The mission of the Wo+Men's Leadership Initiave (WLI) is to serve as a platform in forging and leading collaborations with different stakeholders (e.g. academic, corporate, professional, not-for-profit and government) and work collectively to learn from each other and make the changes needed to foster a gender-balanced workforce globally.
The WLI contributes to this mission through:
rigorous, cutting-edge and high-impact (or impactful) research on gender issues in business
innovative programmes and workshops on gender and leadership
collaborative partnerships with corporate, policy and professional organisations to remove barriers to gender-balanced workforce.
Why did we establish WLI?
Whereas women have made great strides in business careers, their rise up the corporate ladder is still not easy with the average percentage of women in executive positions on FTSE 250 companies at only 4.6 per cent (Davies report, 2016) and the average global percentage of female founders of start-ups at 18 per cent (Compass, 2015). The recent report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (2016) stressed that addressing this gender imbalance "requires local and global action by all parts of society often working in partnerships to achieve scalable and sustainable impact". We established the Wo+Men's Leadership Initiative as a way to forge and lead these collaborations and work collectively to learn from each other and make the changes needed to foster a gender-balanced workforce globally.
How is WLI unique?
The Wo+men's Leadership Initiative at Cambridge Judge is unique in three ways.
Bottom-up platform: WLI is a bottom-up platform that encourages everyone - men and women, students, faculty and staff and external constituents - to use this platform to do something that they really believe in and that they think is important to foster gender balance, equal opportunities and women’s empowerment in business. Two MBA students, Siobhan Sweeney and Rena Zuabi, were central in founding this initiative and our students, faculty and staff have since been core partners in expanding this initiative. Corporations and not-for-profit organisations have also become important partners. This inclusive bottom-up platform is really the cornerstone of the WLI.
Multi-faceted approach: WLI is multi-faceted and spans cutting-edge research on gender issues in business, innovative gender-focused programmes and a gender-inclusive internal culture at Cambridge Judge. Our faculty have conducted ground-breaking research on a range of important topics including women in boards and executive positions, women leaders in small and medium-sized enterprises and social issues facing women globally such as child marriage in Indonesia and gender equality paradox in professional sports. We have launched innovative new programmes aimed at improving the pipeline of female leaders such as the Cambridge Rising Women Leaders Programme. We have also taken efforts to improve our own culture by launching the Athena-Swan initiative for the first time in 2016.
Making the numbers count: right from the start we were very clear that we are not just about counting numbers, but making a meaningful difference in gender equality and women’s empowerment globally. We have collaborated both internally with students, faculty and staff as well as externally with our corporate, policy and not-for-profit partners to promote mentoring, strength-building workshops to strengthen the pipeline of high-potential women aspiring and reaching leadership positions. This developmental and nurturing focus has been a very important part of the WLI at Cambridge Judge.
How can you join us to make a change?
To enrich and grow the WLI, it is really important for us is to work collectively with everyone internally and externally to overcome the challenges in building a gender-balanced workforce. So we would like to invite everyone to a part of this exciting initiative, whether you are a student, an alumni, a faculty or staff member at Cambridge Judge Business School, the University of Cambridge or outside. We welcome everyone to participate in this and share your thoughts with us or just help us launch more activities, and do more to achieve a gender-balanced workforce and society. So get involved now! If you would like to join the WLI or become involved as a partner, please contact us.
Sinyi Professor of Chinese Management Director, Wo+men's Leadership Initiative