Research from Bain/LinkedIn indicates that women enter the workforce with less confidence and lower aspirations for top management than men and the gap persists as they reach mid-career. At the same time, unconscious bias and workplace dynamics continue to make a woman’s path to leadership more challenging. The result is less women in the talent pipeline advancing into senior leadership. According to McKinsey/LeanIn, women held only 19% of C-suite roles in 2016.
As part of a best-in-class business education, how can we empower young women with strategies for self-advocacy and leadership advancement before they enter the workforce? How can we prepare them be more successful, satisfied, and confident to continue on the path to leadership?
The Women’s Leadership Program was developed to empower young women to lead. Each year, 45 women are selected to participate based on strong leadership potential demonstrated during high school. The four-year program, which includes a yearly financial award, fosters confidence by enhancing leadership competencies and building an understanding of gender equity.
The students participate in co-curricular, workplace and academic learning:
• Skills workshops focused on communications skills and inclusive leadership.
• Interactive discussions exploring critical gender diversity issues and strategies for self-advocacy.
• Strengths-based assessment to identify unique strengths as a leader and team player.
• Real-world perspectives through meetings with corporate mentors and visits to progressive companies implementing diversity initiatives.
• Related elective courses.
Upon completion of the program, the students have developed the essential skills, strategies and confidence needed to persist and advance in the workplace. Details of the program are available at www.bentley.edu/cwbleaders
The first cohort of students will start the program in fall 2017 and graduate in 2021. They will be empowered with an understanding of how to leverage their strengths and knowledge to move into leadership and, as leaders, how to create and value inclusive environments.
For over 100 years, Bentley University has been an institution dedicated to preparing the leaders of tomorrow. On our campus, two crucial elements of that preparation are: (1) creating a community of individuals with many diverse identities, and (2) sustaining an atmosphere of inclusion on campus, where everyone feels they belong and their unique identities are celebrated. Since joining the university as its eighth president, I’ve been proud to see the many ways differences are not only supported, but celebrated throughout our community. The recognition that every individual holds a unique perspective on the world is a foundational assumption of many academic disciplines and helps each of us to embrace new ideas. At Bentley, we have a longstanding tradition of embracing difference, and we are always looking at how we can encourage one another to improve. I’m proud of the work of our community and am thankful that Bentley is a place of both acceptance of diverse identities and advocacy for those who are often excluded.