah Gardial, the dean of the business school.

According to a study done by the Association to Advance College Schools of Business, female enrollment at business schools isn’t affected by the dean’s sex.

The report said female enrollment at schools with female deans is roughly 38 percent, compared with 35.3 percent at schools with male deans.

Of the 79 association-accredited business schools in the United States, roughly 18 percent have female deans.

The UI has 972 female students formally admitted in the business program, roughly 40.7 percent of the Tippie student population.

Gardial said she hasn’t influenced the enrollments thus far.

“I haven’t been here long enough to have an impact,” she said. “The students who got recruited — that all happened before I got here.”

Gardial, the first female dean of the business school, was instated in July 2012.

One business official agreed with the results of the study.

“While I would like to think that our track record of female leadership in the school has helped encourage women to consider attending business school, I’m not sure it is all that relevant these days,” said Sri Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. “What used to be novel is now far more commonplace.”

Zaheer doesn’t consider her sex to be a part of her job as a dean.

“I’m less concerned about people viewing me as a female in a leadership capacity than I am in continuing to attract the very best and brightest of both faculty and students,” she said. “From there, people can draw their own conclusions.”

A student in the UI business school echoed Zaheer’s sentiments.

“I don’t really think it matters [if the dean] is male or female — it’s independent,” Ana Correa said. “Whether they’re male or female, it’s kind of the same thing,”

Christine Buzard, the vice president of the Tippie College Women in Business, said that although the group is specifically geared toward women with opportunities for men, she doesn’t see the discrepancy between men and women.

“We’re all about empowering women, and we have that appeal to women in the school,” she said. “But I don’t see it at all in the business school, but I think it’s in the real world but not in Tippie.”

But even as Zaheer and Correa look past sex in a dean’s leadership, Gardial sees value in having a female official leading the college, despite the study’s findings.

“Generally you should expect the more diversity we get in leadership positions, the more people in underrepresented groups will feel more welcome,” Gardial said.

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