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Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme


Whereas women have made great strides in corporate careers, their rise up the corporate ladder is still not easy. Apart from more systemic factors such as real or perceived glass ceilings, unconscious biases and leaky pipelines that women need to overcome to reach the top successfully, women also often lack the belief or confidence that they can reach the top. Although most organisations have put initiatives in place to help women leaders succeed and grow, progress in real numbers and cases is still slow with the average percentage of women on the boards of the 1,000 largest global companies' boards in 2014 stands at only 16.8 percent. The percentage of women in executive positions was even lower globally, at only 11.7 per cent.

However, the future outlook is promising with projected females rising to executive positions globally set to rise significantly (36 per cent) in the next decade. Programmes are being put into place to subsequently help women grow through the career ranks. To seize these opportunities, women need to proactively prepare themselves for the opportunities and challenges of executive positions through building confidence and personal power and leadership skills as part of clearly planned long-term career strategies.

This unique two-day open enrolment programme has been designed specifically for high potential women in junior and mid-level managerial positions aspiring to reach the top, or senior positions, within their organisations. It offers the opportunity for them to convene in Cambridge for the start of a learning journey which will enable them to formulate their individual strategies, interact with senior Cambridge Faculty, exchange and debate with their peers, and hear personal leadership stories from a distinguished panel of guest speakers who are top executives in leading corporate and public sector organisations. The programme content is evidence-based and has evolved from senior Cambridge faculty who have been conducting award-winning and highly impactful research in the area of women in business as well as seasoned business executives who contribute with a wealth of experience in the area of women leadership and advancement. The programme bridges and balances this evidence-based approach with best practice lessons from professionals who are present during the programme and able to discuss and debate with participants.

The programme will take place in a historic Cambridge college; there will be a prestigious dinner at the end of the first day with a distinguished guest speaker. Cambridge is a conducive place for learning, and the participants will be able to immerse themselves in this unique city, where the walls breathe knowledge, with no distractions.

the four pillars of leadership: self-awareness, strength building, shared experiences and continued learning

Four core themes - or 'pillars' - form the basis of the programme:


This is the foundational part of the programme, where participants will spend time working on and analysing their own psychometric profiling, on their personality and leadership style, as well as self-efficacy.

They will leave the programme with a clear plan of how to further build and enhance their leadership style.

Strengths building

Participants will work through negotiation skills and techniques for improving communication. More specifically, sessions will include topics such as female leadership, confidence-building/executive-centred skill building, as well as how to build and grow high-performing teams. 

Participants will leave the programme with greater self-confidence and effective techniques for continued success in this area.

Shared experiences – 'words of wisdom'

The group will have the unique opportunity to listen to, debate and exchange views with some of today's most successful leaders - in the corporate world as well as from a range of exciting sectors. The stories emerging from these unique individuals would not be ones usually released - this would take place in an intimate, confidential setting. In addition, participants will be able to engage in personal conversations during reception and dinner with the distinguished panel members as well as each other.

Continued learning

Upon completion of the programme, participants will automatically become members of Cambridge Judge Business School's Women's Leadership Initiative, founded in 2015. This serves as a platform to enable women's' empowerment and leadership in the business world globally. Participants will be connected to other members in this wider group, and be invited to events associated with this. Their leadership journey will continue beyond the two-day programme.


Some of the topics covered on the programme (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Executive coaching and career strategies 
  • Female leadership advantage 
  • Negotiation skills 
  • Building, working with and growing high-performing teams 
  • Strategies for career success, discussed with a distinguished panel

Programme information subject to change.


