Currently, only 26 women serve as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—roughly 5 percent—and only one in six board members are women (17 percent). While the numbers are up from 12 years ago when there were no women CEOs and only 10 percent of board members were women, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Cambridge University’s Judge Business School is among the MBA programs working to further bridge the gap with its Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme.
Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme
The program, scheduled for March 23-24, 2017, will welcome high-potential women in junior and mid-level managerial positions from around the world to the University of Cambridge Judge School of Business. Over the two-day event, participants will interact with senior Cambridge faculty, exchange ideas with their peers and hear personal leadership stories from an impressive panel of guest speakers and Cambridge faculty including:
- Sucheta Nadkarni, the Sinyi Chaired Professor of Chinese Management and head of the Strategy & International Business group at Cambridge Judge
- Smaranda Gosa-Mensing, the European head of talent for McKinsey’s New Ventures
- Cath Bishop, the chair of Cambridge University’s Women’s Boat Club
The program will be focused on four core themes: self awareness, strength building, shared experiences and continued learning. Within those themes, topics will include career strategies, negotiation skills, female leadership advantage, team building and more.
The content of the Rising Women Leaders Programme will be evidence-based, developed by senior Cambridge faculty and top executives in leading corporate and public sector organizations. Its goal is to balance research and best practice for a lively discussion and debate between participants.
In preparation for this event, Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, the Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme academic director, wrote an article titled The Top Five Lessons from Female Leaders: Women in Leadership. Nadkarni proposes a shift in focus from why women “fail” to make it to the top to “what can women do to succeed?” She interviewed 47 of the most successful women in the financial sector from 12 different countries and identified five lessons:
- Be authentic. Be unique.
- Invest in yourself.
- Seek out mentors.
- Proactively take on challenging tasks.
- Be persistent, but learn to say no.
To get more insight into the event and the importance that women play in business leadership, we spoke with Professor Nadkarni.
Clear Admit: What makes you especially encouraged by/optimistic about women in business in 2017?
Sucheta Nadkarni: There are many reasons to be optimistic about the progress of women in business. The talent pool of women in junior managerial positions has risen significantly over the past few years with the gender representation being increasingly balanced among MBA graduates. This is the first and important step in addressing the issue of “female pipeline” leading up to senior leadership positions. For example, at the Judge Business School, we have admitted 33 percent women this year into our MBA.
There are also proactive efforts by shareholders and investment groups in promoting gender diversity in publicly listed companies, and the evidence of the importance of gender diversity for higher firm performance and reputation is mounting. There is also increasing collaboration and convergence across diverse stakeholders such as universities, corporations and governments in tackling this issue globally. For example, the recent requirement for publicly listed companies to transparently reporting compensation of executives is a great step towards achieving gender-pay equity. Overall, these are all conducive factors that are likely to create a solid foundation for creating greater opportunities for women in senior leadership positions in the coming years.
CA: Where do you think the most work remains to be done?
SN: The most work needs to be done in developing the pipeline of qualified women who are ready to take on senior leadership positions. The talent pool in entry-level managerial positions is now quite balanced in many industries. But somehow there is huge attrition as we move higher up in the hierarchy. Organizations need to invest significantly in both recruitment and retention of female talent. This requires creating a culture of inclusiveness when it comes to sponsorships, visibility and investment in retaining existing talent through growth opportunities and training.
Companies also need to engage in broader searches beyond the usual closed networks to ensure that the pool of candidates considered is diverse. Universities need to partner with corporations to develop industry- and profession-specific strength-building workshops to improve balanced representation in gendered industries. At Judge, we have partnered with the capital group and Microsoft to develop such workshops for our female students interested in the male-dominated industries of investment banking and high-tech. Such partnerships will further strengthen the talent pool and address the issue of pipeline.
CA: Why is it so vitally important that women rise to the occasion and become the leaders they are meant to be?
SN: It is very important for women to overcome the challenges and get into senior leadership positions because they are powerful role models for other junior women entering the workforce. Having more women in top positions is a strong motivator for junior and middle-level women to aspire to reach leadership positions as well. Women also create unique value for the firms they lead. Therefore, being in senior positions gives them a voice to change status quo and make a difference more broadly in terms of the vision, culture and strategies of the companies they lead. So having more women reaching the top has the potential to create a virtuous cycle of achieving a balanced workforce at different levels.
CA: What do you like most about the Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme?
SN: One of the things that I like the most about the Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme is the integration of rigorous research and rich practical experience. We have a great team of academic and executive instructors who bring a wealth of research and practical experience to provide participants the best of both the worlds. We have received overwhelming support from successful male and female leaders who have committed the time to share their personal stories and tips with the participants. We believe that this partnership of academic and practice will create key takeaways for participants in designing a long-term career plan for executive positions.
This post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, metromba.com.