Executive Education Is Too White And Too Male

Selection to participate in a top-flight executive-education program is an important rung on the ladder to top corporate jobs. U.S. corporations invest billions of dollars in this form of management development-and use it to identify and nurture fast-track managers. Yet our survey of executive education found that less than 5% of the managers sent to these high-profile programs are women-and minorities are terribly underrepresented as well.

The numbers are grim. In regular B-school programs-usually paid for by the participant, not an employer-there are plenty of women and minorities. Women, for example, account for about 30% of MBA candidates. Yet in the prestigious programs paid for by corporations that round out a manager's credentials at a key career point, usually at age 40 or 45, companies are making only a token investment in developing female and minority executives. A case in point: Only about 3% of the 180 executives in Stanford's recent advanced-management program were women.

Most companies these days say they are aggressively hiring and promoting women and minorities-and there are some positive trends in overall employment and pay levels. So why are companies dropping the ball when it comes to executive education? The schools maintain that they are neither the cause of nor the cure for the problem. A Harvard business school dean surmises that companies are fearful of sending their female executives because they don't want to lose them to competitors. There is only one real explanation, and it is a damning one: Many big corporations simply aren't committed to helping women and minorities to the executive suite.