6 Mar 2012

The Cass MBA Perspective: Women in business

While it’s true that challenges still exist for women in business, there have never been more opportunities for women to enjoy a successful career. Recognising this fact, Cass is celebrating International Women’s Day with a Women in Business seminar Journey to the Top on 8 March.

At the event, the next generation of talented and ambitious women will be encouraged to make use of the opportunities available to them, including the tried and tested route to business success – an MBA.  

In the recent 2012 Financial Times rankings, the Cass Full-time MBA programme was listed as having the highest percentage of woman on any full-time MBA in the world
and this is partly down to Cass’s ethos of collaboration rather than excessive competitiveness. Cass is a dynamic place to learn – you feel that as soon as you walk in. We attract ambitious and forward thinking women and our teaching is in tune with our position as the intellectual hub of the City – practical, current and industry leading.

In terms of female recruitment, Cass practices what it preaches with the Full-Time MBA Course Director (Sionade Robinson) and MBA Programme Director (Erica Hensens) in post, along with many other female academics and professional staff members like myself.

The Women in Business seminar, part of the ongoing Leadership series, will be held at Cass on 8 March. Join us for an inspiring evening to celebrate the success of today’s Business Leaders, and encourage the next generation of talented and ambitious women to make use of the opportunities available to them.

For more information and to register for the Leadership series, click here

Viola Polakowska
Full-time MBA Advisor

A Special Interest Group with a female focus

During my MBA degree as Cass, I served as the president of Cass Women in Business (WiB); a very active Special Interest Group (SIG) within the Cass community. The reason I joined this group is because I am passionate about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for women in business. In addition, I wanted to contribute to the student life and make a difference.

The group which was formed in 2009, encourages constructive debate between male and female students, as well as leading professionals from a variety of sectors (e.g. investment banking, marketing, consulting, etc), in topics related to women in business. WiB’s mission is to explore the challenges women are facing in the workplace and promote awareness among the future managers, directors, and board members.

Equally important for WiB is to create mentoring and networking opportunities as a way to inspire and support the next generation of high potential women. For this reason, we worked hard to create an effective business leadership network connecting Cass students and the business professionals in the City.

As the president, I was responsible for the communication between the WiB team, the high-profile speakers from the events we hosted and our supporters within Cass. My main concern was to organise impactful events. Part of my job was to select interesting topics and attract inspirational speakers who were willing to share their insights. For those professionals, WiB events offer an opportunity to share their career successes and knowledge with the next generation of managers and directors and also to get exposed to new ideas.

Women in Business is the biggest of the SIGs at Cass but there are plenty of other great and very active groups that offer an exciting environment to share ideas and refine leadership, communication and people skills. As a member of a SIG team, one has opportunities to work alongside students with similar interests as well as industry professionals. This platform is also a great place to put in practice all coursework. For example, tasks like securing sponsorship demand good marketing; clearly communicating what the group represents and what it aims to achieve, and strategy skills; who will be targeted and how the potential sponsor will be approached, etc. Being part of a SIG can help students gain business experience before they sail into the real world. Lastly, being involved with a SIG means you gain access to events organised by SIGs in other business schools, professional networks in the city or companies. Thus, your network expands quickly beyond the Cass community.

Maria Nikolou PhD, MBA.
President of Cass Women in Business (2010 - 2011)

Are women seen but not heard?

I couldn't sleep one night, so I switched on the radio and heard the end of ‘Today in Parliament’ – a review of the matters of interest discussed by MPs on that day [3rd Feb 2012]. I heard female ministers, columnists and commentators discussing if, in the 21st Century the minority group in parliament –women – felt patronised by the media. 

The majority of the debate focussed on how women were more likely to be reported because of their appearance rather than what they had to say. Take for example, the incident of Lisa Nandy. She was in the House in April 2011 to introduce her ten minute rule bill on exports and human rights, a serious subject worthy of report.

