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Women Are Increasingly Moving into the Top Role at Business Schools, Financial Times Reports

Sally Blount, who will become the first woman dean of a top-tier U.S. business school when she assumes the role at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management this summer. is one of a rush of female appointments at business schools in North America in the past few years, the Financial Times reports.

Business schools at the Universities of Miami and South Carolina and Loyola’s Sellinger School have recently appointed women to the top position, where they join a list of experienced women who have been running schools such as UCLA Anderson, Ivey, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Pepperdine, the FT reports.

But according to Carolyn Woo, who has served as Notre Dame’s dean for the past 13 years, business schools are behind the curve in appointing women deans. Four of the eight Ivy League universities – Harvard, Brown, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania – already have women presidents, she points out. Woo told the FT that she believes that these presidential appointments are what have helped women finally break through the credibility barrier in terms of securing other top positions.

Meanwhile, Sue Cox, dean at the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom, sees the appointment of more women deans as an inevitable outgrowth of having more women in strong faculty roles. “When I came to Lancaster I was the only female professor in the school,” she told the FT. “Now there [are] more women coming in at a professional level.”

Still other women deans suggest that a change in strategy in many business schools has helped women advance to higher positions, the FT article adds. “Disciplines such as finance were seen as leverage for the brand” in the past, Alice Guilhon, dean of France’s Skema told the FT. But today, human resources, communications and other soft skills are much more in demand, she adds.

For her part, Judy Olian, dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Business, believes that women’s ability to take a more collaborative approach to leadership is critical. “We [women] listen more. We have discussions and we explain to everybody,” she told the FT. “I think successful deans, men and women, have to be comfortable sharing their leadership decisions.”

To read the full Financial Times article on the growing number of women business school deans, click here.

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Posted in: MBA News

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