Over the past 30 years, Imperial College Business School has been working towards achieving gender balance in the lecture theatre, a necessary and supporting step towards gender balance in business.
In 1986, the Business School had just 93 students on the MSc Management Science programme – more than a third of those students were women. Each cohort since has had its own individual make up (fluctuating up and down), but the School has deliberately taken steps towards a representative balance – meeting or surpassing the 50/50 ratio in our Master’s programmes five times since 1994. Most recent graduating classes (2014) included nearly 100 more women than men in the MSc programmes.
“It’s important for us to recognise diversity in our programmes and in our classrooms, and part of our commitment to gender equality,” explains Diane Morgan, Associate Dean of Programmes at Imperial College Business School and member of the board of the Forte Foundation, an organisation that launches women into fulfilling business careers through access to education, opportunities and community. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done at Imperial, to have on most of our programmes, 50% women. That has been a really conscious decision and conscious effort on behalf of the School.”
With such good ground being made at the graduation stage, there’s still work to be done to maintain that balance later in the career cycle. Graduate employment is comparable between the sexes after graduating from the Business School, but the real opportunity lies in the C-suite and board level, where currently, numbers drop dramatically.
“Worldwide, there is an underrepresentation of women pursuing postgraduate management education and this has a knock-on effect on the number of women who hold senior director roles within corporations and therefore ultimately board positions in FTSE100 companies,” said Diane. “I think what we need to be doing as a business school is demonstrating it’s not enough to get women into the programmes, but what are their long term career aspirations? Where are the role models for women? And where are the leaders that are demonstrating that you can have a long standing career?”
We’re proud to have so many great role models within the Business School Alumni Network, such as Jocelyn Brown, Vice President at Institutional Shareholder Services, London; Jenny Yao, Partner / Head of Healthcare at KPMG, Beijing; and Golnaz Samadi, Lead Project Engineer – Global Projects Organisation, BP Plc, London; a trio of high achievers from the same cohort – MBA 2005, and celebrating 10 years since graduating.
With a background in technology, Jocelyn’s MBA helped her to make the change to financial services. “I started on a technical career path, which was fun for the first few years, but over time I recognised that I needed to gain a broader skillset to continue to develop. My post-MBA role was a mix of business and technology consulting, and I wouldn’t have made the transition into financial services without it,” said Jocelyn.
My year at Imperial College Business School was one of the most formative of my life. I identified my post-MBA role in management consultancy through the Business School Alumni Network, and in return have always tried to be generous with my time and experience when approached by current students.
The Imperial MBA was equally formative for Golnaz, “I use all that I’ve learnt through my MBA course on a daily basis but more importantly the network that we built during the course with my cohorts has been invaluable to me.”
The three agree that having both genders represented at all levels of an organisation makes good business sense. Jenny explains, “Women approach business decisions with different perspectives. The world is a much better place when important decisions are made by a balanced group of men and women.”
Jocelyn adds, “it allows businesses to attract talent from the widest pool available, to better represent an increasingly diverse
customer base and decreases the risks of ‘group think’ in the boardroom.”
“I believe each individual brings a different perspective based on their personality, background, education – and in this case a female ‘touch’! But the key is to break a historical trend and establish a fully meritocratic system and this is true for any historical minority in the senior level roles,” says Golnaz.
It is part of the School’s vision to have a positive impact on society – and that starts with getting our own house in order. Earlier this year, the Business School, in partnership with the 30% Club, who aim for a better representation of women on FTSE100 boards by the end of 2015, launched two new scholarships to encourage more women to undertake post-graduate management education. The scholarships, worth £20,000 each, will be awarded to two exceptional female candidates who are interested in undertaking the Imperial Executive MBA.
We also launched the Dorothy Griffiths Full-Time MBA Scholarship for Excellence; two scholarships of £10,000 that will be awarded to candidates who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and a drive for innovation, excellence and gender parity.
To coincide with International Women’s Day, on 11 March 2015, we hosted our first MBA Information Session specifically for women. We welcomed 29 attendees interested in the Imperial MBA programmes to the President’s House at Imperial College London, for what was a very successful and inspiring evening.
Women studying on the Imperial MBA programmes are now also able to register to become a member of the Forté Foundation, thereby gaining access to career advancement advice, resources and a growing community of 50,000 women in business.
“I’d also love to hire more women faculty,” said Diane. “Education institutions struggle with the same challenges as industry in bringing women into the most senior positions. The Dean and I are keen to continue to bring more women into the faculty and the boardroom.”
With that in mind, the Business School is leading by example and over the past year has appointed five women to School Advisory Boards: Mary Meaney, Director, McKinsey and Catherine Moukheibir, Executive Board Member, Innate Pharma both joined the Business School Advisory Board; Anke Richter, Senior Credit Analyst, Conning Asset Management and Tanit Curry, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley joined the Finance Master’s Programmes Advisory Board; and Naomi Kasolowsky, Global Capability Managing Director, Dunnhumby joined the Strategic Marketing Advisory Board.