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Winners of the Women in Leadership MBA scholarship

Leadership without a gender png

Companies can encourage greater female participation at the top by aiming to eliminate gender comparison, and addressing the ‘motherhood penalty’, according to the winners of the 2021 Women in leadership MBA scholarship.

Marta Garcia Iturbe, Company Director at Inbusi Ltd and MGI Business Solutions Ltd, won this year’s essay competition by drawing on her own experience of thriving under a “talent over gender” management style where opportunities are supported by development opportunities for women and offered based on merit. Runner up Alison Huntington, Head of Client and Brand Insights at Source Global Research, argues that rather than trying to ‘fix the women’, we should be fixing the shape of men’s careers, specifically around parenthood.

For nine years, Henley has participated in this collaborative scholarship with the Financial Times and the 30% Club. Designed to encourage gender balance in leadership teams, the scholarship offers practical support for the development of strong female talent.

For the 2021 competition, entrants answered the question: “The number of women on the boards of top companies overall remains far below 50%, and few make it to CEO. How can organisations, policymakers and individuals encourage greater female participation at the top?”.

Marta’s essay argues against the culture of differentiation in the workplace. She proposes that breaking down gender stereotypes creates an environment in which women do not have to prove their worth in the way it is assumed for men. Adopting a merit-based culture would break down the male-dominated leadership model, allowing women an easier path to senior leadership positions.

Alison’s essay focusses on the greater impact parenthood has on women’s careers than men. She notes only 2% of new UK parents split parental leave, arguing organisations must make paternity leave as financially attractive and career sustaining as maternity leave. Unless men feel able to make different career decisions, she concludes the burden of parenthood will continue to hinder women’s path to leadership.

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

After nine years of our successful partnership with the Financial Times and the 30% Club running the essay competition, it is really pleasing to see so many insightful and diverse entries being made. The 2021 essays were, once again, full of innovative proposals to forward gender diversity and balance within the working environment. The winner and runner-up essays took very different positions in their proposals for action to close the gender gap in the workplace and to level up both the career objectives and underlying cultural shifts that are needed. We all know that there is no silver bullet to solve the gender divide, but by making many distinct changes we set a path towards equality in this one diversity dimension. I am delighted that Marta and Alison are our winner and runner up this year, and I hope that by undertaking their MBA studies they can further their own executive careers and use this opportunity to explore and implement further changes for gender parity.”

Marta Garcia Iturbe, winner of the full MBA scholarship, said of her award win:

Women empowerment and gender equality are areas I have actively promoted in both my personal and professional life, so winning this competition from Financial Times, The 30% Club and Henley Business School is a wonderful achievement. I am incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to join an exceptional cohort for this MBA, and I look forward to a journey of personal and professional development enriched by the shared experiences that we all bring to the table. As a result of this experience, I aim to apply these learnings to my businesses, while continuing to advocate for equality in leadership, championing initiatives that will help pave the path for women to advance and drive change."

As the winner of our scholarship competition, Marta has received a fully-funded Executive MBA scholarship, and runner-up Alison has won a 50% scholarship. Both winners will benefit from being part of Henley’s 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.

Marta’s winning essay is published on the FT’s Women in Business page, and is free to read.

Published 7 January 2022
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