Women post highest-ever levels of business school applications and GMAT, surveys show. More women than ever before are seeing business school and corporate careers as an option, according to two recent influential surveys of global MBA candidates. The QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey, which received responses from MBA candidates at the QS World MBA Tour in 2009, and the GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey 2010, from the same period, show startlingly similar results.

According to the QS Survey, a record 41% of attendees at their World MBA Tour (see www.topmba.com for further details) were women, continuing an upward trend that has occurred over recent years. Meanwhile the GMAC report shows that 40% of its GMAT (General Management Admissions Test) takers were women, the actual number peaking over 100,000 for the first time ever.

David A. Wilson President and Chief Executive Officer of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which runs and organizes the GMAT, says: In the U.S. it seems that women are faring better in the recession than men. Men are taking the brunt of the job losses.

He continues: There are many reasons for this. Women, figures show, are great at getting jobs they want. These involve a lot more public sector jobs and sectors that are less susceptible to job losses, perhaps those that don't earn such big bonuses as, say, the finance sector. This makes their jobs safer.

GMAC figures show that the number of women taking the GMAT in 2009 was the highest ever, over 100,000 for the first time. Though more than half of these were in the U.S. the increase is global. The proportion of women GMAT test-takers is also marginally under 40%.

Zoya Zaitseva, Manager of the QS Tour, says: In 2009, though 41% of applicants to the QS World MBA Tour were women, for the first time ever, there are some countries where the proportion of women was over 50% and we're looking into why that might be.

China is one such example. According to GMAC figures, about 55% of Chinese GMAT takers in 2009 were women, a significantly high figure. David Wilson says: Education, and business education in particular, offers women in China their best chance to become upwardly mobile. So we're seeing more and more women considering business school as an option and taking the GMAT to facilitate this.

Interestingly, Eastern Europe and Central Asia show similar tendencies - around 55% - in opposition to Western Europe, where a proportionately very low number of QS World MBA Tour attendees and GMAT takers are women. This has lead Zoya Zaitseva of QS to introduce region-specific scholarships of €2,000 for women from Central or Eastern Europe who want to do their Masters abroad. There is also a similar €45,000 scholarship from IE Business School. Zaitseva says: Women in this region are becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities that an MBA program can give them. Though some recruiters in the area are still waking up to the possibilities MBA graduates can offer them, this is steadily increasing and women see themselves as a major fixture in companies at home and abroad.

Although the MBA scene has been heavily male-dominated in recent years - stats show that even in the UK a mere 11% of board members are women - experts feel that parity will be achieved, at some point in the not-too-distant future. Florence Barkats, a London Business School student and chair of the Women in Business Conference 2010: Embracing Change in a Global Environment, says: Seeing an MBA as an option gives women aspirations they didn't have in the past. It is seen as socially acceptable now, with more women successful in the workplace, and we have more role models - if she has done it, I can do it too. Women are going to b-school to realize this potential.

In support, business schools are making a significant push to attract high-calibre women to their courses, as supported by the increase in the number of gender-specific scholarships available. Diversity is key to success in business schools in the 21st century as countless studies show, and, as Barkats concludes, having a good gender balance within groups leads to a far more successful work group, and one that achieves more.