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Female Entrepreneurs Look To Edinburgh MBA To Make An Impact

Women from emerging economies are studying MBAs at the University of Edinburgh Business School, then returning home to make a difference

Fri Dec 9 2016

Rosalind Tay relocated over six thousand miles from Malaysia for a 12-month MBA at the University of Edinburgh Business School in the UK. It’s her first time living overseas, and she’s brought her husband and two young daughters along with her.

Next year, she’ll return to work at the Malaysian government’s strategic investment fund, which sponsored her studies abroad. But long-term, she wants to take the leap into entrepreneurship and make a difference.

“I chose Edinburgh because of its strong entrepreneurship focus,” Rosalind explains. “A lot of women choose family over career. But in my MBA class there are at least four women who are married with kids. It’s double the challenge, but the support system is good.”

Edinburgh boasts one of the most gender diverse MBA programs in the Financial Times’ global top 100. The current MBA class is 47% female. Almost a third of MBA students come from emerging economies in Africa, South America and Asia.

In Malaysia, many women live off an income equivalent to less than $200 a month. Back home, Rosalind has already worked closely with her local church to help spread financial literacy in the Klang Valley area and support women in managing their limited funds.

After her MBA, she wants to take this to the next level and start a social enterprise, helping local women to set up their own sustainable small businesses.

“Social impact is a buzzword in business,” she says. “With entrepreneurship, people are seeing that they can make a difference doing what they love.

“At Edinburgh, there are a lot of events to help bring people together, and opportunities to network with people from diverse backgrounds,” she continues. “The Edinburgh MBA is opening my eyes to what I can do on the social enterprise front.”

Fellow MBA student Tuta Wamanga agrees. After a decade working for Unilever in her native Kenya, she quit her job and moved to the UK for her MBA.

“I needed a change,” she explains. “Working for a big company teaches you a lot but you can get stuck in a rut. You can live in a bubble. And you can forget your dreams and what life is really about,” she continues. “I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and see what’s out there in the world.”

Tuta will spend several months of next year studying at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, Australia, as part of the Edinburgh MBA’s international exchange program. She wants to gain more global exposure before returning home to make an impact.

“I believe in things that can help people and better society,” she says. “I have seen where governmental support in certain areas is not sufficient. If you can come up with a solution, then you can make money and make a difference at the same time.”

Tuta wants to improve access to healthcare in Kenya and has ambitions to set up a youth center in memory of her late father.

“I would like to have something that would empower youth through education,” she says. “It’s not only about books. In the area I come from, there’s a lot of sporting talent but nobody to produce good sports people. I want a center that hones that talent.”

Both Tuta and Rosalind plan to take advantage of the Edinburgh MBA’s three-month capstone project to develop their business plans. Next semester, they’ll both specialize in entrepreneurship with electives on new venture creation and innovation management.

Tuta has experience as a woman at the higher levels of business at Unilever Tea Kenya. She found it wasn’t easy to hold her own in a male-dominated leadership team. Now, with an MBA on board, she’s joining a trend of female entrepreneurs who’ve decided to go it alone and make an impact.

“There’s more to life than working nine-to-five and getting a paycheck at the end of the month,” she says. “I want to increase access to healthcare and empower children through education. Getting an MBA gives you more confidence to go out there and do it.”