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Inspiring Female Business School Students to Lead

Inspiring Female Business School Students to Lead


Posted March 22, 2016 by Giselle Weybrecht - Author, Advisor, and Speaker - Sustainability and Business

Business schools today are not the gendered institutions of years past. Today’s schools not only have grown leaps and bounds in the space of gender equality over recent decades, but they are also great places to foster the potential of women in business through women-specific initiatives focused on attracting, developing, and connecting future female leaders. Here are some inspiring examples from business schools around the globe:

Bringing Female Leaders Together at Events

INSEAD’s yearly Inspire Impact and Empower event on their Abu Dhabi Campus brings together women leaders from the Middle East and provides them with a platform to share their experiences. The University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business connects their current students with alumni working in the C-suite at their annual Women Leading Women. IILM has a series of events throughout the year in India focused on unleashing the potential of women in the workplace, discussing challenges faced by working women, and highlighting the measures taken by the organizations that address these challenges.

Mentoring Through Networks

Several business schools are providing opportunities for female students to connect with mentors. Students at Jonkoping International Business School in Sweden created the VILJA Female Career Network to promote female role models across the student body. Apart from connecting female students with each other, each student is also linked with an experienced female mentor. The Women Empowerment initiative at Rotterdam School of Management encourages women to empower other women in business networks and high-performance environments and to address the specific challenges that women face when climbing the corporate ladder.

Supporting Female Leaders Throughout the Program

Female students at many schools have access to unique courses such as the Mount Kilimanjaro Women Empowering Women elective at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands. Fifteen women from the MBA programs go to Mount Kilimanjaro as part of the course focused on developing a greater understanding of how to work with other women in high-performance environments. Many of these initiatives are of course not only aimed at women. Villanova School of Business has a Women in Business Advocacy Committee, dedicated to proposing measures that will enable all students to explore and understand issues that confront women as business leaders.

Creating a Safe Environment for Women on Campus

Beyond initiatives and programs, schools are also looking at how to create a more equal environment on campus. The University of New South Wales in Australia has an Academic Women’s Employment Strategy, which aims to increase the number of women working on campus. ESAN University in Peru opened a lactarium for use by mothers (both students and staff) who are breastfeeding to save and store breast milk and pumps in a private, comfortable, and hygienic environment.

Designing Unique Programs Specifically for Women

The University of New South Wales in Australia has an Academic Women in Leadership Program designed for women seeking to develop leadership capability and includes themes such as authentic style, executive influence, adaptive leadership, thought leadership, and one-to-one coaching. Additionally, their Women Indigenous Leaders Scholarship is provided yearly to Indigenous women entering the Women in Leadership Programme.

Building Opportunities for Female Entrepreneurs

The Indian School of Business’s Women’s Entrepreneurs Certificate Programme has had over 550 women entrepreneurs who have successful completed the program throughout Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Pune. The school also provides a system of mentorship both online and offline. ESPAE supports a Women’s Startup Weekend in Guayaquil, Ecuador, that invites women and men to create, in 54 hours, technology-based solutions and businesses that solve problems faced by women. In Brazil, Fundação Dom Cabral offers an Entrepreneurial Women Programme certificate, which covers strategy, finance, marketing, people, logistics, and business plan development. This year, over 200 women have signed up for the next program.

Supporting Women Throughout Their Careers

University of St. Gallen in Switzerland has put together a Management Certificate called Women Back to Business, which helps women returning from an absence to re-enter the job market in managerial positions. This one-year training program includes career coaching, skill training, reflection workshops, and practical experience in a company, public organization, or NGO. Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business is focused on helping women reach their full potential in the workplace and helping corporations engage the full potential of talented women leaders. Among other things, they organize Best Practices Forums to engage critical thought-leaders and business professionals around the world to provide solutions for helping businesses harness the capacities of talented women leaders within their organizations and incorporating a culture of inclusion.

Actively Working to Place More Women Into Leadership Positions

The American University in Cairo, Egypt, is also looking at how to increase the number of women on boards through the Women on Boards program. This program looks to improve the gender balance of corporate boards in Egypt and the wider Middle East and North Africa region by qualifying women to be appointed to corporate boards, developing a plan for engaging boards on the topic, training male board members on the importance of gender equality, and advocating for policy and legislative changes that institutionalize gender diversity on corporate boards.

These are just a selection of the growing number of opportunities specifically offered to female students. If you are a prospective female business student, inquire with your potential school or schools about whether they have an initiative in place that works to help women succeed in business school and the workforce. These programs can provide additional support, training, and insights that can not only help you launch your career but will stay with you on your way up the ranks.


Giselle Weybrecht Giselle Weybrecht is an author, advisor, and speaker in the areas of sustainability and business. Her bestselling book, The Sustainable MBA: A Business Guide to Sustainability, brings together all the pieces of the business and sustainability puzzle in an easy-to-understand format. Weybrecht presented a TEDx Talk, "How to Make Anything More Sustainable." She is on Twitter @gweybrecht.

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