In September 2010, Eugenia became the only woman holding the position of managing director among the top European business schools and one of only four women holding such a position worldwide upon her appointment. An incredible success!
Eugenia Bieto shared with us ESADE’s plans to continue its pursuit of excellence and to support women’s empowerment.
ESADE is rated in various prestigious rankings among the 50 best business schools worldwide and the top choice in Europe. What will you aim at during your term?
We have three priorities for the next 4 years. First, we want to more strongly respond to the demands of a globalized world, by attracting the best students and professors from different regions of the world. We thus plan to augment scholarship funds so that talented people who do not have enough financial resources can take part in our academic programs.
Second, we want to increase our research & development activities so as to foster innovation worldwide. Viewing the global context, we are aware that we need to bring solutions for encouraging positive behaviors, such as entrepreneurship, innovation or corporate social responsibility.
Third, we aim at building a prominent research group to create relevant knowledge on corporate social responsibility (CSR) so as to enrich the societal debate and to induce our students to become responsible leaders. The respect of certain values in education, business, and law... has been a permanent concern for us, since ESADE was inaugurated by the Network of Jesuit Business Schools in 1958. Our role as a top business school is to ensure that leaders are prepared to take responsible decisions and generate economic value.
In general, women make up an equal proportion of undergraduate business graduates, but these numbers drop in MBA education. How will you increase women’s representation in MBA classes?
This is general trend that needs to be changed. Women make up 50% of our undergraduate students, but only 31% of our MBA students. Moreover, we count only 10% women among those attending programs designed for executive managers. This type of gender inequity is mostly determined by the societal context, however we scrutinize it carefully. Our approach is to integrate women in the current business scenario. Apart from offering scholarships to female students, our courses and working groups are organized so as to accustom future managers to working in teams where women are present. We make sure that there is at least one woman present in every working group so that men, who tend to be in the majority at top levels, can learn how to work with women and dispel gender stereotypes at early career stages.
Several distinguished business schools have tailored MBA programs for women executives, such as Stanford Graduate School of Business, IMD or Kellogg School of Management. What is your opinion on such programs?
MBA programs for women may be a very good option to increase their presence in executive roles; however ESADE will not apply such a strategy for the moment. We prefer mixed classes and ensuring that women are present in working groups, in research groups so that we can build a custom of working with women. With this in mind, we also made other changes in our programs to ensure that women improve certain skills and abilities that they may lack, but which will be essential to breaking the glass ceiling. For instance, we asked general managers from different organizations to hold courses at ESADE to give our students the possibility of networking with experienced managers. We are looking to generate situations to which women will have to adjust in their professional lives, so that they can gain the needed skills while doing their studies.
In recent months, policy makers opened discussion on applying ‘quotas’ to solve the gender imbalance. Do you think this approach can succeed?
Quota policies do not allow organizations to attract the most talented people. At the same time, they put pressure on women who work in quota-driven environments to constantly have to justify themselves. Women need to learn how to be competitive and they also need the adequate tools to compete.
If we look at Spain, the number of women managers has been increasing these last years. At the political level, the current Spanish government holds perfect gender parity. The reason lies mostly in a change of paradigm, not in the policy-driven changes as the country does not currently have frameworks supporting a work/life balance for women, such as a kindergarten system. This means that the current generation of active people does not perceive women's presence in structures of power as exceptional, that women are becoming more competitive and that women are able to sell themselves better than a few decades ago.
There should be policies encouraging gender equity, but not imposing it as an obligation.
How is the application of quota policies in the academic world perceived by ESADE?
The world of academics is like a market where top schools compete to attract the best professors in the world. Therefore, the first interest is to attract the best professors and not necessarily to establish gender parity. In ESADE, currently 27% of its professors are women. However, if we look at the last 5 years, we can see that among young professors having joined the ranks, the percentages are close to parity. This means that things have evolved positively these past years and that eventually women will be fairly represented in the academic world and in leadership positions within the years to come.