Esade has launched the Esade Women Initiative (EWI) and the Esade Alumni Women Empowerment (WE) Club, two initiatives intended to accelerate gender equality in society and business. ‘Universities and business schools have a responsibility to be agents of change and to set an example for society when it comes to gender equality policies’, said Eugenia Bieto, director of EWI, president of the WE Club and former director general of Esade, at the event. According to Bieto, the two initiatives ‘are an important leap forward in that direction’. The event also featured a talk by Isla Ramos, CEO of Save the Children and former executive director of Lenovo. According to Ramos, ‘In recent years, progress has been meagre and very slow in numerical terms. But today no one questions the need for change, and that is a huge advance. We are all convinced; now we need to make it happen.’
EWI: training, research and social debate for equality
Aware of the need to transfer this commitment to gender equality beyond the classroom, Esade has launched the Esade Women Initiative (EWI), which encompasses all of the school’s actions in this sphere and promotes initiatives to foster diversity in research and social debate. EWI aims to make Esade an academic pacesetter in gender equality through specific actions to accelerate progress on equality and diversity in four areas. The first is training, by mainstreaming the gender perspective across all Esade programmes and through specific programmes for women, such as the Promociona [Promote], Progresa [Progress] or Chicas Imparables [Unstoppable Girls] 50&50 GL projects. The second area is research. Esade has 13 lecturers whose research deals primarily or partially with diversity management or women and leadership. Third, through its capacity to generate and contribute to social debate, Esade tackles issues related to women’s access to management positions, gender equality policies and women and entrepreneurship. Finally, the fourth area is the implementation of a diversity policy at the academic institution itself.
Diversity as a source of creativity and innovation at companies
Gender diversity at companies not only reflects a more egalitarian society, it also makes the company more competitive. To achieve it, companies need to have a strong and cohesive organisational culture that makes equality part of their core strategy. In this regard, the WE Club stands ready to play a key role. Alongside the EWI, the new Esade Alumni platform aims to foster connections among professionals interested in creating gender-balanced workplaces, who recognise the complementary nature of talent and who aspire to promote gender equality in business.
As part of the launch event for EWI and the WE Club, Esade organised a panel discussion in which leading experts examined the real impact of equality plans on companies’ competitiveness and underscored the importance of workplace diversity for promoting creativity and innovation. Ricardo Bacchini, HR director and member of the Volkswagen Group Executive Committee agreed that ‘the social narrative has changed’. ‘It is a matter of time before we start to see the consequences of this change’, he added.
According to Magda Malé, head of Strategic Projects and Diversity at Coca-Cola, ‘Progress is slow, but we are advancing.’ She emphasised the Esade initiatives’ potential to ‘help the corporate sector’ achieve change. Alexandra Maratchi, co-founder and CEO of Homuork, argued that today people are more predisposed to change. However, she noted, ‘when it comes time to turn words into actions, I see little movement’. Helena Guardans, president of WebHelp Spain, stressed the importance of education, considering it ‘extremely important in all areas, including business’. However, she also defended the need for quotas in the current context. ‘There need to be quotas to normalise the situation, because good faith alone is not enough’, she said.
The impact of training on women’s careers
Although the percentage of women students at universities is nearly equal to that of men in the western world, their presence at business schools declines insofar as the programmes are aimed at older, more experienced professionals. Aware of this challenge, and in keeping with Esade’s commitment to prepare and train women able to break this trend and build new futures, Esade promotes gender equality in business through training and is committed to ensuring diverse classrooms, including through grants and scholarships for women seeking to boost their professional growth.
This commitment yields results. More and more women are studying programmes such as the Full-Time MBA, the students for which, until recently, were mainly men but this year are 39% women. This record was set in a year in which the Executive MBA also reached, for the second year in a row, 40% female participation, 10% more than the worldwide average. Likewise, more than 50% of Executive Master’s programme students are women.
This article was first published 13 February 2020 by Esade.