We're increasing the number of places in our Women in Leadership Program
Melbourne Business School is expanding its popular leadership program to cater for more women at different career stages.
Launched in 2018, the original Women in Leadership Program proved hugely popular with participants – to the point that applications far exceeded the class size.
Expanding the program will also mean the content can be tailored for specific career stages, says Program Director, Associate Professor of Marketing Jody Evans.
"The original Women in Leadership Program was designed to address the specific needs of women in very senior positions," she says.
"We have also been overwhelmed in the past few years with applications from women at a slightly different stage – something of a career inflection point, such as returning to work, changing industries or moving into a new leadership role.
"Because we curate the group and keep the program intimate with 20 to 30 participants, we found we were having to turn away so many amazing women. The new program is designed for women at that inflection point, to nurture and develop the pipeline of women leaders as they transition into new roles and industries."
Both programs will remain focused on the unique challenges that women face in leadership positions, which aren't always addressed by mixed-gender programs.
"Research tells us that women experience greater scrutiny and visibility in their leadership roles," says Professorial Fellow Amanda Sinclair, who wrote Women Leading with former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon.
"When they raise these experiences in mixed gender groups, they are often told 'don't take it personally' or asked 'are you sure you're not imagining that?'
"These conditions mobilise women's inner critics, self-doubt and feelings of being an impostor. The courses provide practical ways of navigating these extra hurdles that women can encounter."
Professor Sinclair will present on both programs alongside Associate Professor Evans and other members of faculty including Jill Klein, Isabel Metz, Geoff Martin, Carol Gill and Jen Overbeck, as well as executive search consultant and former Gartner senior vice president Marianne Broadbent.
To cater for participants juggling family and work, the Women in Leadership Program will be held on five days spread across three weeks, while the Women in Senior Leadership Program will run as an intensive, requiring six days on campus.
"The main differences between the two programs relate to the peer group and content," says Associate Professor Evans.
"The groups are curated so that we build a powerful support group of women at a similar stage of their career. There is so much power in your experience being validated by someone else going through something similar – that innate understanding and recognition means that participants don't have to carry the burden of having to explain, apologise or justify themselves.
"The quality of the peer group is critical in providing a psychologically-safe place to unpack gendered issues that women face as they move into more senior leadership roles."
Taking part in one of the programs may prove especially useful for women who work in an organisation without many female peers, says Associate Professor Gill.
"It will cement their leadership identity through validation from others and encouragement of a genuine voice, which may be discounted or discouraged in organisations where female leader colleagues, role models, and mentors are likely to be 'thin on the ground'," she says.
Associate Professor Overbeck says one of the most surprising things about the program is how supportive the learning environment is, thanks to the women who take part.
"It's the group of impressive, talented, thoughtful women leaders in the room," she says.
"The feeling of being fully seen and given space to speak, learn, and grow. The fact that the practical and intellectual challenge can be intense, and yet the environment remains supportive and collaborative."