When it comes to business and leadership, being aware that men and women did not initially share the same positions nor take the same space is a matter of objectivity. If we look at history, women weren’t allowed at Harvard’s MBA program until 1963, the first year when eight female students got to share the class with their 676 male fellows.

Gender and MBA classrooms: the long journey towards equal repartition

For a long time, business schools were predominantly chosen by men for their studies, and MBA programmes have now made it one of their goals to grow women’s representation in their applicant pools and classrooms. However, in 2018, women applicants to full-time MBA programs only accounted for 38% of applications. 

At ESCP Business School, we strive to make our MBA classrooms more balanced and to improve gender equality by sending the right signals to future women applicants. An ambition reflected into the decisional board of the program as well: “The MBA is run by women: the Associate Dean (myself), the Director of Studies, and the Director of Admissions are all women. As a female team, we understand the needs and threats faced by women. We do try to look for diversity in gender, nationality, professional and academic background during the selection process,” explains Laura Reyero, also a jury member for admissions to the MBA in International Management at ESCP. 

“As a female team, we understand
the needs and threats faced by women.”

Laura Reyero, Associate Dean of the MBA in International Management

And on top of having an admissions staff aware of the challenges women face in accessing leadership positions, ESCP has created the Women in Leadership scholarship to encourage women in their MBA-related ambitions. “[We got the idea for the scholarship] when we realised that there are more men than women applying for an MBA, and at that point, we wanted to avoid that initial bias having an impact on the configuration of each cohort,” relates Laura Reyero. 

Helping women achieve their dreams through financial aid

Choosing to study for an MBA can be a life-altering and costly decision. For many women, this means having the time and the money needed to embark on a study journey that will help them achieve their career dreams. Indeed, recent studies have found that financial concerns are the top reason globally that female applicants have not yet accepted their admissions offer to graduate business school. In the United States, 30% of female business school applicants say funding is their biggest challenge, compared with 9% of male applicants.

Thanks to the ESCP’s Women in Leadership Scholarship, Payal Jagwani was able to enrol in the programme in 2021 with a certain peace of mind: “The decision to take a year off from work and focus on my career was a brave one, especially considering the financial relegation I was about to embark on. Certainly, this scholarship aided greatly in terms of monetary relief but it was also a huge milestone for me to realise that my thoughts on Women In Leadership were not only recognised but also stood out to the judges’ panel. It was a moment of great relief and incredible excitement!”

“With the Women in Leadership Scholarship, I was able to fund my own education which has been a turning point in my career”

Payal Jagwani, MBA Class of 2021

With the 15,000€ offered by the grant, Payal Jagwani felt empowered as well: “It definitely enabled me to enjoy my time better. Knowing that I had saved up a large chunk of a respectable amount of money relieved me and also took a lot of the pressure off my shoulders. I was ultimately able to fund my own education, without the help of any external source – which has been quite a turning point in my career,” says she. 

The secret to a successful scholarship application?

If you’ve been reading so far, now might be the time to talk about what makes a successful scholarship application, or what might set you apart from other applicants. As an outside observer part of the scholarship jury, Véronique de la Bachelerie (also Executive Director and President of Association Féminin at Société Générale) tells us more about the attribution process and what qualities scholarship applicants should possess: “For the Women in Leadership Scholarship, candidates are pre-selected on their academic background (average grades above 15/20), then selected based on a motivation letter, a recommendation letter and their resume by a jury of three persons in charge of attributing the three ESCP Scholarships (Entrepreneurial, NGO/Non-Profit, and Women in Leadership). As the President of the Women in Leadership Scholarship, I finally get to choose, in the case there is any disagreement between us.”

As part of your application, writing an essay on a specific topic will be asked. Subjects around the many ways you have or intend to encourage other women in their quest for leadership, or your vision of female leadership will have to be treated and will help the attribution jury to know you better. “In terms of criteria, my favours go to female students who have shown strong leadership skills at the beginning of their career. Women who have been quick to demonstrate their ability to manage teams with a vision and delegation based on trust, and proved their ability to federate and empower a team,” explains Véronique de la Bachelerie. 

“The world is finally listening and we have a lot to say!”

Payal Jagwani, MBA Class of 2021

From the applicant point of view of Payal Jagwani, other personal traits could make your application to the Women in Leadership grant successful. Remaining true to yourself, for example, seems like the right way to engage with the process: “If I had a piece of advice to give other female applicants, that would be to be honest with themselves and express the reality of their thoughts and ideologies. Make sure to reflect rather than trying to appeal to the scholarship committee,” says Payal Jagwani before adding, in regards to women voices in business I do believe that it is now time to leverage our soft-power and demand the spotlight that’s been missing in the past. The world is finally listening and we have a lot to say!”.

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