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Sunday, March 10, 2019

CEIBS MBA Students’ Event Explores Future of Female Leadership

March 9, 2019. Shanghai — Undeterred by a light but steady rain that started the day, more than 200 participants turned out for today’s 2019 CEIBS Female Leadership Forum which explored the weighty issue of the future of female leadership. Organized by a handful of determined MBA 2020 students, with support from members of the CEIBS faculty, co-organisers and sponsors, the event featured powerful women and men from across Asia.

The forum explored familiar issues such as how women can be assertive without being perceived as “difficult”, “sensitive” or “emotional”; the disparity in how much women are paid compared to their male counterparts; and overall gender imbalance in the workplace — especially in positions of authority. As CEIBS Professor Emily David noted in her opening remarks, only about 2% of the world’s CEOs are women and, at a mere 6.6%, China has triple the world’s average of females chairing boards. Research has shown, she stressed, that it is vital to have inclusion programmes that ensure women have the leadership skills they need to succeed. “We will see the biggest strides when we all start measuring these efforts and paying attention,” she urged.

The audience received inspiration, throughout the day, from presenters such as keynote speaker Susanna Chiu, the First Woman President of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, who told all the women in the room, “Age doesn’t matter, we are all future leaders!” A recurring theme during the event was for women to get out of their own way. Sharing her own personal story, Veronica Zhou, a CEIBS EMBA graduate and Professional Leadership Development Consultant, told the audience that the fear of not being ready prevents many women from moving forward in their career. “The fear… is limiting. It keeps you from taking the next step,” she explained, while urging men to provide encouragement to women co-workers — as her former boss had done for her.      

During an interactive workshop that got participants on their feet and engaged in lively group discussions right after lunch, Rita Malvone, Principal at Peacock Management Consulting drove home the message that we hold our leaders to very high standards so we should be more generous in how we engage with them. The importance of education was another topic that was also stressed, with CEO of Wall Capital Advisors Adrian Wall speaking of the need to ensure that there are educational opportunities available to both genders plus specific programmes that address areas where women may need a little extra help. In his view, negotiating skills is not one of those areas as both genders are equally bad in this area. “The one difference is that women are less likely to ask, and when they do ask they are less specific about what [they] ask [for],” he said. This is in line with research that has shown that women are less likely to negotiate when being hired, and are less likely to ask for a raise or promotion.   

In addition to MBA 2020 members of the event’s organising team Sissi Chen and Bingzi Li (who also doubled as a very impressive panellist in the Women of STEM discussion) as well as Zhou who was on the HeforShe panel, other CEIBS alumni who participated included Leela Greenberg (MBA 2017) who was also on the STEM panel; along with Yuni He (MBA 2018) and Eric Shao who were on the Women in Entrepreneurship panel. CEIBS Professor Byron Lee also lent his support by moderating the day’s first discussion.

The combination of one keynote speech, three panels and one interactive workshop kept the audience engaged throughout the day. Key takeaways from the event: each of us has the potential to be a leader, each of us has to take that first step toward achieving our goal, and no one is ever completely ready to move forward so don’t let insecurity hold you back. The forum was organized by the CEIBS MBA Women’s Leadership Network and Global Women Connect.

For a complete list of the day’s speakers, events sponsors, partners co-organizers visit the event page at www.ceibsfemaleleadershipforum.com 

Charmaine N. Clarke