Why Would Women Go in for An MBA?


The number of women in top positions in businesses across the world remains just a fraction of men and even in most of the MBA programs, the percentage is much smaller. However, some of the women alumni at INSEAD have successfully launched nation-wide education initiatives, founded NGOs and helped others to realise their entrepreneurial dreams.

Whether it’s founding environmental NGOs, starting nation-wide education initiatives, or helping other women with their entrepreneurial dreams, INSEAD’s women alumnae are doing it all. But even so, the number of women in top positions across the world remains a fraction that of men.

Tu Ngo, the founder of Yola, Vietnam’s biggest English learning platform, says while it is normal for women to be business leaders there is always an expectation that she will also support her husband and family. “To put it simply, a man is happy reading about women at top professional positions, as long as she is not his wife,” she is quoted as saying in an article on the business school’s website.

In the last five years, there has been an explosion of women in higher positions across the UAE. For example, Dr Amal al Qubaisi, who is the leader of the Federal National Council. About one-third of the UAE’s cabinet members are women,” she says.

Determined to break this the cycle, Tu Ngo, after finishing her education at Stanford University, chose an MBA as her next step. In 2014, barely six years after she started Yola, she was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the 30 under 30 in her country, and counts over 10,000 Vietnamese students in her programs.

About her INSEAD experience, she says for two weeks, she acted as CEO of a company as part of a team tasked with turning it around. It gave her the confidence to take on challenging organisational problems.

Ophelia Brown, another alumna, founded Ambitious Ladies in Tech (ALT) in London in 2016. It is a mentor network that endeavours to help women in technology startups achieve their career goals. “I guess my career trajectory would have been very different had I not done an MBA at INSEAD,” she says.

At present, she has more than 150 senior executives from leading technology companies like AirBnB, Deliveroo, Facebook, FarFetch, Google, and King on ALT’s panel of mentors. She intends to bring women to the forefront of the tech revolution. “I chose INSEAD because it has a strong reputation for entrepreneurship and its international student base,” she says. “All the alumni I spoke to before I applied couldn’t have spoken more highly of the program,” she adds.

The common thread that runs through these success stories is the multi-cultural, global experiences these women were exposed to at INSEAD. Zornitza Hadjitodorova, founder of Our Breathing Planet (OBP), an NGO that seeks to inspire positive action on climate change in 2016 confesses, “It changed the way I thought.”

Wanting to be part of an international network of capable people from different backgrounds she had originally planned to go to Yale to get a Masters in environmental management, but opted for an MBA instead. “I’d spoken to many INSEAD alumni, and wanted to be part of the experience they spoke about so passionately.” She remembers her classes being fun and informative.

As to the argument that founding NGOs and start-ups can be done without an MBA, the simple answer would be to list the positive aspects of having an internationally coveted business degree on your resume, followed by the exposure and network you build while studying there.

However, if you are already in a top position, how does an MBA add to that? For Abu Dhabi-based Haif al Hammadi, who already held a private equity job, her INSEAD experience was more transformative than simply earning a degree. “My choice to do an MBA was the next step after I have spent five years working. I wanted to grow as a professional as well as personally, and the time was right.”

She had opted for mainly financial courses but also took up entrepreneurial ones in the later part of the program that helped her to start a business with her husband four years later. “It was the idea that I could take courses just to try them out that led me to move away from my comfort zone, which was finance,” she says.

As a project manager at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), she leads a multicultural team that oversees new initiatives. Her work at ADNOC also ties her in with the larger developmental agenda within the country, putting her at the forefront of the new wave of women making their presence felt in a society thought to be conservative for decades.

In the last five years, there has been an explosion of women in higher positions across the UAE. For example, Dr Amal al Qubaisi, who is the leader of the Federal National Council. About one-third of the UAE’s cabinet members are women,” she says.

As long as you are sure of what you need out of an MBA, I would say go for it,” Ophelia says. Even if you are not, like Haif, still there is the advantage of the network that you build and the perspective you gain. This expansion, the exchange of ideas and the inspiration that was ignited, have put these women at the top of their fields.

Comments are closed.