Women go back to school with eye on top jobs

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Article in full from The Times, April 3rd 2017
By Greig Cameron, Scottish Business Editor

A course designed to help more women achieve senior business roles is to be run again after a successful first year.

The University of Edinburgh last year launched an executive women’s leadership programme. Five of the first intake of 40 students, a mix of women operating in management across different industries, were promoted while on the course. Others have since been handed more responsibility.

Demand this year has outstripped the number of places available with Susan Murphy, one of the driving forces behind the course and chairwoman of leadership development at the university’s business school, keen to keep it to no more than 50 candidates.

She said access to high level business speakers had helped many students and sharpened their perceptions of senior roles.

“It is not necessarily about confidence but it is about what is that job is going to look like and how is it going to impact my life. A lot of us don’t really know what the jobs are like at that level.”

Arlene Cairns, chief financial officer at Alliance Trust Savings, was part of the first group and said the course was much needed in Scotland.

“It was great to have bright, ambitious women from all sorts of different industries who were able to share their experiences,” she said. “It opened my eyes about whether it is always going to be financial services I work in or could I broaden out and do something different.”

Karen Henderson, who works in human resources for Verisk Analytics, said: “The exceptional speakers and faculty members from the business school telling their own professional and personal journeys has not only been inspiring but very relevant to a lot of the daily challenges we face. It focused my mind and gave me practical tools.”

Guest speakers lined up for this year include Ian Marchant, chairman of Wood Group; Baroness Ford, chairwoman of STV; Alison Rose, chief executive for corporate, commercial and private clients at Royal Bank of Scotland; and Birna Einarsdottir, chief executive of the Bank of Iceland.

Judy Wagner, from the headhunter FWB Park Brown, worked alongside Ms Murphy to get the idea off the ground.

She said: “We looked at what was being done at this level and there were only two programmes, at Oxford and Cranfield, but they were quite academic and we thought we needed something much more practical.”

The course has attracted interest from the corporate world with expression of interest about taking the teaching methods into large organisations.

The possibility of launching offshoots to target particular industry sectors, such as technology, is also being considered.

Ms Wagner said this year’s students were being asked to think even more broadly about global trends.

“One thing we are doing this year is to ask people about what is coming and ask what kind of leadership is needed,” she said.

For more information contact Judy Wagner at FWB Park Brown on 0131 539 7087 or judy@fwbparkbrown.com

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