Although more women are applying to MBAs than ever before, just 39 percent of full-time MBA students at the world’s top-ranked business schools are women.
To help redress the balance, business schools and other institutions offer targeted MBA scholarships for women.
These funds help remove the financial barriers that often prevent women from going to business school, helping them develop the leadership skills, network, and confidence needed for business success.
Scholarships also reduce reliance on loans, helping graduates see a quicker return on their investment in education. And scholarship recipients join an exclusive network of fellow women in business, which makes for some excellent networking and mentoring opportunities.
Below are some of the best MBA scholarships for women available, and some tips for securing them.
MBA scholarships for women from business schools
The majority of gender diversity scholarships are offered by individual business schools, and many schools offer several different types. Here are some scholarships for women at well-known MBA schools:
At the Chicago Booth School of Business, the Wallman Fellowship is offered to women MBA applicants who demonstrate outstanding leadership and a commitment to advancing women in business.
Women from underrepresented minority groups are preferred for this full tuition award.
INSEAD has several scholarship opportunities exclusively for women. The Groupe Galeries Lafayette Endowed Scholarship offers US$12,000 awards to women who commit to serving customers regardless of social background or race—in line with the Groupe Galeries Lafayette’s values. This scholarship is usually awarded to women with experience in fashion retail, and requires applicants to submit an essay on women in retail.
In every MBA class, INSEAD also awards one female student the Judith Connelly Delouvrier Endowed Scholarship, worth US$15,000, based on merit. Applicants to this scholarship must complete an essay question on how to better include women in the business world.
The INSEAD Piet and Wina Van Waeyenberge Endowed Scholarship offers female engineers who successfully apply to the MBA program $15,700. To apply, applicants must complete the Diversity Scholarship application.
London Business School
London Business School offers the 30% Club Scholarship, which includes awards of up to 50 percent of tuition fees, and is awarded to women who can make an impact in business and society.
The AHEAD Scholarship, which stands for A Higher Education Advancing Diversity, is a merit based scholarship open to female MBA and Masters in finance applicants from developing economies. The award is worth US$35,000.
LBS also offers the Carlsson Family Scholarship, worth US$28,000 and open to women MBA candidates who demonstrate merit.
The Kearney Australia New Zealand Women’s Scholarship Program, worth up to US$11,700, is on offer to all successful female MBA applicants from Australia or New Zealand.
All women who are offered a spot in the MBA program are automatically considered for these scholarships.
Forté Foundation scholarships
Individual business schools aren’t the only option when it comes to scholarships. The Forté Foundation is dedicated to helping women advance in business, through networking opportunities, mutual support—and scholarships.
Since its inception, Forté has provided US$226 million in scholarships to female MBA students studying at one of its 54 partner schools. The likes of Harvard Business School, Wharton, Columbia Business School, HEC Paris, London Business School, and INSEAD all feature in Forté’s list of partner institutions.
Women who are offered a spot in the MBA at one of these schools are automatically considered for a Forté fellowship. Schools tend to bestow the award on students with good leadership experience, and the motivation to help other women advance in business.
Laidlaw Foundation scholarships
Another organization that offers MBA scholarships for women is the Laidlaw Foundation, which aims to empower disadvantaged women through education.
Its Women’s Business Education Scholarship has helped over 300 women gain an MBA from Columbia Business School, and more recently the fund has been expanded to offer full and half scholarships to women admitted to London Business School and Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
This program is designed to help women with leadership potential to enroll in MBA programs that would otherwise be financially out of reach. Columbia, LBS, and Oxford Saïd have individual application processes for the Laidlaw scholarship, with details available on each school’s website.
The Nestlé Scholarship for Women
Every year, food and beverage giant Nestlé offers MBA scholarships to women admitted to IMD Business School in Switzerland. Each scholarship is worth US$27,246 and is typically awarded to women from developing nations.
Women who apply to the IMD MBA program are automatically considered for the Nestlé scholarship, among others. Seventy-nine percent of women admitted to the MBA receive a scholarship of some kind, and IMD is also a Forté partner school.
Scholarship application tips
There are a several strategies applicants can use to boost their chances of receiving one of these scholarships. Here are our top four:
- Familiarize yourself with the application process
First of all, get familiar with the application process. Scholarship hopefuls should find out why the fund was created and what is expected of candidates. This way, they can focus their efforts on scholarships they are likely to be granted, rather than taking a scattershot approach.
- Tailor your application
When candidates are admitted to a good MBA program, they will be automatically considered for several scholarships. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to check what scholarships for women schools offer when putting together application essays.
The Forté Foundation looks out for women who will be ambassadors for gender equality in the MBA classroom and beyond, for example. So, women who apply to Forté partner school and want to be considered for a fellowship should make sure their application highlights how the MBA will help them support other women in business.
- Apply early
Other scholarships require a separate application process and can be tricker to navigate. Applying for these as early as possible is a good strategy. Schools have a limited amount of funding available and applying early means competing with fewer applicants for these funds.
Starting well in advance also allows more time to hone application essays. It never hurts to have a trusted friend or colleague look over an essay in advance of submission day. Having a second pair of eyes not only stamps out grammar issues and typos, but also offers a fresh take on how the applicant is coming across, and what strengths are showcased.
- Tell your story
Lastly, in most successful scholarship applications, the candidate’s personality will shine through. Individuality is what makes applications stand out to a panel who are probably looking over several potential profiles.