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Women in Leadership scholarship winners announced

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Making a sustainable change on gender equality must include influencing and including male allies and giving them both a seat at the table and a shared purpose, argue this year’s winners of the Women in Leadership MBA scholarship.

There are a number of strategies that could be deployed to challenge gender stereotypes in the workplace, say Naina Bhattacharya, Chief Information Security Officer at Danone, and Kristine Grün, Principal Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who were today announced as the scholarship winner and runner-up in the Financial Times’ Women in Business report.

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

This year’s essay competition saw entrants answer the question: How can organisations help women succeed by involving more men in their efforts? What strategies and actions are most and least helpful?”

In Naina Bhattacharya’s essay she states that it is critical that we include men in gender diversity programmes to address equality and gender norms. However, she adds that simply inviting men to attend women’s initiatives may make them feel awkward or anxious, but in acknowledging this and showing empathy it can help to influence unlikely allies and bring them on side. To truly make men feel included, she argues ‘they must be given both a seat at the table and a shared purpose’. Naina’s essay also discusses how seeing women role models such as Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, leading with empathy and garnering praise for this can inspire other women and ‘shows that a different kind of leadership is possible’.

Kristine Grün believes that gender equality is not a women’s issue, but a business imperative. In her essay she writes that ‘businesses need to involve men in gendered conversations to give them the setting and tools from which they can learn to become change agents themselves’. She notes that a push from senior management is often needed to make it clear that gender considerations are non-negotiable and that policies and targets can help with this. Kristine argues that ‘if managers know that they will be measured by what they deliver to the top and bottom lines, they will know that gender inclusion is not “just an initiative” but a way of doing business’.

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

“Once again we were delighted to have so many high quality submissions to the scholarship competition and the job of choosing the best is always a challenge. Our partnership with the Financial Times and the 30% Club remains as strong over the eight years that this has been in place. The scholarship awards that we have made are to two deserving candidates whose submissions were of a very high standard. It is a privilege to be involved in this project on behalf of Henley Business School and to know that Henley’s tradition of fully supporting diversity work and advancing women’s opportunities to lead is thriving. I am delighted to congratulate Naina and Kristine in their success, and hope that they will flourish on their MBA programme and carry this good work into encouraging other women to step forward.”

Naina Bhattacharya, winner of the full MBA scholarship, said of her award win:

“Being locked down at home alone during a global pandemic can be quite a surreal experience. Screen time increased dramatically on meetings with colleagues, calls home and video on demand during the evenings. It was on one such day that I saw an advert pop up on my screen for the ‘Women in Leadership’ scholarship and I felt I had to answer the question as I am very passionate about gender equality and I believe that we need to do more to include men in women's initiatives. The journey from that moment to now has been a bit like a dream. I won the scholarship, started my MBA and have loved every moment of it so far. Henley is an amazing institution and my cohort is full of bright and wonderful people. I feel very privileged to have this opportunity.”

As the winner of our scholarship competition, Naina has received a fully-funded Flexible Executive MBA scholarship, and runner-up Kristine has won a 50% scholarship on the Executive MBA – Global programme. The Henley MBA gives them both a great opportunity to enhance their management skills, whilst working in their respective roles.

Naina’s winning essay is published as part of the FT’s Women in Business report, which features an FT opinion piece hailing the first female head of a Wall Street bank, career tips for coronavirus times, plus articles on the effects of the pandemic including whether lockdown puts women back to the 1950s. Read the full report here.

Published 6 October 2020
Henley news

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