B schools get back to basics

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Cornell University will follow a little marketing 101 basic this month when it puts a photo of a "female executive" (or a woman in a business suit, anyway) front and center on its executive MBA program microsite.

The school is trying to attract more female applicants, which are sorely underrepresented in EMBA programs nationwide. Currently, women make up 22% of the executive MBA class at Cornell and less than 20% of most EMBA programs around the US.

The thinking behind the photo (check it out here) is that women will better relate to it and not see the school as an exclusive "boys' club." This move -- showing a target audience someone or something they can relate to -- is so intrinsic to marketing it's almost ridiculous that this is being reported as news in the WSJ. Of course a business school should know to do something like this.

The real news, then, is that Cornell is even trying to attract women. This shift follows what marketers and advertisers have known for a while: women are a more important, powerful, independent demographic than ever. They are entering more high-paying jobs or have ambitions to do so, but, being modern consumers, they need the programs to fit precisely with their needs. Schools are creating women's groups, outreach programs and modular classes (which fit better with some women's home/work schedules). I hope great potential execs answer the call.

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