  • A clear action plan for career advancement in rising to senior leadership roles
  • Reflective learning through discussions and debates about how to address the real challenges faced by participants in their current roles
  • Close and informal conversations with senior executives about their journey to the top and their advice on how to tackle the challenges participants face in their career advancement
  • A strong supportive network of peers who will remain on the learning journey beyond the programme
  • Historic Cambridge college dinner at the end of the first day, with a distinguished speaker
  • Membership of Cambridge Judge Business School's Women's Leadership Initiative that includes:

    • Invitation to yearly networking events and skill-building workshops such as the Women's Leadership Conference
    • Regular updates and sharing of cutting-edge research articles by CJBS faculty.
    • Platforms and forums for knowledge and job sharing with the women's leadership participant community

This programme counts as one course for those completing the Cambridge Judge Business School General Management Certificate of Achievement. On completing the GMCA you will be eligible to become an associate member of Cambridge Judge Business School's global network of graduates and business-focused University of Cambridge alumni, faculty and staff.

Who should attend

This programme is designed for women who are intent on growing their professional capabilities within their organisations, and also their personal capabilities beyond corporate life. We are expecting a truly global audience, with high potential women around the world convening in Cambridge.

Participants should be in the early to middle phases of their careers in management roles, with around three to 10 years' experience  in an entry to middle-management role.

The programme takes an uplifting approach to the opportunities which are there to be seized for women.

Faculty & speakers

Academic Programme Director

Sucheta Nadkarni

Sucheta Nadkarni

Sucheta Nadkarni is the Sinyi Chaired Professor of Chinese Management and Head of the Strategy & International Business group at Cambridge Judge Business School. Professor Nadkarni is also a Professorial Fellow at Newnham College. 

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Sucheta is also the faculty lead of the Women's Leadership Initiative at Cambridge Judge. She served as the associate editor of the Journal of Management (2011-2016) and is the incoming associate editor of the Academy of Management Journal (2016-2019). She sits on the editorial of four other leading academic journals.

Her primary research interests include strategic leadership with a special focus on female rise to corporate boards and to executive leadership positions. She has published extensively in leading academic journals in management. Her research on female rise to boardrooms has been featured in global media outlets including New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Reuters, Economic Times, Times of India, Herald Tribune, Borsen, O Globo, The Times (Kuwait), Business Standard and Folha De Sao Paulo. Her recent research on "The rise of women in society: enablers and inhibitors, a global study" won the Highly Commended Award for "Thought Leadership" at the Investment Week Marketing & Innovation Awards, 2015 and was cited in the 2016 Lord Davies Women on Boards report commissioned by the UK government. She has worked on research projects and grants with companies such as Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Newton Asset Management and BNY Mellon and the 30% Club. She worked closely with two MBA students (Rena Zuabi and Siobhan Sweeney) to initiate the 30% Club Scholarships at CJBS.

Watch an interview with Sucheta at the distinguished panel at the Women Changing Europe Symposium organised by Columbia University, Barnard College.


Smaranda Gosa-Mensing

Smaranda Gosa-Mensing

Smaranda is the European Head of Talent for McKinsey's New Ventures, based in London.

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For more than 15 years, she has been advising and coaching senior professionals with a combination of deep psychological understanding as well as business and consulting experience. She is a caring and passionate driver of initiatives and programs to help advance women leaders. 

Smaranda is a psychologist and holds an Executive Masters in Coaching and Consulting for Change from INSEAD. Before joining McKinsey, Smaranda worked in consumer/retail and as a specialised consultant for change management and coaching, advising senior executives on leadership issues. As much as she cares about women leadership, she is also a passionate mother of three and enjoys spending her free time with her two-year-old son and her twin baby daughters.

Cath Bishop

Cath Bishop

As Chair of Cambridge University's Women's Boat Club, Cath enthuses students to wave their training oars defiantly in the face of a challenge. Fluent in five languages, few people are as well-equipped to inspire others all over the world and influence them to pursue higher goals.

