Tag: Working women

Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership at Cass

Nina and her cohort

My MBA experience is coming to an end. I am about to graduate this summer. Reflecting back, I can only say that my experience was mad – good and bad and crazy and intense and really like a roller-coaster. But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, it was exactly how an Executive MBA is supposed to be. Except, my class had a higher proportion of men to women. Let’s talk about diversity and inclusion for a minute.

I am a proud recipient of the Women in Business Award by Cass. A few of my cohort members are. My school is extremely supportive of female leadership starting from a female dean, female board members and offering many scholarship opportunities to women applying to various programs. As with many schools, during the application process we are given an opportunity to apply for a multitude of scholarships, and us women have an opportunity to go for the diversity awards. Like in many boardrooms, business schools seem to struggle to entice working women to join the classroom part-time on top of their full time careers as professionals, and most likely even fuller time careers as mothers and wives. Therefore, many business schools will offer various awards to supports future female leaders and our prospect achievements in our individual fields. What a tremendous opportunity for us, but are we discriminating men? Who cares, you are thinking, women have been discriminated for years, it is our time to rise and shine!

#CassWomen

Hey, I don’t disagree. Give me an opportunity to shine and I’ll take it, nobody can stand in my way. Except, I don’t see the world with ‘men vs women’ eyes. I see an opportunity to grow personally and professionally, perhaps competing against other people, but their gender doesn’t bother me. I see an opportunity to shine, not because I am a woman, but because I have a unique perspective, and unique experience and knowledge that I bring to the table. That is what others should see too. Those that are incapable of seeing past my gender are not worthy of my time, and certainly organisations that recruit me because I am a woman and they ‘lack female leadership’ are not the places I would fit in. Not because I don’t bring a female touch to anything I do, trust me, I am emotional and I don’t hide those emotions, but that is also my choice. These are not the places for me, mostly because they care that I am a woman, and don’t care that I am an experienced professional. That is where I want equality.

I recently read an article in which a personality scientist states that if you are a woman and you popularly ‘lean-in’ you will become a dysfunctional leader. This scientist further states that most people have little insight into their leadership talents, and those that believe that are the best leaders are in fact the most incompetent leaders lacking self-awareness. Statistically, those leaders are most likely to be men – whether women have chosen a different path, chose to stay at home or were just not interested in leading, we are still working in a male dominated business environment. So if we are to lean in, and mimic the behaviours of these dysfunctional leaders, won’t we become dysfunctional as well? That is not my goal. My goal as female leader is to be humble but also to utilise my strengths: communication, passion, endurance, emotional intelligence, empathy, the ability to listen and connect, and the ability to think about my bigger picture, but also to think about the picture of the people I touch and bring on the path with me.

Nina Kerkez (Modular Executive MBA, 2019)

Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani education advocate, who at the age of 17 became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is a true inspiration in leadership for me. She has overcome adversity, she is standing up to her rivals and she is overcoming diversity, whilst fighting for girls to pick up the books and pens, and get the education that they deserve. There are many things we could all learn from Malala, but as I talk about diversity and inclusion, in words of this wonderful woman it is important for us to remember: “Dear brothers and sisters, I am not against anyone… There was a time when women social activist asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it for ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights rather I am focusing on the women to be independent to fight for themselves.”

So, in my view, my MBA class was extremely diverse containing people of all genders, many races and nationalities, and many professional backgrounds. It consisted of a group of 38 amazing individuals, each and every one of us unique in our own way. We have learned from each other and built relationships that will last us a lifetime. Perhaps, I am finding it harder than I thought to be at the end of this journey. But those connections built in the two years of classroom activity, travel and, let’s face it, pub activity together, give me the feeling that this is not quite the end.

Post-study drinks

My first five weeks at Cass

So, you’ve made the jump. You’ve signed up, paid your fees, cancelled all social engagements hence and whence appropriate, deleted Instagram and invested in a Microsoft based laptop (curse Apple and their pesky social functionality apps). You’re ready! Either by self- narcissism, or by a sociopathic employer, you have been accepted into a one year Full-time, or two year part-time Executive MBA to improve and enhance your life and management skills, and have entered into engagement with other like-minded, intelligent people. You clever person you!

Cass was established in 1966; it’s pretty safe to suggest that they have a lot of experience in education and how to get the best out of people. Unlike other London business schools’ (no pun intended), Cass encourages development by engaging heavily with your cohort, as well as self-enhancement. This means working with groups. Of people. Like you, but not quite you. Yes, I did just type that. You must consciously engage with other people in order to achieve a portion of marks based on group coursework, and equally, reserve enough brain power to listen, learn, and enjoy lectures.

With that in mind; below is a snapshot of my first five weeks, which I hope you enjoy with as much merriment as I did whilst typing:

Week one:

With great power comes great responsibility. With extensive learning after many years of being educationally unchallenged comes a great sense of acute awareness to be near the closest outlet of alcohol (it served one so well for so many years). Fortune would serve that the ‘local’ carries very reasonable prices, including a bottle of prosecco for £20 (with up to 4 glasses and an ice bucket).

Downside of the week: Three hours of post-lecture dissection (drinking) on an empty stomach leads to multiple walk-around(s) of the Barbican roundabout.

(Lack of signs = impossible to navigate without SAS training).

Moral of the story: One must not rely on the skills established during undergraduate learning in order to pass said MBA.

Week two:

Upside: The lecturer knows my name (and therefore I am a valued member of this school).

Downside: The lecturer knows my name (and will therefore call me out when drawing an escape plan on lecture notes).

Week three:

Cognitive functions seem to be awakening. The learning process element of your brain has finally sprung back to life, refreshed after a long period of siesta, and seems ready to expand and dilute masses of information, ready to be processed into more tangible details.

Downside: That post lecture pub visit, in which you ordered the £20 bottle of prosecco with one glass, drunk on an empty stomach, and then spent 4 hours marching around the Barbican roundabout, trying to work out which exit to take (they really should signpost or number them).

Week four:

The windows look pretty triple glazed and probably won’t act as a decent escape route.

Week five:

The end of your two First-year lectures. Things slowly seem to be coming together, including financial accounting, and equally a sense of feeling smug at being able to express, in detail, the difference between a balance sheet and an income statement (although the person at the bar didn’t really seem to care).

Downside:

The bar-lady knows your name and your pin code.

And we’re all still standing! And engaged, and very ready for a coursework review, submission, and onwards to the next assignment.

With all bravado follows humility, and mine very simply is that making this leap into Cass has been by far the best choice I have made in many years. One must consider the stresses and strains of the global economy and give praise to establishments that, even in such testing times, still retain the skills and strengths to envelop such commitment to people who want to learn. Cass employs an impressive collective of people who are at the top of their game; in fact, my first five weeks have been a sheer delight.

It is a true test of our freedom, democracy and fair sense of our need to improve which has, I do truly believe, led us to study at one of the best business schools in the world. For that, I commend you, you clever person you.

 

Claire Georgeson
Executive MBA (2019)

 

The 50/50 Cass Experience: Equality means business

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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