Powering businesses with gender parity

If we want to achieve gender equality, efforts need to go beyond improving the “statistics.” While there is still much room for progress, ESMT Berlin has played a very significant role not only in achieving gender parity but, through the Equal4Europe program, they have also been successful in advancing women’s access to basic rights of safety and privacy, and enabling positive change in women’s lived realities.

In short

Women are no longer the minority

The ongoing debate relating to gender equality and the fight for women’s rights has yielded results. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, the number of women in senior and leadership roles has steadily increased over the past five years. This year, global gender parity has reached 42.7% – the highest gender parity score yet. Similar figures are seen at ESMT Berlin in their full-time MBA program. The MBA Class of 2022 has a gender parity of 48% women and 52% men. 

As Rebecca Loades, Director of MBA Programs at ESMT Berlin, says, “It’s fantastic that this year, we have finally managed to welcome a class which is 48% women and 52% men – tantalizingly close to the idea of gender parity. It is a huge jump from previous years. I think we have been exceptionally fortunate as typically industry standards are like 39% women on average. So, this is a fantastic achievement.”(00:20)

Gender parity is the first step toward gender equality

No society can truly be free until every individual is granted the same rights, the same freedoms, and equal opportunities. Although ESMT Berlin has achieved gender parity, they are also working on the Equal4Europe project to attain gender equality. Going beyond the statistics of gender parity, ESMT is working on its goals to close the gender pay gap and to end violence against women through this project. 

Amelie Eckersley, Gender Equality Officer at ESMT Berlin, explains, “The Equal4Europe project is a consortium of six universities. All these institutions have a focus on arts, humanities, medicine, social sciences, business, and law. The aim of this project is to create a gender equality platform at each university that’s tailored to their institution. The idea is to remove barriers to recruitment, retention, and career progression of female researchers, to address gender imbalance in decision-making processes, and to integrate the gender dimension in research and innovation content.” (01:16)

Paving the way for an egalitarian society

In a society where gender inequality exists, it is generally the women who are in a disadvantageous position in terms of decision-making, as well as in their access to economic or social resources. It is probably for this reason that whenever we talk about gender equality, we think of empowering women, and thus our main focus is on redressing the power imbalances. In our attempt to achieve gender equality, we must give more autonomy to women – but this doesn’t necessarily mean that men become less powerful than women. 

The idea of more autonomy for women means that men and women should not be dependent on each other. Gender equality is indeed a matter of social justice and once achieved, it could bring sustainable peace and security to the world. On why grad schools like ESMT Berlin care so much about gender parity, Amelie adds, “It is because we educate leaders of tomorrow. [Many] students who come here either are successful business people or will become successful business people. The idea is that they will care about gender equality and will understand more about gender equality from now [on]. They will take it into their future lives and whoever they work with. Hopefully, they will integrate that into their businesses and this will continue to shape society and will create a world of more social justice.” (02:08)

Women should invest in themselves today in order to be the leaders of tomorrow

According to UNICEF, we see gender parity in primary and secondary school enrollment – 90% male and 89% female globally. As a matter of fact, two-thirds of all countries have reached gender parity in primary school enrollment. This gender parity at primary-level education helps to achieve the same parity in graduate studies as well. Schools like ESMT Berlin recognize this as a strength. According to Rebecca, more and more women are investing in themselves, fighting social bias, and working towards proving that they don’t lack self-confidence. Rebecca thinks this is the first step towards achieving gender parity. She says, “Over the past five [to] ten years, I think we are seeing some fundamental shifts. Women are developing themselves professionally in order to have bigger dreams potentially to push themselves to explore new opportunities”. (02:53) 

This trend is encouraging across the board. However, according to Amelie, “Gender equality is not just [having] women in leadership positions. It’s also a world in which women at every level have equality.” (05:03)

At ESMT Berlin, graduates are taught how to overcome gender biases and how to strengthen the leadership qualities that lie latent in every woman. In order to achieve this gender equality, it is important that women in every sphere not only help others but also help themselves and invest in themselves. 

With a lot of optimism, Rebecca explains, “Women have way more opportunities available to them. Companies want to [hire] them as they recognize the value [of women] and we are here to help those who [do] to invest and accelerate their careers and become the future leaders of tomorrow and join the ranks which are becoming more equal – of course, I am going to say, not equal enough. I’d love to see gender parity everywhere. Unfortunately, we are not there, so we need to make sure that we are helping to push women forward so that we can achieve that.” (04:04)

It is not just about making some noise; it is about taking real action

A lot has been accomplished in recent history on the path to attaining gender equality, though we still have a long way to go to ensure equal endowments for women, equal participation for women, and to give women a voice. According to the Gender Equality Index 2022, it will take another 132 years to bridge the global gender gap. The gender gap varies from country to country and takes different forms – political violence, unequal distribution of wealth, and unequal opportunities in work – but we have to start somewhere. 

Amelie talks very positively about the changes the Equal4Europe project has been able to implement. “The results speak for themselves,” she shares. “We have worked alongside lots of departments within the school to make changes. We work with facility management to create gender-inclusive bathrooms at the school and to start [putting] period products in all toilets. We have worked with HR to work on making work-life balance policies more accessible and visible.” (06:28)

One woman has the power - and together we can make an impact

In recent years, we have seen that more and more women are applying for business education, narrowing the gender gap. While we know that there are many grad schools that have tailored made their programs in order to reach gender parity, ESMT Berlin says that they “haven’t made women the focus of their strategic campaign.” Rather, they would like to believe that women intrinsically are pushing themselves and investing in themselves. 

As the top business school in Germany, ESMT strives to instill courage and motivation to inspire these women who want to see themselves as future leaders. Having said that, any initiative in boosting this awareness among women is a step toward achieving gender parity.  Shruti Jahagirdar, a full-time MBA student at ESMT Berlin speaks highly about ESMT’s attempt to pave the path for future women leaders. With a background in petroleum engineering and a job in the oil and gas industry, she already has broken many stereotypes and feels special to be in a class with 50% women. She adds, “There’s one more unique thing. A lot of us women are also well above our 30s.” (11:54)

Strengthen yourself to strengthen others

Nowadays, women around the world are brave enough to build on their innate power and femininity. There have been many such examples of women climbing the ladder and addressing gender (equality) issues. This is only possible when one woman who has seen herself beyond the glass ceiling helps the other woman reach the top. As Shruti emphatically says, “Be available [for others] and be heard on social media. I am very open about my opinion on equality and social justice.” (13:48)

If a woman stands up for herself, invests in herself, and can bring change and inspire others by being a source of inspiration herself, hopefully we will not have to wait for another 132 years. As a matter of fact, it is not about women alone. Men, too, can work together to stop gender disparity. That’s the world where we all would want to live – as equal individuals. That’s why prospective students should join MBA programs at grad schools like ESMT Berlin which motivates, instills courage and confidence, and works towards a society where men and women enjoy equal opportunities and equal rights. Achieving gender parity is not about giving women their fair rights, it is about creating a society where social justice prevails.

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