The WLI is a School-wide programme which involves faculty, staff and students. It aims to serve as a platform to enable women’s empowerment and leadership in the business world globally.
WLI Student Interest Group (SIG) Chairs Harshitha Balini and Aurelia Kassatly tell us about how MBA students have been taking an active role.
In early December last year, the WLI SIG hosted the first student debate. We brought together men and women from the MBA programme, as well as Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) faculty, to debate the motion “women’s groups disenfranchise men”. It was an extremely popular event, attracting an audience of over 50 from across the school, and was really geared at questioning WLI’s very legitimacy and making it clear to our peers from the outset that the WLI was open to debate, discussion, and a variety of viewpoints around the role of women at work. We have our next student debate scheduled on International Women’s Day (8 March) and the topic is “Women Should Want It All – Chivalry and Equal Pay”
Women’s equality in the workplace, and the notion of ‘women helping women’ is important not just to CJBS, but also to the wider University. With that in mind, the WLI, launched a mentorship programme this year. The first is between MBA/MFin students and EMBAs and the second is between undergraduates and MBAs. We believe that this type of mentoring really leverages support networks and knowledge and forms an integral part of being part of a university like Cambridge.
One of WLI’s signature activities since its inception is the conference hosted in the summer every year. This year’s conference will take place on 10 June and will focus on the theme of “Balance”. Panels and workshops will focus not only on the immediate question of work-life balance and what this entails for both men and women, but also on achieving balance across industries and looking at the root causes behind gendered industries, as well as a workshop on unconscious bias and its ramifications. We also plan to critically look at the questions of women’s equality in the workplace and whether it is an equally accepted notion among women of all nationalities, backgrounds, and classes. Our hope is that the conference will bring together the strands of debate and discussion initiated by the WLI throughout the year and continue to force the group, and its members, to take a critical look at what gender equality really looks like and understand the perspectives of those who may be against it.
Many from among the MBA and MFin cohorts felt that the name was by its very definition exclusionary and positioned men as a negative, or at the very least an anti- force in the debate of the role of women at work. We felt that this was not only counterproductive, but also untrue and not reflective of the mission and goals of WLI. To that end, thanks to the creative minds of an MBA colleague, the name has been changed to Wo+Men Leadership Initiative. Although a simple change, we believe that the symbolism is vast and indicates that the future of the group is one dedicated to a more inclusive, balanced, and open to discussion around women’s equality and all that entails.