Issues of gender are discussed during the studies in relation to the experience of women in the workforce; notably, the differing role of networks for men and women has been an interesting topic of discussion in the program. They found that women tend to network more naturally across organizations and to have stronger contacts within their group of peers. Men, on the other hand, build stronger networks upward, which leads to better opportunities to promotion. Women, therefore, are at a noticeable disadvantage in terms of networking upwards within their organizations.
Another instance of behavioral differences between men and women that Buchel discusses happens during the job application process. When looking at a job description, women tend to become discouraged by the requirements they feel they are not qualified for, usually opting not to apply at all. However, men on average who are faced with the same situation tend to apply anyway, with a more optimistic and less hesitant attitude. These discussions of behavioral trends help the women to recognize their own tendencies and disadvantages, allowing them to be conscious of and improve in these areas.
When asked why Europe has lagged behind the US in terms of business programs for women, Buchel states that the issue of women in management hasn’t been on the forefront of corporate attention in Europe. The scarce number of women in executive positions has limited the viable market for such programs. However, these programs have been picking up more and more in Europe, especially since Scandinavian countries have begun to have much stronger female participation in management. Female representation on the political front, such as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has also pushed the agenda of female leadership on the forefront in Europe. The establishment of programs such as Buchel’s has certainly created a unique example of how we can both recognize and promote the leadership of women in the workforce.
In a recent interview with BusinessWeek, Bettina Buchel, director of IMD’s Strategic Leadership for Women program, discusses the experience of women in the executive management work force. IMD (International Institute for Management and Development), a global business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland, was the first business school in Europe to establish an executive education program geared specifically towards women. The program is part of IMD’s Open Enrollment program. It typically lasts for 4 days. The same program runs twice a year.
Buchel began the Strategic Leadership for Women program six years ago in 2002 to create an opportunity for women to explore different styles of leadership. The program focuses on two main areas: leadership and strategy implementation. It offers a unique environment for women to exchange experiences on situations within the workplace and learn how to promote themselves, all within a setting where they are not self-conscious of being the minority. 300 women have gone through the program, ranging from women in senior positions to women in their first five to ten years out of university. Buchel emphasizes the importance of this emerging issue of women in management, stating that of the Fortune 1000 companies, less than 50% have women representation in their top management teams.
What kinds of changes do these women implement in the workplace? Women who come out of this program become much more conscious about networking, having been shown a visual representation of how they network. They make efforts and adjustments at improving their upward networking and are also encouraged to come up with new responses to difficult situations in the workplace, having shared accounts of such experiences with each other during the course of the program.
The demand for such programs is heightening in Europe, with new programs being established in different cities, including London. Buchel also directs a program called Orchestrating Winning Performance, which has included more women and has been creating more activities geared towards women. Although women make up about 10% of traditional programs such as this one, the growing number of participating women is an important indicator of a shift in the agenda of women in management.
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