The Yale School of Management has the highest percentage of female students of the top business schools in the U.S. and Europe, according to a recent census of leading M.B.A. programs.

With female enrollment at 38 percent for the class of 2008, SOM reported the highest female-to-male ratio of 27 prestigious institutions, according to a report released last week by the Forte Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in business. SOM was followed by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which has a female enrollment of 36 percent. The census showed an overall trend of an increasing number of women pursuing business degrees.

While some SOM students said they were pleased to see Yale as a frontrunner in female enrollment, others said they were surprised that the percentage of female students — despite being the highest in the nation — was still relatively low.

SOM Dean Joel Podolny said the high ranking is an affirmation of the effort the school has made to recruit women.

“Our mission of educating leaders for business and society cuts across gender lines in a fundamental way that is appealing to any prospective student who hopes to make a positive difference in the world,” he said.

Podolny said the number of enrolled female students is lower than 50 percent because less than half of the school’s applicants are women.

“The strongest determinant of the percent of women enrolled in business school is the percent of women who apply to business school,” he said. “It is incumbent on all of us in the business of management education to create M.B.A. programs that are appealing and inspiring to potential female applicants.”

SOM Director of Admissions Anne Coyle said female enrollment has grown substantially since 2003, when only 29 percent of matriculated students were women. Coyle said SOM hopes to reach equal enrollment of men and women within the next few years.

“We’re very pleased that we’re making progress, but we won’t be content until we’re close to 50 [percent],” she said.

Coyle said the class of 1984 was 51 percent female, partly because of smaller class sizes at the time, making Yale the only business school ever to have a majority of female students.

The Forte report was released the same week that Indra Nooyi SOM ’80, chief executive officer of PepsiCo, was named the most powerful woman in business by Fortune magazine.

Several SOM students said they were not surprised that Yale is seen as an attractive option for women selecting a business school.

Melanie Bates SOM ’07, a student government career and alumni representative, said the school generally attracts “very active” women, many of whom join student government or rise to club leadership on campus.

Bates said she thinks SOM attracts women who want to pursue careers in business, but are also at the time of their lives when they are beginning to think about starting families.

“The school has a very family-friendly atmosphere,” she said. “It’s a very supportive environment that lacks that macho attitude you usually find in business schools.”

Student Academic Affairs Representative Yansong Cao SOM ’08 said he had expected the report to indicate an upward trend in the number of women pursuing M.B.A. degrees, but he does not expect the percentage of women to reach 50 percent anytime soon.

“Society has perceptions about what a woman should do,” he said. “It is more difficult for women to succeed because they tend to be more willing to give up their careers to stay at home.”

Some students said they were surprised that the education community lauded a figure of less than 40 percent as an indication of high female matriculation.

Mothusi Pahl SOM ’07 said he had previously believed that the number of male and female students at the school was nearly equal.

“It is depressing that 38 percent is something to shout about,” Pahl said. “It is worthy to note that the University is yet again a leader in some academic metric, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

The recently released BusinessWeek report “The Best B-Schools of 2006” ranked SOM as the 19th best business school in the nation.