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Cath has a BA in modern languages from Pembroke College, Cambridge, a masters in international politics from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and a PhD in contemporary German literature from the University of Reading. Cath won medals at the World Championships twice, a silver in 1998 in the women's pair with Dot Blackie, and gold in 2003, again in the pair, with Katherine Grainger. She won silver in the 2004 Olympic Games in the women's pair with Grainger. In 1999 she was the World Indoor Rowing Champion. From 2001 through 2014 Bishop forged a career with the Foreign Office, for whom she worked in London; Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Basra Iraq. Her roles included: Politica, Projects and Press Officer at British Embassy, Sarajevo, from 2004; Political Adviser to the High Representative to Bosnia & Herzegovina from 2006; Head of the Political Section at the British Consulate in Basra from 2007; and Deputy Director of the Stabilisation Unit in London from 2009-2011.

Cath Bishop is a versatile speaker with key lessons for companies floundering in the rocky waters of business. Sharing practical strategies to help teams make a splash with exceptional results, Cath relays the need for clarity and honesty to achieve success. Delivering outstanding performance under extreme circumstances is Cath's lifeblood - both from her gruelling Olympic training regime and through her struggle for survival as she sheltered from shelling on her diplomatic mission to Basra.

Cath returned from two Olympic games without a medal and decided that, after rigorous physical and psychological training, she had to unlock the secret to her non-success. In her search for new tactics, she ultimately adopted the well-documented 'marginal gains' attitude that saw her sail smoothly onto the podium. No stranger to tough situations, the decade Cath spent as a British diplomat in Bosnia and Iraq has equipped her with the highest level of strategy-building, resilience, and a determination to do her job in the face of danger and adversity. Both rowing and international diplomacy are effective analogies for interdependency and collaboration in business. In a unique amalgamation of her diverse experiences, Cath deftly relates genuine insights into setbacks and how to respond to them.

Michael Cole-Fontayn

Michael Cole-Fontayn

Michael Cole-Fontayn, Executive Vice President of BNY Mellon, is Chairman of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Michael is a Member of the Corporate Executive and Operating Committees.

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As Chairman of EMEA, Michael is responsible for governance culture and leads regional strategy development, execution and the delivery of enterprise initiatives in the region. BNY Mellon is an investments company focused on investment management and investment services. BNY Mellon employs more than 9,000 people in EMEA.

Michael has been with the Bank since 1984 starting as a Credit and Risk Analyst. He attended the BNY Mellon New York training programme from 1985 to 1986. Michael worked on and took responsibility for a variety of special industry banking groups between 1986 and 1992. Michael joined the DR Division in 1992, and has worked on many DR equity capital raising transactions, including numerous privatizations and equity offerings around the world. Michael has previously served as CEO of Depositary Receipts and ran The Bank of New York Mellon's Issuer Services Group in Hong Kong for seven years from 1993-2000.

Previously chair of The EMEA Issuer and Treasury Services Committee, he is currently chair of the European Executive Management Committee and the BNYM Charity/Community Affairs Programme.

A graduate of Westminster University (PCL), Michael received a BA (Hons.) in Business Management. He is a board member of the Association of Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), and is a member of the Advisory Boards of TheCityUK and British American Business and attends the All Party Parliamentary Corporate Governance Group.


Gillian Beasley

Gillian is the Chief Executive at Peterborough and Cambridgeshire County Council and is the principal policy adviser to the 69 County Councillors and the statutory Head of Paid Service.

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She is accountable for the Council's half a billion pound budget as well as the work of around 10,000 employees across the Council and Cambridgeshire schools who deliver a wide range of services to the community.

Gillian is a solicitor by profession and quickly moved from the private to the public sector after qualifying in 1983 and beginning her career in local government as a trainee lawyer with Leeds City Council. It is for services to local government that Gillian was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours, 2008.

Dame Sandra Dawson

Dame Sandra Dawson

Dame Sandra is KPMG Professor Emeritus at Cambridge Judge Business School. She was Director of the School from 1995 to 2006, Master of Sidney Sussex College from 1999-2009 and one of the Deputy Vice Chancellors of the University 2008-2012. She writes and consults on organisational behaviour, leadership and innovation.

