London’s Cass Business School last year launched an innovative scholarship program aimed at incubating the next generation of female leaders in business.
Funded by a £500,000 partnership with The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Cass Global Women’s Leadership Program Scholarship offers one woman from each of Cass’s MBA programs—full-time MBA, Executive MBA (EMBA), the Modular Executive MBA in London, and the Executive program in Dubai—a 50% discount on their tuition.
The scholarships are open to any woman who desires a leadership role, or who is eager to augment the skills needed to lead in a business environment. Muhtar Kent, chairman of The Coca-Cola Company and a Cass Business School alum, is the initiative’s lead sponsor.
“The scholarship opens up access to a number of students who wouldn’t consider an MBA on financial grounds,” explains Dr. Canan Kocabasoglu-Hillmer, director of the Cass Global Women’s Leadership Program Scholarship.
“It allows our current students and alumni to reach where they want to in their professional careers—it’s our responsibility to help them get there.”
Today, the gender equality conversation is ubiquitously ripe for picking—indeed, ‘feminism’ was dictionary Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017. And this year, the first cohort of scholarship students at Cass have been heavily involved in vetting the program for future success.
They coordinate leadership development events alongside their education, including Rising Women Leadership Development workshops for MBA students, and Women’s Executive Leadership Forums for alumni and corporate partners which span across London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Beijing, and New York, tackling the issue of inequality worldwide.
Renee Kroner, a Cass Global Women's Leadership Program Scholarship winner and current Full-Time MBA student at Cass Business School, thinks that the conversation around women in business is moving in the right direction.
“The women involved in this [the scholarship] want to develop women and inspire them to create this whole system needed for women to succeed,” she says.
That system extends into the extra-curricular activities on offer for the students—Renee participated in a week-long leadership program at Sandhurst military academy in November this year. “We were taught how to personally lead, and how to lead others effectively,” she recalls, “as well as how to follow others.”
The importance of such schemes is made more apparent when Renee requotes the WEF global gender gap index—which, she says, recently stated it will take another 217 years to completely balance the disparity between men and women in the workplace.
That’s why it is vital that this initiative covers every level of MBA education at Cass, she says. To truly accomplish workplace equality there must be female leaders across every level of a company’s payroll who know how to lead diverse teams effectively.
Fellow scholar and member of the Executive MBA cohort at Cass, Kylie Poole, agrees. “At Cass, all the coursework is done in teams, you present as part of a team, and you are taught to be comfortable standing up in front of people,” she says.
Kylie explains how compulsory soft skill and leadership courses are woven into the Cass MBA program—a holistic approach that leaves no leadership stone unturned.
“Setting up this scholarship is so important,” Kylie concludes, “that connectivity and support you get will really help women move forward.”
The issue of female prominence in leadership roles is one at the heart of many modern business debates. There’s still a lack of infrastructure in place to support women pursuing career growth while maintaining a family, supporting elderly relatives, or, in some cases, even keeping interests outside of work.
But thanks to its exponential growth as a business school—the Financial Times ranked Cass’s MBA and EMBA programs globally in the top 40 and 30, respectively in 2017—Cass Business School is able to pursue new ways to nurture the future of business.
“We are at a point where we feel we are doing really well in terms of standing with other schools,” says Canan. “Once you get to the top the next question is how are we making the best of the situation we are in. For me, that’s about how we support our female students.”