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By several measures, women are a growing presence at business schools worldwide – at a time when promoting them to positions of corporate leadership is seen by some as a priority for the bottom line.

Last year, women accounted for a record 41.4 per cent of global applicants for the entrance test for graduate business studies last year, up from 34.4 per cent almost two decades ago, according to a new report by the U.S. Graduate Management Admission Council, a non-profit research organization that administers the Graduate Management Admission Test for business school applicants worldwide.

In Canada, women accounted for 39 per cent of test takers, up from 37 per cent two years ago.

But the highlight of the global numbers is the demand for MBA and master-level business programs by women in East Asia and Eastern Europe, who last year represented 57 per cent and 53 per cent respectively of those taking the GMAT in their regions.

The United States still ranks No. 1 in the total number of female examinees – 45,735 last year – but China is in second spot with 25,671, followed by India with 6,257 and Canada with 2,863.

"We are a global economy and we can start to invest in those emerging markets and the women in those markets," says Elissa Ellis-Sangster, executive director of the Forté Foundation, a U.S. consortium of corporations and business schools set up a decade ago to boost the participation of women in leadership roles.

Despite the growing number of women "in the pipeline" for future careers in business, Ms. Ellis-Sangster warns, "We still have to nurture that pipeline, look for more role models in senior leadership and promote more women on boards."

Michelle Sparkman-Renz, GMAC director of research communications, says the rise of female participation at business schools comes as "gender diversity is now a strategic issue globally for business."

European Union officials, for example, are among those urging companies to recruit qualified women so they account for 30 per cent of boards of directors by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020. Similar campaigns are under way in other countries.

Ms. Sparkman-Renz adds that, for the first time, the number of women chief executives of Fortune 500 companies has risen to 18 at the same time, with seven of them – also a record – holding master-level or MBA qualifications.

"It is the business equivalent of the light at the end of the tunnel," she says.

Eaton chair

Typically, faculties look outside their own university to forge links with private and public sector organizations. Some, however, are discovering the value of seeking out partners on campus.

At Ryerson University, the dean of the faculty of community services approached her counterpart at the school of business regarding a new chair in social innovation and entrepreneurship, part of a $1-million gift from John C. Eaton and his wife Sally Horsfall Eaton.

The new chair, expected to be named this spring, will be based in the school of child and youth care in the Faculty of Community Services but also will collaborate with the Ted Rogers School of Management on the development of a new interdisciplinary program. The goal is to teach innovation and entrepreneurship to social service professionals, especially those who deal with marginalized youth.

"I am hoping our students will think of creative ways of solving some of society's permanent problems," says Usha George, dean of the faculty of community services. "We want to help people think outside the box."

For example, she says, young people face time constraints that sometimes prevent them from receiving complete counselling care in a one-on-one office setting. She points to one New York agency that is experimenting with Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media to reach their young, tech-savvy clients.

Business school dean Ken Jones says the new relationship with the community services faculty illustrates the need for seemingly-distinct sectors to build on each other's strengths.

"If we are creating a set of future leaders here, then they have to have not just a passing, but an on-the-ground understanding of social issues and solutions," he says. Equally, he noted, social service agencies can gain from acquiring skills in management, finance and branding taught at business schools.

PhD scholars

A $2-million endowment fund has been established at HEC Montréal for scholarships of $25,000 a year for each of four full-time PhD students.

The gift comes from the estate of Montreal business lawyer and philanthropist Peter R.D. MacKell, who died last year. At his request, the scholarships have been named in honour of friends Daniel Brosseau and Peter Letko, respectively president and chief investment officer of Letko, Brosseau & Associates.

Waterloo students win

A five-person team of students from the University of Waterloo has won a spot in the North American finals of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute Research Challenge in New York next month.

The Waterloo team beat competitors from three other universities at an event in Toronto on Feb. 29 sponsored by the local chapter of the CFA Society. The research challenge is an annual educational initiative to promote best practices in equity research.

The regional North American winner advances to the global finals, also in New York, on April 11.

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story contained a different final section. This is the corrected and updated version.

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