‘It’s great that people are paying attention to gender balance but we’ve a long way to go’
Trinity College Dublin’s MBA applies gender equality at a practical and academic level
TCD says that they are eager to deliver gender parity in the classroom. Photograph: iStock
Trinity College Dublin’s project based MBA is one that promotes diversity and authentic leadership, with two streams running in the school each year; a full-time and an executive MBA.
Amanda Shantz, director of the MBA in TCD says that they are eager to deliver parity in the classroom, which is close to a 50 per cent male to female ratio, as well as a different approach to teaching how to become an effective leader.
She explains the programme, which can be taken in one full-time year or two years, part-time.
“The same modules are taught across both and the experience is the same across both. We have approximately 50 students across each of our cohorts, so we intake 100 students every year. They take 12 modules throughout that time and also do three company projects,” she says.
One of these is a Strategic Company Project, which she says is a surrogate for a dissertation.
“Students go in to a major multinational or top Irish player and they help the company to solve strategic issues. The second project is called the Social Enterprise Project. In this they are assigned to either NGOs or companies with a social purpose. Finally, there is the Scaling Project, where students are assigned to a small organisation that wants to grow or size up,” she says.
There is a strong emphasis on authentic leadership and developing your own sense of style within the programme.
“We have a belief here in Trinity that leadership comes about through practice and also figuring out what type of leader you want to be, in your own context, in your own body and your own environment.
Leadership needs to be something that comes from within and it is bound by a person’s age, experience, nationality and gender. It’s about trying to dig deep, asking who am I as a leader and how am I going to be successful in my own context,” she says.
We can’t be blind to the fact that there are issues out there with regard to work/life practices; they are disadvantaging women
This year, the course has 55 per cent to 45 per cent male to female ratio but it has reached an equal percentage in the past. Benchmark this against other MBAs and it can be seen that Trinity is doing better in terms of balance than the vast majority of other universities.
The course also supports women, in several ways.
“We partner with the 30% Club, and give scholarships to women candidates to come on to the MBA. Within the taught modules, we also talk a lot about diversity and ethics. We have a specific module called Business and Society and within that we talk about how organisations are trying to change the landscape in many industries and how they can go about attracting and retaining women in their companies,” she says.
Gender comes up a lot, she says.
“I teach strategic human resource management on the Executive MBA. We talk a lot about diversity and retention and things that get in the way of women’s success. They’re not things that women put in front of themselves but societal barriers or misconceptions around gender and stereotypes around women and how that gets in the way of women getting the job or promotion that they really want or desire. We talk about that and the research evidence that proves these things are in fact real. We can’t be blind to the fact that there are issues out there with regard to work/life practices; they are disadvantaging women,” she says.
Shantz says people learn through doing and if you are not involved in doing, it’s difficult to understand abstract concepts and theories and how they can be applied and used in real world situations.
This is where the project based MBA makes a real difference.
“In school we learn, in the work place we work and never the two shall meet. In the classroom you learn abstract concepts but at work you do the actual work. The company projects allow students to fuse those two together. It’s incredibly important for helping students to bridge that work and learning divide. It’s also important in terms of leadership and team dynamics, and provides a safe environment for students to reflect on their personal best.”
She says the course allows students to be who they want to be.
You can try out new skills and use it as a fertile ground of experimentation to try out different identities
“Let’s say you’re the type of person who doesn’t speak up very often and are shy in a group setting, you come on the MBA and you’re with complete strangers, you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want. You can try out new skills and use it as a fertile ground of experimentation to try out different identities and then if those work well, you’ll start to adapt those identities to different areas of your life,” she says.
In terms of women succeeding in businesses, she says, there is still “a very long way to go”.
“When I was younger, I thought ‘what is with all this talk about women being discriminated against in work?’ I didn’t see it or feel it. When you get older and have kids and senior positions are coming up, you start to realise, ‘there is something to this. I am not progressing in the same way as my male colleagues, or I might not be evaluated in the same way as my male colleagues’. We know through evidence that in all sorts of professional domains, women are held back for certain reasons. My personal view is that it’s wonderful that people are paying attention to it and talking about it but we’ve a way to go yet.”
Trinity has set about making a world class business school and now ranks in the top two per cent of business schools worldwide. Now amongst the fast growing business schools in Europe, its new facility opens on Thursday, May 23rd.