The Daily Mail headline the following day was: The Labour MP Showed a Little Too Much of her Front Bench. It went on: “She probably thought that her choice of outfit would capture male MPs attention …….But Labour MP Lisa Nandy's decision to wear a low cut top showing off a little too much cleavage has done rather more than that.”

There was nothing about her Bill or human rights. 

Back to the late-night radio discussion and Janet Street-Porter [Journalist] waded-in to say that women only had themselves to blame: “Intelligent women being photographed… Caroline Flint for example, who can forget that ridiculous outfit she wore … if she wants to be taken seriously... why oh why!!! What we have to ask is; would a man do the same thing?”

Which was jumped-on by the ‘twice married mother of three’ wearing a ‘leather-fronted £485 Dolce & Gabbana skirt and £271 silk blouse by L’Agence [with] heavy dark eye make-up’ (Daily Mail – again!) woman of the moment on this subject Louise Mensch: “Absolutely yes! The PM appeared on the front page of GQ and Tony Blair on the cover of Men’s Vogue.”

This reminded me of several things. One was a talk I attended at Cass when a female board director of a financial services company spoke about what it takes for a woman to get to the top. One of her pieces of advice was about clothes. She pointed to what she was wearing: “My uniform” (of which she said she had half-a-dozen) - a neat, trendy but grey suit, buttoned to the neck. As Ann McElvoy [Columnist and Commentator] said: “It is dreary, but you do have to think about how you present yourself. I would take the PC line about cleavage and just put it away.” Women do have to think about appearance more than men if they want to be heard.

Then there was the conversation I had with a group of women MBA alumni reminiscing. They were enjoying memories of their Colour me Beautiful session which was an option on their MBA programme. The point, they said in response to my curiosity, was confidence. The session had convinced them that when they were comfortable they were looking their best and expressing something of their personality; they could be the best.

Which takes me back to Laura (didn’t catch the rest of her name) and my midnight radio habit, she said: “We are our own worse enemies. We need to be tougher and not get so upset. Men are not so precious about this. It’s like a muscle I think, the more you do it the more it helps.” Psychologically, women generally do feel hurt and remorse more than men.   

So, what does it take for a woman to be heard? You need the confidence to be yourself. No one respects a shrinking violet. But it is tough out there and harder for women. If we are seen to be dressed like floozies we risk having our words trivialised. Our primary and dominant sense as a human being is visual. It is well to remember this if we want to be heard.

Dr Julie Verity

Who says it’s a man’s world?

After graduating in Computer Engineering from Kuwait University, Aysha Al-Shriem, a Qatari national, realised her future lay in Human Resources. Five years on, she is now Head of HR at Standard Chartered Bank in Qatar. Here, she reflects on her own career path, and what it means to be a working mother and a woman in business in the Middle East.

From an early age, I was always encouraged to enjoy learning. In fact, many of my family had studied abroad in places such as Lebanon, America, the UK and Egypt. So it seemed perfectly natural for me to move to Kuwait to study. I had originally planned to pursue a career in IT. But although I enjoyed the course, it became apparent, as I got to know myself better, that I wanted to spend more time with people and less time with machines.

In 2006, I joined the HR department of Qatargas – the world’s largest liquefied natural gas company – where I stayed for three years. As well as learning a great deal about HR and ‘Qatarisation’ (a Government-backed programme to equip Qatari nationals with the right professional skills and experience), I also took on quite a lot of responsibility for the IT in the department. In 2009, I joined the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, and after five months was promoted to HR Manager.

From there I moved to Standard Chartered Bank. That was five months ago, so I’m still finding my feet but greatly enjoying it. I relish being able to engage emotionally with the people around me, which is really what HR is all about. It’s a multi-cultural environment in our office, and if I look around me I can see men and women from Qatar, Europe, Asia and the US.

