At the Women in Leadership Dialogue in April 2022, students, alumni and female leaders from the MBS network came together to discuss the barriers women face in their careers before focusing their attention on developing their success factors.
Bringing (future) female leaders together in a strong network of students, teaching staff, professionals, alumni, businesses and organizations, thereby helping them to achieve their professional aspirations – that’s the aim behind the Munich Business School’s Women in Leadership initiative. In early April, we finally had the opportunity to meet up and network again in person. Prof. Dr. Patricia Kraft and MBS Chancellor Dr. Christine Menges, the initiators of this valuable initiative, welcomed a crowd of inquisitive MBS students to the Women in Leadership Dialogue, hosted in the MBS Lounge.
The first session at the Women in Leadership Dialogue was a panel discussion on success factors for women in the working world, as well as the hurdles they face as they climb the career ladder. MBS alumna Giulia De Anna and her former professors, Dr. Patricia Kraft and Dr. Ellen Schmid, gave an insight into their study, International Female Leaders and Their Way to the Top. In the course of her final thesis in her MBA in General Management, Giulia De Anna surveyed female leaders from upper and top-level management in various sectors and countries, asking them about the factors that had helped and hampered them in their careers. She clustered their answers together in different categories – and the results were startling. An overwhelming number of the hurdles highlighted in the survey can be traced back to organizational and societal circumstances. However, the exact opposite was true for success factors. Many of them are not organizational or societal in nature; instead, they are based on an individual’s character and interpersonal relationships. These factors include self-confidence, mentoring and the existence of networks. Although it is obviously disappointing that structural factors like prejudice continue to stand in the way of women’s careers, the researchers are not disheartened by the results of the study – quite the opposite, in fact. While it takes much longer to effect organizational and societal change, they highlighted that women can still work on specific aspects of themselves and develop interpersonal relationships – and thus leverage these success factors to climb to the top.
During the panel discussion, Anna Kopp, Head of IT and Regional Office Lead Munich HQ at Microsoft and a participant in the study, provided insights into her career path and shared a number of useful tips with the MBS students. These included:
- Be authentic and build your personal brand!
- You are not alone: seize the benefits of working with your peers, your network and mentors.
- Keep your eyes open: you can find role models everywhere!
- Stop being a perfect employee – and show that you are an effective leader.
- Develop your own principles and follow them.
- Learn to say “no” and take care of yourself. If you are the best version of yourself, that will ultimately benefit your employer, too.
- Don’t apologize unnecessarily for minuscule, everyday things!
Following this discussion, the Women in Leadership Dialogue then moved onto its second session. MBS students had the choice between three different workshops, each giving them the opportunity to hone specific personal success factors. There was a networking workshop with Isabell Hitzer (Mission Female) and Dr. Christine Menges, a workshop on developing personal goals with Dr. Barbara Wolf, and a salary negotiation workshop with negotiation expert Claudia Irsfeld.
Following this 90-minute workshop session, the participants in the Women in Leadership event regrouped in the MBS Lounge to round off the evening with snacks, drinks and music, putting one of the key principles they had learned into practice: networking is key!