What is Poets Quants

About the MBA gender gap between poets and quants

MBAs are often divided into two strains: The “Poets” with a liberal-artistic background for their MBA course, and the “Quants”, which tend to delve into rigorous statistical knowledge.

But a new study by academics from Columbia Business School and INSEAD shows that this dividing line can also be applied to gender, with women mostly falling into the poet category and men falling into the quants category.

This dividing line between women and men is just one of the findings of this study. The researchers also tried to quantify whether women were doing better or worse than men in MBA programs, and what factors were associated with lower performance. To do this, they examined data from a top MBA program, including student background, interests, performance data, and individual GMAT scores.

In the survey, researchers found that women fared worse than men even if they had extensive academic training. The grades of women in technical “quant” classes such as finance and statistics were a quarter point below the American four-point rating system. On the more art-based, “poetic” side of MBA programs such as marketing and leadership, women and men got the same grades. The authors found that the women surveyed showed more “poetic” interests and that men had a larger quantitative profile.

The difference in performance is not in the mental aptitude, but in the conditioning and the individual circumstances, at least argues Michael Morris, Chavkin-Chang professor for leadership at Columbia University. Almost as many women as men apply to business schools, but a far larger proportion of men make it into the top MBA programs. It has nothing to do with skill. Around 10% of the 100,000 women who took the GMAT exam in 2013/14, for example, achieved a score of over 700, which is usually required by the top schools. Where women have to catch up is in the area of ​​work experience: only 2% had worked for four or more years, a common requirement at top schools.

So it is not surprising that fewer women study at the best business schools. But there is a need for high-performing women at all business schools, which is why the schools accept less academically gifted women into the toughest programs and risk falling behind their male colleagues in class.

Another factor that should not be neglected is behavior. Some women who are admitted to a school do not participate as actively in classes in some classes as men. However, this is crucial in order to benefit as much as possible from the teaching content in an MBA program. The authors also found that women were less assertive and asked fewer questions in quant courses. This could be because social gender norms discourage them from speaking in classes where they are less well informed. So interest, background and gender norms contribute to a quarter point difference.

This result shows its effect especially when you consider that the workforce pipeline for top management jobs comes from the best schools and that, as a result, women are underrepresented in the upper business areas: only 15% of managers are women and at the management level it is only 5%.

Michael Morris says that there should be more sponsorships of women who complete technical degrees in MBA programs and that better training in the MBA faculties would also have a positive effect. Overall, diverse reforms are required on several levels in order to restore the equilibrium and in this way to bridge the current division of poets and quants.


Text and image source: www.economist.com