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Congratulations to our Women in Leadership Scholarship winners

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By equipping women to achieve their potential, identifying ways to make equality a business imperative and securing support from men, we can continue to shift the perception and performance of women in the workplace, argue this year’s winners of the Women in Leadership MBA scholarship.

Although progress has been made over the last 20 years more needs to be done to challenge gender stereotypes which are preventing women from progressing, say Sonia Jenkins, Principal at Investcorp and Layla Jama, Senior Program Manager at Amazon, who were today announced as the scholarship winner and runner-up at the Financial Times’ Women at the Top event.

In its seventh year, the collaborative scholarship between Henley Business School, the 30% Club and the Financial Times reflects the shared mission of the three partner institutions to encourage gender balance in leadership teams and is designed to offer practical support for the development of strong female talent.

WATT-edited.jpg?mtime=20191017113005#asset:122838(L-R) Layla Jama, Sonia Jenkins and Professor Claire Collins


This year’s essay competition saw entrants answer the question: “What should the next generation of women experience in their working lives and what will your generation do to create this?”

Sonia Jenkins argues in her essay that for equality to become the norm, we need to equip women to reach the highest levels. She notes that studies show that women are more likely to lack confidence, resulting in fewer applying for jobs or promotions which hinders their progression. Sonia’s essay discusses how confidence can be learnt but it may require reshaping values and beliefs imprinted from childhood. She adds that many organisations already take action to tackle gender inequality but that all too often good intentions are side-lined. In practice, meaningful progress requires diversity to be a business imperative, not just a “nice to have”, and more creative and radical ideas could be adopted.

Layla Jama believes that while she benefits from a more equal standing in the workplace compared with women 20 years ago, recent data suggest that social progress to gender equality in the workplace is stagnating and it is important that women continue to lift each other and advocate for other women in the workplace. Layla argues that women should lead by example by speaking up on topics such as diversity, equal pay and growth, and development opportunities for women. She suggests that a change in legislation is needed and that women around the world need to speak up and lobby in their regions to ensure true workplace equality for future generations.

Professor Claire Collins, Professor of Leadership Development and Behaviour at Henley Business School, said:

“It is a privilege to be able to award scholarships to these two successful candidates. At Henley, we are committed to developing strong and capable women leaders and our long term partnership with the Financial Times and 30% Club demonstrates this. It is exciting to be able to award places on our MBA programme to two individuals who will be able to further their ideas for gender equality through their studies and also to be able to take the learning and knowledge forward to encourage other women to step forward and grow. It is a pleasure to congratulate Sonia and Layla on their awards and I am looking forward to seeing their progress.”

Sonia Jenkins, winner of the full MBA scholarship, said of her award win:

“It was a surprise and joy to win this scholarship. I love to learn and develop and had always thought about one day doing an MBA - this has given me a perfect opportunity. Doing one at Henley is particularly exciting due to the focus on personal development and leadership which I see as so critical - and yet unfortunately so often lacking in businesses. I am also looking forward to learning from the diverse experiences of my classmates who come from very different backgrounds and getting creative about how I can use their experiences to improve myself and my own company.

As the winner of our scholarship competition, Sonia has received a fully-funded Executive MBA scholarship, and runner-up Layla has won a 50% scholarship. Both winners will benefit from being part of Henley’s first international cohort on our Global Executive MBA, an enhanced multi-campus programme delivered across the UK and its international campuses in Germany, Denmark and Finland, featuring a global syllabus and immersive overseas study experiences in South Africa and the USA.

The Executive MBA gives them both a great opportunity to enhance their management skills, whilst working in their respective roles.

Sonia’s winning essay is published as part of the FT's Women in Business report, which features articles that include Carrie Gracie on pay, as well as FT writers on periods in the workplace and why female peacekeepers collect better on-the-ground intelligence. Read the full report here.

Published 17th October 2019
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