Organisations that have more women in leadership roles produce better financial results, says Korn Ferry managing director Katie Lahey. “The business case is there. Diversity helps your bottom line,” she says.
But the global women-to-men ratio enrolled in MBAs is still relatively low, according to The Independent, and may be a reflection of the number of women in C-suite roles.
Lahey says that while much attention has been focused on women on boards, less attention has been given to women in the C-suite.
Increasing the number of women in MBAs and EMBAs could improve the numbers of women in leadership roles.
“These are the real leadership positions and we know that having women on the board doesn’t necessarily flow down to seeing that replicated in the C-suite,” she says. “So we’ve got to take specific actions for women in the C-suite to make sure we’ve got that pipeline for boards in the future.”
“When you look at the leadership trait for men it’s often about strategic thinking and financial results; harder-edged skills are often the strength of male executives. We need women to gain skills in those harder-edged areas.”
Lahey says universities may need to approach their selection process in the same way organisations have begun to.
“To get the right female candidate you often need to dig deeper. Women don’t necessarily put their hands up, so are universities seeking out female candidates?” she asks.
Research has shown that in the interview and selection process, women won’t apply unless they can cover 80 to 90 per cent of the requirements, whereas men are more likely to throw their hat in the ring despite having fewer requirements.
“There is enormous value for the students to get the language and skills across a broad range of business disciplines. I think, increasingly, MBAs have students do assignments on their own workplaces and their own interactions, and in those cases it’s of real benefit to the organisation and the individual.”
Enter the executive MBA
Tailored to meet the needs of senior managers and executives from an educational and time-management perspective. They generally include core economics and management subjects, plus marketing and finance modules, and often have a global focus.
Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) director of career services Robyn Gleeson says her school’s EMBA recruits students at management level with several years of experience, who are looking to progress to the next level.
Most of AGSM’s EMBA students work full-time, so the program is delivered part-time for up to five years. Gleeson says the EMBA gives students the extra knowledge that’s now needed to be a successful leader in business.
“It’s a pathway to more of a leadership role. And of course, the way of the world now, there’s a lot more to it than just being a good manager of people or resources. It’s being able to read a broader landscape and move your company into it,” she says.
Melbourne Business School (MBS) has offered executive MBAs since 1998. The school now runs two executive MBA programs, a senior executive MBA and an executive MBA.
Associate dean of executive MBA programs Dr Patrick Butler says for each program leadership is never the end point, rather, students are encouraged to continually strive towards it.