I have two young children, so like any working mother anywhere, juggling family and my job can be quite challenging – especially as I’m now also studying for an EMBA. This means flying to Cass Business School in Dubai once a month for four days. My Grandmother was right when she said, “You can't have it all at the same time”, but thanks to a supportive husband and family we just about manage.

For women working in Qatar, it typically takes 10-15 years to become a manager – regardless of your skills or experience. That’s because the number of years of experience matters in the business culture of Qatar. But things have changed dramatically in recent decades – particularly the last ten years. His Highness the Amir, and Her Highness Sheikha Moza have done much to champion education and opportunities for all in Qatar. In fact, I’d say Qatar is showing the rest of the Gulf the way forward in this respect.

Of course, there’s always more to be done to change the attitudes of Qatari society towards women in the workplace. You can still feel a cultural awkwardness sometimes, but it’s important you don’t let it affect your ability to do your job.

I was asked recently how I’ve managed to reach my current position after just five years. All I can say is that if you believe in something enough, you’ll find a way. In fact, my advice to all working women ­– whether in Qatar, the other Gulf states, or elsewhere in the world – is just ‘go for it’. Set your sights on something you really enjoy and believe in, and if you’re daring and courageous it’s amazing what you can achieve. And perhaps more importantly, what you can discover about yourself along the way.

Aysha is a first-year student on the Executive MBA programme in Dubai

Full-time FT 2012 rankings fact!

In the 2012 Financial Times rankings, Cass Business School was listed as the top school for female students. 

Join the debate

Do you think more business start-ups founded by men than women and why?

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Breaking the glass silo - does the voluntary sector hold the key to reaching board gender targets?

In response to Lord Davies' 2011 report on the slow rate of progress towards gender diversity in FTSE 100 and 250 boardrooms, Cass Business School, part of City University London, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) are pleased to announce a new initiative.
From April to June 2012 they will be running an invitation only seminar series for outstanding female chief executives from the UK voluntary sector who are open to serving on private sector boards.
In his report Lord Davies argued boards could be strengthened by adding senior women from government, academia, the professions and entrepreneurial backgrounds. The voluntary sector is a vital additional talent pool.
Cass, which has a long history of engagement with the voluntary sector, was eager to highlight the potential of the sector's senior women. These women typically bring a wide breadth of knowledge to the table - charities are leaders in accountability, demonstrating impact, building public trust, motivating staff, stakeholder engagement, and the need to produce high quality results to a strict bottom line. Often they do this in competitive and international environments.
NCVO has pulled together a group of outstanding women chief executives in the sector, and Cass is providing these individuals with a series of top-level seminars on a pro bono basis.
The seminars, led by Cass faculty with direct experience of key PLC issues, cover subjects key to private sector board work which differ in the voluntary sector. These include corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, the latest thinking in commercial strategy and governance (eg the role of the senior independent director).
Candidates were identified and approached by NCVO - one of the sector's leading membership organisations.
The participants are RNIB CEO Lesley-Anne Alexander, Action on Hearing Loss CEO Jackie Ballard, Canal and River Trust Vice Chair and Cass Senior Visiting Fellow Lynne Berry OBE, St John Ambulance CEO Sue Killen, Oxfam GB CEO Dame Barbara Stocking, Action for Children CEO Dame Clare Tickell, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust CEO Julia Unwin CBE.
Sessions will be followed by working dinners where the group will be joined by relevant City invitees. The meals are sponsored by executive search firms, who will be represented, giving the seminar participants opportunities to network with the people who fill private sector board vacancies.
Based in the City of London, Cass combines internationally-recognised strengths in private sector disciplines such as strategy, finance and corporate governance, with one of the largest research centres in Europe into the voluntary sector.
Cass Dean Richard Gillingwater CBE comments: "The UK voluntary sector has a number of exceptional individuals who have proved themselves by leading complex, innovative and performance-oriented organisations delivering in turbulent environments. Some of these organisations operate in the toughest countries overseas; the turnover of some exceeds £100m. These chief executives have learned how to lead thousands of people in highly ethically conscious environments; how to earn and keep the public's trust and manage valuable brands; how to grapple with governments while preserving independence; and - fundamentally - how to thrive in an income-uncertain world while sticking close to purpose.
This initiative could make a real difference to the diversity of experience as well as gender on major FTSE boards within twelve months. Although there are positive examples such as BT's appointment of Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save The Children International, to its main board last year, there is evidence that FTSE 100 boards do not always have a good grasp of how big the challenges of running a large voluntary organisation are."
Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, said "This initiative reflects a broad consensus across the main political parties and many business and investor groups in support of "responsible capitalism". It is an excellent example of how we can practically support talented women with vast experience in the voluntary sector to get significant roles in companies across the UK. We were pleased to be involved in this programme from the very beginning as it addresses two key issues - gender equality across UK PLC and the contribution the voluntary sector can make to the decisions taken by our most successful companies."
Lynne Berry OBE, who is both participating in the series and carrying out a piece of research based on the participants' experiences, says: "Women in the voluntary sector are trying to break through a glass silo rather than a glass ceiling. The women we are talking about are extremely experienced at both executive and non executive level on public and voluntary boards. Between them they have run some of the largest organisations in this country, but the corporate sector has been slow to recognise the relevance of their skills."


