Melbourne Business School’s Women and Management Dinner began as an initiative of MBS alumna Cathy Walter, the then-president of MBS Alumni, with help from Diane Ellis and Professor Amanda Sinclair.
However, the origins of women organising such events within MBS go back a long way to some of the first women graduates of the School. The first wave was initiated by the late Jocelynne Howlett (MBA 1969) who later became a teacher. Starting in 1983 Jocelyn organised an annual lunch or dinner at the Lyceum Club for women graduates to network and connect. She was, according to Dianne Vale (MBA 1981), a great coach who really cared about women and their progress. Victoria’s first female Supreme Court Justice Rosemary Balmford (MBA 1971) was also involved in organising these events.
The first Women and Management dinner was held in early 1992 with a core group of these women MBA’s. The dinner was organised by Amanda off-site in Carlton and coincided with her work with women in the school and the formation of the Women and Management group in 1992.
The Women and Management program at the school gained further momentum in 1993 and 1994 as it became clear to Amanda that was a need for women, still a small group in the school, to get to know and support one another. It was also identified that there was a need to educate the rest of the school and business community about the obstacles that women in business and particular management faced and the benefits of removing these.
In April 1993 the Women and Management program was given a modest budget by the Management Group of the school to use to help fund various activities. An official WAM group was founded in 1994, supported by the long history of women students and graduates networking. There was worldwide evidence of plateauing numbers of women in MBA programs and the group wanted to help promote MBS as the first MBA choice for women.
The group included MBS (first and final years), MMT and Diploma students: Merrill Gray, Helen Kemp, Rosemary Hancock, Kim Moore, Jenny Ward, Eileen Burnett-Kant, Vessa Samson, Sandy Forbes, Leslyn Thompson. A number of academic staff also supported the program including Associate Professor Marianne Broadbent, Diane Shelton and John Alford.
Activities at this time included a range of workshops, guest speaker presentations and social evenings which while targeted specifically at female students were also promoted to all male students and the School’s alumni network.
In 1997 a group of students considered that WAM could have a wider application and to ensure smooth succession and continuity, should adopt a more formal structure. Pending the election of the first committee, a working committee was established to develop a business plan for WAM and to promote a number of activities. In 1998 it was decided to concentrate on a signature annual event – the Women and Management Dinner.
Today the Women and Management Dinner remains a highlight on the School’s calendar of events, bringing together business leaders, alumni, students and academics for a night of celebration, inspiration and networking.
Proceeds from the evening will enable MBS to provide more opportunities for women in leadership, while the student-led Women and Management Club continues to provide regular networking and learning opportunities for current students and alumni.