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How My EMBA Is Helping Me Build A Community For Women In Business

After a successful career spanning several countries, Bénédicte Dachaud enrolled in an EMBA to refresh her knowledge. Now business school is helping her empower other women in business


By  Matt Kefford

Tue Aug 29 2023

Growing up in a small town in eastern France, Bénédicte Dachaud’s life was defined by two things: a passion for cars and a desire to travel. 

Her first experience in the working world came in her father’s clothing shop. Gaining an insight into the realm of business led Bénédicte to a degree in advertising, but a trip to San Francisco later inspired her to leave home and pursue a degree in California. 

After graduating, Bénédicte's desire to travel saw her embark on a career spanning various client services roles across locations including Luxembourg, Paris, New York, Dublin, and Tokyo, working with big names such as Publicis, Google and Nissan. 

Some 15 years later, in 2021, Bénédicte decided to refresh her business knowledge by enrolling in an executive MBA program. Today, the program has inspired her to make an impact by building a community to empower like-minded women in business. 

Enrolling in the HEC Paris EMBA 

Bénédicte held a vice president role at marketing agency, Critical Mass, when she decided the time was right to return to business school. 

She aimed to expand her knowledge to include current topics such as sustainability. She’d considered an MBA in the past, but felt an executive program would best fit her level of experience, while studying part-time would allow her to continue to work. 

Partly due to value for money when compared with the US, Benedicte opted to study in Europe. There, she chose HEC Paris—the world’s top-ranked program at the time—swayed by a curriculum squarely in line with her career goals. 

“To my view, HEC Paris had more of an international reach, and was centered around sustainability and inclusivity,” she explains. “I also had a much deeper connection with the recruiter.”

The HEC Paris EMBA offers a broad focus covering a range of core business topics. With the bulk of her experience focused on marketing, Bénédicte relished the opportunity to expand her knowledge of areas like finance and accounting. 

The program also has a grounding in theory-led teaching. With a wealth of practical experience under her belt, she enjoyed the chance to enhance her theoretical knowledge. 

“It was putting words to stuff I’d been doing for many years, but didn’t know the actual theory of,” she says. 

The diverse EMBA diverse classroom 

While Bénédicte had worked across the globe and experienced several different cultures during her career, the EMBA classroom at HEC Paris offered a particularly rich environment. Her intake classmates hail from some 27 different nationalities; 27% are women. 

The program incorporates various teamwork exercises and group-led projects, encouraging students to work on their interpersonal abilities. This helps you become a better leader, Bénédicte says. 

“This is the purpose of the EMBA, to learn new ways of doing things, how to be a better leader, and make a positive impact. 

“I keep learning every day, being more mindful of people, their backgrounds and their experience, and just working on leading with kindness and authenticity,” she says. 

Bénédicte struck up a common bond among the women in her cohort. Executive-level leaders in business with backgrounds across several industries, the women nevertheless shared similar experiences in the workplace. 

“Things like, ‘this guy got the role I should have had,’ or ‘there’s still a salary gap’,” she explains. 

This inspired Bénédicte to build a community for women in business. With support from the business school, she now organizes gatherings for women in the cohort as well as putting on Women in Leadership talks. 

“What I really love about this course is they are supporting us unconditionally,” she says. 

All HEC EMBA students must complete a Capstone Project—an individual task addressing an issue of strategic importance which applies students’ learnings from the program. Bénédicte's project focuses on fostering communities for women across different cultures. 

“Women need to support each other more than ever before,” she explains.

Life after graduation

The HEC EMBA experience has opened Bénédicte up to a variety of possibilities as she considers life after graduation.

Enhancing her business acumen and improving her leadership skills means the prospect of a c-suite role in the Future. Whichever path she chooses, she says she is keen to continue making a difference: “Being able to help people connect and create some magic between them is something I really enjoy doing”.

 “It’s very much a personal journey, but also professionally I would like to be an agent of positive change in the world.”

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