Lord Mayor of London addresses Cass Business School’s Dubai Centre

The Right Honourable David Wootton joins students, alumni and faculty members to celebrate Cass’s achievements in the Middle East and North Africa

Dubai, UAE; February 23, 2012: Cass Business School announced today that the Lord Mayor of London, the Right Honourable David Wootton, attended an alumni event to celebrate the school’s achievements in the Middle East and North Africa.  The Lord Mayor of London led a delegation of UK business leaders, in his capacity as Chancellor of City University London, of which Cass Business School is a part. 

The Lord Mayor addressed students, alumni and faculty members as well as senior members of DIFC at an event that took place in the Capital Club, Dubai. The theme of his speech was the important role that education plays in furthering strong bi-lateral ties between the UAE and the UK. The Lord Mayor also took time to interact with attendees about the key issues that currently affect the global financial landscape.

Rt. Hon. David Wootton, the Lord Mayor of London said, “As Lord Chancellor of City University London and its Cass Business School, I am delighted to attend the Cass Alumni reception in Dubai. The popularity of the Cass and City programmes - with over 1800 alumni and students in the Middle East and North Africa - is a testament to the Institution’s excellent reputation.” 

“The Cass Dubai Centre has established itself as a dynamic academic hub at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). We hope the brightest and best young people will continue to apply to the programmes at Cass, both in London and Dubai, in order to help maintain its world leading reputation.”

The Lord Mayor’s reception has become an annual highlight in the Cass Business School Dubai Centre’s calendar. Its state-of-the-art campus was opened in the Dubai International Financial Centre in 2007 and has been home to over 250 executives and professionals studying on Cass’s international acclaimed Executive MBA programme.  Cass’s EMBA programme was the first in the world to offer specialist modules in Islamic Finance and Energy.     

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIFC Authority said, “In this dynamic and fast changing world, professional education and development is more critical and important than it has ever been. With the transformation taking place across our region and indeed across the world, professionals must ensure they have the skills and tools required to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in their respective sectors. There is no template or a textbook to chart the landmark roads to success. There are however tools to use, such as the programme at Cass Business School. We, at DIFC, are proud to be place a premium on professional development”.

Ehsan Razavizadeh, Regional Director of Cass Business School said, “We are delighted to welcome our Chancellor to the UAE. The Lord Mayor’s visit is an excellent opportunity for our ever-growing body of students and alumni to gain valuable insights into the global financial industry. Today, graduates of Cass Business School’s Dubai EMBA programme are employed the world over, but the City of London remains a key destination for many of our alumni.” 