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In 2004 Dame Sandra was invested as a Dame Commander of the British Empire as part of the UK national honours system in recognition of her contribution to higher education and management research. In 2006 she was inducted into the International Women's Forum's International Hall of Fame in recognition of her achievements in business education and leadership development including being an outstanding role model for women who aspire to lead in the commercial, educational and not-for-profit sectors.

Dame Sandra has wide experience in the commercial, public and charitable sectors, both in leading executive development and through serving on Boards. She is a Non-Executive Director of DRS (Data Research Services), TSB bank and Winton Capital Management and a Trustee and Non-Executive Director of the Institute of Government, the Social Science Research Council in the USA and the American University of Sharjah. She is a member of the UK India Round Table and has previously been a member of the Prime Minister's Council on Science and Technology, an ICAEW Regulatory Governance review and an Advisory Board for the Aga Khan University on building a business School to meet the needs of emerging economies. Previously she has been Chairman of Riverside Mental Health NHS Trust; Vice Chair of Oxfam and served as a Non-Executive Director of Barclays plc, JPMorgan Claverhouse Investment Trust, the Financial Services Authority, the Public Health Laboratory Service and Cambridge Econometrics and a member of the UK's Senior Salaries Review Body and the DTI Task Force 'Accounting for People'.

Watch an interview with Dame Sandra on the importance of celebrating women across the world.

The top five lessons from female leaders

Women in leadership: let’s focus on how women succeed, not on why they fail. Why do women ‘fail’ to make it to …

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Are you a female millennial with ambition? Start planning for the top job now.

A lot has been written about women on boards, with many seeing them as a reflection of the wider role of women …

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Reuters Breakingviews: Boardroom gender quotas have hidden value

Term limits for directors and gender diversity rules in corporate governance codes help improve female representation in top executive roles, but quotas …

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City AM: International Women’s Day 2016: Sorry, but quotas aren’t the way to get more women into executive roles

Term limits for directors and gender diversity rules in corporate governance codes help improve female representation in top executive roles, but quotas …

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The Huffington Post: Paid maternity leave could be the key to making more women leaders

“Getting women on the board is very different from keeping them there,” said Sucheta Nadkarni, presenting a new research on women in …

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Forbes: Quotas aren’t a great way to get more women on boards, new study says

Are quotas a good way to boost those numbers, asks Susan Adams in Forbes. A new study commissioned by BNY Mellon and …

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The Guardian: Greater economic and political power gives women more seats in boardroom

A new research found that powers outside the boardroom are more important for gender equality in business than quotas. The study, led …

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The New York Times: Quotas not the best way to add and retain women for corporate boards, study finds

Empowering all women in society helps women reach and stay on corporate boards, says study headed by Professor Sucheta Nadkarni of Cambridge …

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Dates & fees

Dates Duration Fees *
22-23 March 2018 2 days £2,300 + VAT

VAT is charged at the prevailing rate, which is 20%; e.g. £2,300 + 20% = £2,760.

* Fees (which are exclusive of VAT and accommodation) include instruction, materials, lunch, breaks and a college dinner. Preferential rates may be available for groups, University of Cambridge alumni and members of the School's Alumni Association. Please note prices pre-registration are subject to change.

For information regarding payment terms, cancellation rights, transfer policies and fees, please see our terms & conditions documents:

Terms & Conditions for Self-funded Applicants (pdf, 226KB) (updated 27 October 2015)
Terms & Conditions for Organisation-funded Applicants (pdf, 243KB) (updated 27 October 2015)

Registration closes at midday two working days before the programme start date.

Participants are expected to attend the full programme.

Please note that this programme used to be named Cambridge Aspiring Women Leaders, and some materials may refer to it as such.

Version 3.3 (31 October 2016)


You can register for this programme via our online system. Please note the registration form will open in a new tab/window.

When you register for this programme, please let us know if your organisation is paying for your placement or if you are applying as an individual.


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