Women sitting in senior positions in business today have overcome multiple adversities to reach the top ranks. Exercising resilience and determination, female business leaders are well equipped to combat the challenges posed by the business world.
So, how can women in business get ahead?
We caught up with two alumnae from the full-time MBA at HHL Leipzig’s Graduate School of Management to find out their tips for thriving in business. Both credit their experiences gained at HHL as vital to their success.
1. Remove yourself from your comfort zone
If you wish to succeed in business, you’ll need to become acclimatized to challenging situations.
HHL MBA alumna Sravya Maturu, now a senior consultant at E.ON In-house Consulting in Germany, used to avoid conflict; however, armed with the leadership skills she acquired through her MBA, she now appreciates the value of disagreements within teams. “I have grown to realize that conflict is productive because it means there are different opinions in the room,” she says.
In the HHL MBA’s leadership and self-reflection modules, you’ll learn about negotiating in intercultural settings, preparing you for working in a multinational corporation post-MBA. As a result, you’ll enter your career equipped with the intellectual know-how to tackle novel challenges outside your comfort zone.
2. Embrace networking
When women empower one another, this can be a powerful tool for success within business.
The Women@HHL initiative provides coaching, networking events, and talks for HHL students and alumnae. The initiative also matches students with female mentors across business, media, and politics, ensuring women learn the knowledge and skills to reach their full potential.
“Many women struggle to relate to a male leader’s career path, so women need to be present in the networking process to support one another and provide a sounding board for one another’s ideas,” notes HHL MBA alumna Binh Vu (pictured below), now a venture capital analyst at Brandenburg Kapital in Germany.
And you never know where networking might take you. Binh reaped the benefits of networking, receiving references for her job applications from women and forming close connections with female role models who helped her achieve her career goals.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up
An essential tip for business leaders is to use your voice. This is even more crucial for women working in male-dominated industries like consulting and venture capital.
“Females are always trying to make sure they’re 100% correct before speaking, but it’s up to us to make ourselves heard and speak confidently,” advises Sravya.
Sravya enhanced her confidence in her MBA through case study exercises. “The case studies were a real-world simulation of the business environment because I worked with new colleagues on different projects, allowing me to step up and enhance my leadership and teamwork skills,” notes Sravya.
HHL MBA students have the chance to participate in case study workshops with HHL recruiters like Accenture, Amazon, and Deloitte. As a result, students strengthen their leadership and teamwork skills while networking with renowned organizations.
Sravya has implemented her new-found communication skills in her professional role. She’s also learned the importance of speaking up and asking for what she wants—for example, training in a specific area—as well as taking credit for her achievements.
4. Recognize your worth as a woman in business
A crucial piece of advice for women in business is knowing your worth and recognizing what you bring to the work environment.
On the HHL MBA, during modules like organizational behavior, strategic management, and human resources management, you’ll learn the benefits of gender diversity in group dynamics and how multiple perspectives generate stimulating discussions.
These modules prepared Binh for working in venture capital, a traditionally male-dominated industry. She’s learned how diversity in the workforce breeds creativity, which helps with problem-solving.
Gender diversity is also integral to serving a diverse customer base: venture capital is exemplary of this. Women make up only 12% of venture capitalists in the US—a troubling statistic since female investors are more likely to fund other women’s startups. In December 2020, there was a 27% decrease in venture funding to female-founded startups globally, compared to the same time in 2019.
“If we want to build truly disruptive business, then we need more women and diverse people making venture capital decisions,” reflects Binh.
As a result, female business leaders must embrace their value in organizations. “Women should be proud to stand out and bring a different perspective to the table instead of trying to blend in,” says Sravya.
5. Choose an MBA which supports women in business
For Sravya, attending a business school that champions gender equality factored high on her agenda. HHL’s Women in Business Scholarship, which Sravya received, highlights HHL’s commitment to gender diversity by levelling the playing field between men and women.
While Binh chose HHL due to the impressive gender parity and diversity of nationalities in the MBA. International students typically make up 90% of the HHL MBA, and there are 61% of women in 2021's MBA class.
You’re in the best place to develop your strengths as a woman in business if you’re surrounded by a group of like-minded people, with similar goals, in an inclusive MBA program designed with you in mind.
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