The annually-elected Lord Mayor is the head of the City of London Corporation and acts as ambassador for the UK-financial services industry, typically spending three months a year leading City business delegations overseas and promoting London’s business credentials abroad.  


Cass jumps 142 places in the 2012 Superbrand charts

Cass Business School has risen 142 places in the 2012 Business Superbrands survey, which gives an insight into some of Britain's strongest brands. 

When compared with other business schools, Cass has risen four places to 7th in the UK. Standing at number 242, Cass is the highest climber of all UK business schools.
1,500 brands were shortlisted for the 2012 Business Superbrands and they were scored by an independent and voluntary expert council. The council, which is changed every year, comprised of 24 experts in brand development and identity. The lowest scoring brands are then eliminated and the remaining 500 brands are voted on by over 1,600 business professionals via a YouGov panel. 
The Centre for Brand Analysis (TCBA) researchers compile lists of the UK's leading business-to-business brands, drawing on a wide range of sources, including sector reports to blogs and other publicly available information. This annual survey, now in its 16th year, is independently administered TCBA and organisations can not apply or pay to be considered. 
According to the survey, 'A Superbrand has established the finest reputation in its field. It offers customers significant emotional and/or tangible advantages over its competitors, which customers want and recognise'. 
The top 10 Business Superbrands:
  • Rolls Royce Group
  • Google
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Apple
  • British Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • London Stock Exchange
  • Bosch
  • Visa
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers


Career workshops in Dubai to help EMBAs get ahead

A series of workshops took place at Cass Business School in Dubai for the EMBA students to learn skills for their future careers. The workshops ran throughout February and the topics ranged from job search strategies to networking and negotiating skills. 

The February workshops consisted of:

Job search strategies
This careers planning session was designed to equip students with the tools and techniques to manage their careers for the long-term as well as to increase their success within their current company.

Networking skills

Research shows that networking is the number one route for MBAs to secure a new job. Students learned how to effectively extend and manage their network to help develop their career.

Personal advice sessions

Tailored sessions to cover topics such as CV and cover letter review, job search advice, interview advice or do a mock interview.

Middle East recruitment overview

A representative from a leading Dubai based recruitment firm spoke on topics such as 'the Middle Eastern Recruitment Market' and 'How to work with Recruitment Firms'.

Successful negotiation

Successful negotiation workshops were run as one day sessions.

A selection of feedback from the  individual one to one career coaching sessions which Cass conducted can be found below: 

'very open discussion - good suggestions and advice but more importantly a clear plan with steps to follow up the progress'

'thank you for a very insightful discussion'

'one of the best sessions'
Keep up-to-date with what is going on in your area through Cass Careers Online and ensure you are using the resources available to you.


Cass professor presents to the crème of the Spanish legal industry

On 23 February, Professor Laura Empson, Director of Cass's Centre for Professional Service Firms, spoke to nearly 300 people from Spain's legal industry about her research on leadership and governance in law firms.
At the flagship event she shared the stage with members of the senior management teams of top Spanish law firms Uria Menendez and Cuatrecasas, Gonclaves Pereira, as well as the Dean of the Bar Association of Madrid. The group responded to Laura's research in a panel discussion.
In Spain all lawyers will soon need to study broader business and management subjects as part of their training, alongside their core law modules. This includes leadership and governance. Laura presented findings from two of her major research studies, examining how the partnership form of governance creates distinctive leadership challenges in law firms and how leaders can gain and utilise power in this context. She also analysed what makes a good law firm leader, how the requirements of leadership change as a law firm grows, and how law firm leaders need to adapt their leadership style during an economic crisis.
Organised by the School of Law at the University of Navarra, one of Spain's leading universities, the event was hosted in Madrid, where much of Spain's legal industry is based.
An interview with Laura appeared in Expansion - Spain's leading financial newspaper - to coincide with the conference.

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