“What do you want to do with your life?” This seemingly innocent question is terrifying for most people, but especially those embarking on the daunting task of applying for MBA programmes. Years ago, when asked this same question, I had listened to a co-worker respond with, “I want to save the world.” I can still remember my amazement of her full whole-hearted belief that this is what she was meant to do. Me? I was 19 and barely understood who I was, let alone my purpose in life. Fast forward seven years and I found myself once again faced with this same question. What did I want to do with my life?
Funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Cass Global Women’s Leadership Programme is a programme in its infancy. Designed to nurture rising women leaders, it aims to support women seeking their unique version of success. And that is what is so exciting about the programme. It doesn’t try to define what success is, but rather understands that success comes in a lot of different formats.
When I was applying for the scholarship this past spring, I looked at the calibre of women on the advisory board, as well as the already selected scholar, and thought my application was a long shot. I almost didn’t apply. I was just an accountant with only four years of experience. What did I have to offer?
But what I came to realise during the application process, both for the MBA and later the Global Women’s Leadership Programme, was that in the root of both questions are really the questions, “What are you passionate about? What makes you feel alive?”.
I’ve spent most of my life enthralled by gender issues as well as the idea that creating strong women requires teaching them to step out of their comfort zones. Just because the experiences in my life that have helped to create this passion do not appear on my CV, it doesn’t mean they are any less valuable. My contributions to advancing women are no less credible because they have been micro and not macro. Whether the influence was formalised or not, the impact is still relevant.
It is an absolute honour to have been chosen as this year’s Full-time MBA scholar for the programme, to have the opportunity to sit on the Executive Board with some truly incredible women, and help shape the direction of the programme. It is also an honour I would not have had if I had played it safe and not pushed myself to qualify those factors that made me who I am. It truly would have been a wasted opportunity if I had disregarded the significance of what I could bring to the table.
In September, myself and the other scholars were invited to take part in the programme’s inaugural event and interact with Cass alumnus Muhtar Kent, former CEO and chairman of the board of Coca-Cola, in a casual lunch prior to his masterclass. Throughout the afternoon, Mr. Kent spoke of the importance of women, not just to even the numbers and make a company look good, but to help create strong companies. For a firm like Coca-Cola, where women make up the majority of its customers, it doesn’t make operational sense to not have women in decision making roles within the company. This development goes further than the four walls of the office though. As Mr. Kent described, “Wherever you empower more women, you hire women; communities focus more on education and communities gets stronger.”
I may not know what my life will look like at the end of this year, and that’s okay, but I do know that sometimes you need to take a chance and just see where you end up. Whether it is something as large as creating firm wide initiatives to not only increase diversity but invest and develop the power within that diversity or simply stepping across an invisible line you yourself have drawn; every step brings you closer to finding that strongly held purpose my co-worker had all those years ago.
For more information on the Global Women’s Leadership Programme, go to: https://www.cass.city.ac.uk/study/mba/global-womens-leadership-programme.
Full-time MBA (2018)