Men-ority report: INSEAD’s Women in Business Conference
INSEAD is a place packed with opportunities to learn. Every week, there are presentations, panels and workshops organised by the different Clubs and the Career Development Center. You can immerse yourself in different topics and industries, gaining insight and experience that will shape you personally and professionally. Here’s the catch… there’s a limited amount of time you have available to allocate, so you must choose how to spend it wisely.
On Wednesday 14th November, after a day full of classes, a team meeting and some career development work, I attended INSEAD’s third Women in Business Conference. This was an event I was looking forward to and I had booked my early bird ticket already a month in advance. In my past job, I was part of the committee looking at diversity and gender practices at the company. This work taught me a lot but also highlighted how much I must learn about the subject and, most importantly, how best to apply those lessons practically.
The conference was organised by the Women in Business Club, one of the most active clubs on campus that invites female as well as male students to participate. Right from the start of the event, I was surprised by the lack of male attendance. At the workshop on unconscious bias, we had to form mixed groups and the women to men ratio was around 9:1. A more balanced audience would have helped the discussion and exercises, and added to the benefits on awareness.
All speakers did an amazing job at presenting and sharing their stories.
My three main takeaways from the conference were the following:
- Unconscious bias, everyone has it. The sooner we acknowledge it, the faster we can start working on it
Workshop: Creating an inclusive Workplace (Unconscious Bias Training) by Helen Duce, INSEAD.
- Whatever your position or situation is, don’t limit yourself! Believe you can make things happen
Panel: What is Limitless (theme of the conference) to you? by Sapna Chadha, Google.
- Leaders start with a purpose, not a plan
Presentation: She Suite, My journey to CFO by Chng Sok Hui, DBS.
You know you’ve learned something at an event, when after it has finished, and you are walking back home, you are still thinking about the concepts shared and new questions jump around in your head.
The conference gave me plenty of food for thought and got me wondering about the experience of gender balance at INSEAD so far and what can we do as future business leaders.
At INSEAD, in terms of MBA students, only one third are female. In terms of professors, in our first two periods, we unfortunately did not encounter any female members of the faculty in our classrooms. And, most of the business cases we face daily are about male business leaders.
These realities have been noted by the students and have been acknowledged by the school, which is working on improving the stats. There is no quick and easy fix, and although INSEAD is devoting serious resources on its gender initiatives, it will take some time to achieve this.
This kind of event makes me feel grateful for the learning opportunities granted to widen my horizons and are a perfect example of bringing to life INSEAD’s business as a force for good value.
As future business leaders and global citizens, we need to be aware that this issue has implications for men as much as for women and any team, company or industry can benefit greatly from diversity and gender balance. The sooner we address our unconscious biases and commit to gender balance initiatives, the better. So, what can we do?
One simple but useful tip shared by Helen Duce on unconscious bias, is to have the courage to raise the topic and talk about it. In most cases, people don’t even realise that what they’re doing is wrong. For my part, only a week has gone by and I have already discussed the issue with my MBA team, my friends over dinner and my parents and sister over the phone. And now with all of you reading.
Conference pictures courtesy of: Women in Business Club: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qflqfrhh3jquz5f/AADU59zlMNVx6bylkkDR23ita?dl=0