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Women comprise about 40 per cent of the student body in full-time graduate business programs, even at top schools.

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Even at top business schools, women account for just 40 per cent of enrolment in full-time graduate business programs, spurring fresh efforts to recruit talented female students.

This year, Toronto was added to the list of cities eligible for MBALaunch, an initiative of Texas-based Forté Foundation that works with top schools and companies to encourage women to pursue a degree – and career – in business.

The Toronto deadline for MBALaunch has been extended to Nov. 30. Forté aims to recruit between 40 and 50 Toronto-area candidates who, with strong academic credentials and between two and five years of work experience, might be considering an MBA. The 10-month program comes with a $500 fee, with coaching, test preparation and other support for women before they apply to a business school.

Forté's three Canadian members – the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto and Queen's School of Business in Kingston – will contribute in-person and virtual sessions that also give participants access to Forté peers and MBA alumni.

Krystal Brooks, associate director of college and early career women at Forté, says women cite a lack of peers and mentors and exam anxiety for their reluctance to pursue an MBA. Potential candidates in their late 20s and early 30s also have to weigh stepping off the career ladder briefly to start a family.

"Having a network of supportive women who are going through it together is an important part of the [MBALaunch] program," she says. Forté member schools provide at least two scholarships, each worth at least $20,000 a year, for top female candidates.

In Canada, Rotman is one of several schools actively recruiting top female candidates. Women account for 32 per cent of Rotman's current MBA class, up from 29 per cent a year ago, an improvement partly because of the school's affiliation with Forté, according to Leigh Gauthier, acting director of recruitment and admissions at Rotman. This year, the school provided scholarships for 12 Forté fellows, while Queen's and Schulich also offer multiple scholarships through their Forté affiliation.

"We want to help young women understand there is such a strong benefit to doing an MBA and going into business, in terms of their ability to have a lasting impact and a rewarding career," says Ms. Gauthier.

Research on family business, entrepreneurs receives funding

Montreal-based National Bank has donated $1-million to Concordia University's John Molson School of Business for a new research initiative on family and sole-owner businesses. In addition to funding an entrepreneur-in-residence, the donation also will provide support to undergraduate and graduate students, according to a press release from the Montreal university.

First-year students offer strategy advice to executives

Live case competitions – based on a real question posed by a real company in real time – usually are reserved for senior business undergraduates and MBA students who have learned the fundamentals of finance, marketing and corporate strategy.

This fall, Wilfrid Laurier University's school of business turned the traditional model on its head.

On the first day of classes in September, first-year business administration students were given a question posed by Samsung Canada: What partnerships could the electronics giant pursue to expand its market share in smartphones, televisions and tablets?

"I thought a live case competition will motivate them to work harder and will make the whole situation more realistic," says associate business professor Sofy Carayannopoulos. By tapping the known enthusiasm of business students for competitions, she saw the live case as a way to strengthen their ability to carry out research, write and think critically – skills demanded by employers.

On a recent Saturday, cheered on by 300 classmates, friends and family, six student teams in the finals presented recommendations to a six-member jury that included three Samsung executives.

"It was an unreal opportunity," says Anthony Cedri, a member of the winning team that suggested an alliance between Samsung and Porter Airlines. Given growth in the airline industry, the team suggested the use of Samsung tablets for in-flight entertainment currently not available on Porter flights.

After a 10-minute presentation, each team was grilled by the jury for another 10 minutes. "The kinds of questions that we were exposed to and had to answer are the types of questions we will be answering in the real world," he says.

Samantha Sells, a double major in business administration and financial math, says Prof. Carayannopoulos' decision to create a live case competition sent a strong message to first-year students. "It was the realization that we were in the big leagues," says Ms. Sells. "We would be presenting to people who might take action on the ideas we had." Her team placed fourth.

Early in the course, students drafted their own report on Samsung and potential marketing partners. After completing their assignment, students were assigned to teams who competed in two rounds of competition before the finals. The teams had only a week to pull together a presentation of financial and other analysis.

Prof. Carayannopoulos developed the case in collaboration with Samsung, working with Laurier alumni Nick Lazic, manager of content and services for the company. He and other executives participated in a live-streamed question and answer session with students in late September.

For Samsung, seeking to expand its corporate footprint in postsecondary education, the live case provided direct access to a youth market.

Jury member Philippe Lozier, director of content and services for Samsung Canada, told the students the question they had to answer is also one for him and his colleagues. "These are real questions you will see if you get into the business space of product marketing or sales or business development," he said. "This is real life stuff."

The winning team received eight-inch Samsung tablets, with prize money of $150 to $300 for team members.

Based on the performance of the first-year class over the semester, Prof. Carayannopoulos is ready to do a live case again.

"For first-year students only six weeks into the program, they were doing very good work," she says.

Six Canadian schools in Bloomberg ranking

Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., moved into top spot this year on the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking of 27 international business schools (outside the United States), based on surveys of student and employer satisfaction and faculty research.

The other Canadian schools on the list are Queen's School of Business (10); Rotman (11); McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management (15) in Montreal; Molson at Concordia (20); and Schulich (24).

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