Melissa Ridley, Modular Executive MBA, 2016 Cass Business School

Melissa Ridley,
Modular Executive MBA, 2016

Gender equality is so equally distributed on the Modular Executive MBA intake that in particular for the women on this learning experience it is being felt literally as a breath of fresh air. Women from all walks of life and professional backgrounds have signed up to the arduous and rewarding journey ahead to grow their potential.

My fellow classmate, Clair, had just come back from the United Nations (UN) for the 60th Committee on the Status of Women (CSW60), flying back into London directly to attend the induction weekend. The theme for this year’s CSW is women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Two weeks are dedicated to bringing Government delegations and NGOs together from most parts of the world to address women’s human rights.

It was the first session of the commission on the Status of Women since the adoption of Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Goals, including SDG 5 conference on Gender Equality, which took place on 1 January 2016. An ongoing part of this work has involved The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) (www.weprinciples.org) which are a set of Principles for businesses offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

The Principles emphasise the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and are informed by real-life business practices and input gathered from across the globe. The Women’s Empowerment Principles seek to point the way to best practice by elaborating the gender dimension of corporate responsibility, the UN Global Compact, and businesses role in sustainable development. As well as being a useful guide for business, the Principles seek to inform other stakeholders, including governments, in their engagement with organisations.

Clair says “From the UN to Cass, the induction has been an empowering experience as a woman who deals with inequality in the workplace to see reflected in my cohort the 50/50 experience. The initial experience has felt balanced, productive and supportive, it was fascinating for me to hear the men on the course in initial conversations saying how much they sought out having a female manager in their workplace, as they often had a positive, growing and nurturing experience which had helped them to develop professionally. In this balanced gender cohort experience, I can truly say a he4she climate has been achieved”. 

Clair Rees, Modular Executive MBA, 2016

Clair Rees,
Modular Executive MBA, 2016

More than 1190 business leaders around the world have demonstrated leadership on gender equality through the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).  The Cass MBA has pinned its gender equality flag to the mast showing true signs of business leadership with the cohort gender integration we are proud to be a part of within its innovative history as executive students.

In the UK the Government under the leadership of Nicky Morgan – Minister for Women and Equalities in collaboration with the select committee on Women and Equalities has currently launched an inquiry on Women in Executive levels. The scope of the inquiry seeks to address significant under-representation of women in executive levels. For example, less than 10% of FTSE 100 companies have a female CEO. It will look at 1) The situation for women in senior roles 2) The barriers to women achieving senior positions 3) The measures being taken by organisations to improve the situation & 4) Actions the Government should take in this area.

“I have experienced that the City is a great place for women to start their careers”

But what is it really like for the working woman of today?

Today, women make up 60% of junior managers, 40% of middle managers and 20% of senior managers and I have had the fortunate experience of working with the City for the last handful of years. I have experienced that the City is a great place for women to start their careers and I experienced a place of evolution from long standing institutions opening their doors and welcoming female CEO’s to a place aligning their HR strategies to incorporate the modern working woman. The city is such a hub of activity for networking, with networking accounting for nearly 80% of the succession of business we do today, networking brings benefits such as future opportunities, advice, engagement and inclusion into the business world the value and importance of women at such events should not be underestimated.

However it cannot be overlooked that there is still some challenge ahead to attract talented women to leadership roles. Research shows that only a third of ‘top’ jobs are currently filled by women in the UK. By 2018 UK Government has pledged that all companies with over 250 employees to disclose their pay gap of which statistics suggest is still at a large 19%. Bonuses will be included in the figures to make sure a light is shone on pay disparity in City firms, where there is suspected to be a particular problem with pay inequality.

Of course transparent reporting of pay at every level will tackle the glass pyramid that stifles potential and productivity in business however there is some apprehension from those that believe such disclosure could encourage large loss claims on equal pay in a sort of ‘ no win no fee’ type culture. However critics to this would say why this should be an issue with the Equal Pay Act firmly embedded.

But from the offices of the City into the classrooms of Cass it has been a fantastic to see their response to the evolving changes of the market. In particular the society correlated by Cass to address some of the challenges faced above. I am proud to be part of this year’s 50/50 cohort, one of my main drivers for choosing Cass was its level of diversity and it has been engaging and refreshing to see this work throughout my cohort.


Visit our website for details about our Full-time and Executive MBA programmes or our various scholarships for women in business. Alternatively you email our MBA recruitment team at cass-mba@city.ac.uk.

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