by Stephanie Kernwein Thrane, Admissions Director, Early Careers
I once read that one of the reasons women should undertake an MBA programme was because the alleged “bro-ski” or fraternity culture of business school prepares you for the male executive suite. On one hand, I understand the argument. If you are surrounded by this type of culture for a couple of years you may very well grow a thick skin, handle critique better, become less emotional. All the stereotypes we associate men with and assume women don’t have or can’t handle (I don’t necessarily think this is true, but for the sake of this argument I am going to make general assumptions). On the other hand the statement implies that executive suites are always going to be dominated by men, and in order for women, to be successful they should conform to the male-like norms of the C-suite.
The assumption that all business schools have a cut-throat, ruthless environment is wrong. In fact, I would argue it is the exact opposite at London Business School. Our global community with nationalities from over 130 different countries creates an environment where different perspectives are a crucial part of the learning. In order to be successful at London Business School you will need to respect the collaborative nature of the school by building bridges rather than competing with your peers. I can say with confidence that the entire school community is collaborative, open-minded and inclusive. When you meet alumni or current students of the school they would be able to confirm this statement. We don’t believe that women should go to business school so they can “do business like a man… with men” I doubt that would go down well with most women. Instead women, just like men should pursue an MBA programme because they want to invest in themselves, their personal development, their career and lifelong network. However, women who are pursuing MBA programmes also have certain opportunities to change the c-suite and make a positive impact on gender equality.
It’s been said many times that business schools play an important role in creating the pipeline of women leaders. I couldn’t agree more. As a top business school we are educating future global leaders. Leaders of large international organisations who will go on to shape the business of the future. The more women who go on to graduate from business schools the more women we are able to promote into leadership roles. The more women we have in leadership roles the more opportunities we have to change outdated c-suite norms, in-equality in pay, maternity leave policies and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that business schools are a single solution, but it can act as a very powerful and important catalyst.
I am very proud to work at a world-leading institution where promoting women in business is high on the agenda. Our faculty are producing great research on the topic of gender in-equality, we have a prominent student-led Women in Business club, the School is a long-time member of the Forte Foundation and we have recently launched our own “Manbassador scheme” asking men to pledge their support to gender parity. Just last weekend our team hosted the annual Women in Business Weekend for future women on the MBA programme. We welcomed a group of MBA candidates to join us in London for a weekend of faculty lectures, sightseeing in London, afternoon tea (we are in London after all) and to participate in our 17thannual Women in Business Conference.
These are just some examples of the many activities we do every year as a school to promote women in business. We are making good progress as a school by educating more and more women and bringing them into senior positions once they graduate, but we still have a way to go. Being part of the MBA recruitment & admissions team, I and the rest of our team are responsible for bringing in talented and ambitious women who are going to shape the future of leadership. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job. It creates an enormous sense of purpose knowing that we are part of helping someone achieve their goals in life, but also helping to foster positive change in gender in-equality. I have a very special interest in bringing more women to business school as I sit on the School Advisory Council for the Forte Foundation and also chair its European School Advisory group. Through the School’s work with the Forte Foundation we collaborate with major corporations, other top business schools and influential non-profit organisations to direct talented women towards leadership roles in business.
I care deeply about this cultural shift and I look forward to continuing our work as change agents not only at London Business School, but across other schools and organisations.