EMBA: How Business Schools Support Women in Leadership

by mba

The will for WIL (women in leadership)

Boryana has gained international academic and professional experience in business, marketing and event management. She has led the development of the Women & MBA global online events for several years. Thus, she and her team have encouraged thousands of women from around the world to make bold steps to career change and leadership through MBA studies. She also leads Premier EMBA. Previously, she was part of the event and marketing team of Advent Group’s flagship Access MBA One-to-One tour and the innovative Access Online MBA.

What is the trend for the number of women in EMBA programmes?

Over the past decade, we have seen a consistent rise in the percentage of women in MBA programmes. In 2011, the Forté Foundation found that women made up only 32% of students in some of the top business schools. In contrast, today at Florida International University (US), they now make up about 50% of the cohorts. The proportion of MBA programmes reporting growth in applications in 2021 from female candidates (44%) was higher than those reporting growth from male candidates (35%), according to GMAC. More full-time two-year MBA programmes reported growth in applications from female candidates (60%) than from male candidates (43%). Also, more Executive MBA programmes reported growth in applications from female candidates (38%) than from male candidates (19%).

What are some unique qualities women business leaders have that set them apart?

It is sure that female business leaders are gaining ever more seats at the board tables and trust from their direct reports. Emotional intelligence in the context of empathy, relationship orientation, strong communication skills and collaborative or supportive personae are becoming vital nowadays for leading a successful team. This is all so much more natural to the female brain function, so naturally women succeed much quicker and more efficiently in this field of expertise.

In addition, ladies have a meticulous sense of effective organisation within a business, a structure, a project or even the daily schedule. And finally, in my view, I see how women business leaders are much more down-to-earth and question the business objectives vs deliverables in such a way that an organisation can have a truly realistic vision.

Work–life balance is a challenge nowadays, and often even more so for women. Which format will suit them best: a full-time MBA or an Executive MBA?

From my observation, this is a very unique decision for each person. It depends on many factors: the stage of professional development you’re at, your educational and professional background and what you want to achieve in the future – a career industry shift, C-level expertise, expanding your network or starting your own business.

The personal eco/support system is also essential. You need the support of your family, friends and colleagues, because different programmes consume your time in different ways.

Executive MBA programmes enable participants to combine studies with work responsibilities. Thus, EMBA students can make an immediate impact in their company and often grow fast even during their studies. If career growth and gaining a new business and support network are the primary goal, then the EMBA is the best option. It requires solid time management skills, but as students are required to have at least five years of professional experience, most of them have them already.

What is the diversity of EMBA programmes? What should professionals consider when choosing the best option?

In terms of work–study–life balance, I would differentiate programmes delivered locally/single campus vs the Global EMBA options. Both can be internationally immersive, depending on the class diversity and study trips to or projects in other countries. Global EMBAs imply much more travel as part of the programme.

Beyond this, the programme focus and specialisations, the teaching methodology, the calibre of professors and practitioners, the professional background, the positions and industries represented in class – all of these should fit the personal learning style and career goals of the applicant.

EMBA: How Business Schools Support Women in Leadership

What initiatives do business schools provide as part of their MBA programmes to grow women in leadership?

The Women & MBA events of Access Online are a great place to get a feel of how committed business schools around the world are to growing the leadership potential of female professionals. Alumnae, professors, school deans and admissions directors present a plethora of initiatives. Some of them are WIL conferences, business incubators, personal development and leadership coaching or entrepreneurial training, to name just a few. All this is integrated in their MBA studies taking place on and off-campus.

What are participants of the Women & MBA event looking for when they attend this format? Inspiration? Confidence? A support network? Or simply useful information for their career growth?

All of the above, really. At the event, some ladies just need to gain the confidence that there are so many diverse MBA opportunities nurturing female leadership. Others are just a step away from finding the right business school to plunge into their growth journey. Personal success stories and advice send out a strong message of encouragement to those looking for inspiration.

Over the past four years, the Access Online Women & MBA events have attracted thousands of women around the globe at different stages of their personal and professional development. We try to really deliver something for everyone. Thanks to our unique and very dedicated event team, we manage to tap into each one’s needs and tailor their experience during the event, whether it is to share which presentation will be of most interest or to dig deeper and offer them the opportunity to meet one-to-one with specific business schools during the event.

What has been your career trajectory and what takeaways can you share with other women aspiring to leadership growth?

It has been a consistent way up the ladder for me, which obviously gives me the confidence needed to succeed in a leading role. So, I’d advise ladies to try to be the best version of themselves, to listen to and consider all advice, ask for feedback constantly from the leaders they trust, but never actually lose their true self. Indeed, it took me a while to figure that out.

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