It is still a long road ahead when it comes to gender balance in leadership, but more women are recognising the need for higher education to achieve their true potential. Financing an MBA is challenging but women are finding ways such as scholarships to help them fulfil their dreams. Some institutions and individuals are committed to supporting women and have endowed scholarships or created partnerships that avail the means for women to advance in their careers.

At INSEAD, scholarships funds have doubled over the last three years to offer higher grants to more participants. 

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Christina Law, Group President Asia & Latin America at General Mills, recounts a recent experience where she was part of a gathering of CEOs and corporate leaders in Singapore. “Out of the 12 leaders present, I was the only woman,” she says, “I can recall many other similar occasions”.

To fix this, she adds, women must invest in themselves not only by committing themselves to their careers but to higher education as well. To help them, Law has instituted the INSEAD Christina Law MBA ‘91D Endowed Scholarship for Asian Women. “Now that I am in a position to give back and assist aspiring women, it’s my way of celebrating my 25 years of graduating from INSEAD,” she adds.

A perfect example of such commitment would be Yaesong Jung from Korea, who joined the MBA’18J class that started in September. Prior to coming to Singapore to pursue her MBA, Jung was supporting her parents as well as caring for her three-year-old son. “In Asia, women tend to take on multiple social roles, and it was quite tough for me to decide to go for higher studies,” she says, even though she had the full support of her husband and parents. “As I don’t come from a family of means, financing myself for the INSEAD MBA was a major concern.”

While applying for her MBA, Jung decided to try for a scholarship and eventually won the Christina Law endowment, which she says covers a major chunk of her tuition fee. Today, she is part of a 200-strong class in the Singapore campus where over one-third of the candidates are women; a figure that has been climbing steadily in the past few years across INSEAD campuses.

This, says Christina Law, is an encouraging trend.

“The idea is to support high potential women who may have financial difficulties to ensure entry not only into schools like INSEAD (where Law doubles as Board Member), but also competing effectively in the workforce,” she says. 

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At Professional Women’s Network (PWN) Global, Co-President Sonya Richardson, based in Utrecht in the Netherlands, says that “when it comes to women in a corporate environment, their talents are often underutilised and not sufficiently recognised. This results in less equal opportunity, and that, in turn, affects the financial support women are awarded to join executive programmes.” 

To counter this very adversity, PWN Global and INSEAD came together and announced the INSEAD Professional Women’s Network Fellowship in January 2017. It’s a scholarship that’s open to all INSEAD Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) applicants who are association members of the PWN at the time of application, and covers up to a quarter of the tuition fee. Out of over 90 scholarships available at INSEAD, 10 are aimed specifically towards women applicants. The first two PWN Global Fellows have been chosen and Richardson says she looks forward to interacting with them in the coming months.

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Israel-born Carmit Glik is pursuing her GEMBA from INSEAD. She received the INSEAD GEMBA Scholarship for Women as well as a second scholarship from the Danish Maritime Foundation. “It was a tough decision, but I made it and it’s worth it.”

And that’s the advice—mirrored by what Yaesong Jung also feels: “Just be confident and do it!”—she would give to all future women applicants. “You have to calculate the opportunity cost of taking the leap and I would always say that you go for it.” 

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