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MBAs develop a holistic insight for any multi-national firm – and help break glass ceilings

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I wanted more ownership and general management responsibility. Knowledge of financial concepts related to my industry definitely helps, but it is a very small part of the overall insight and skills needed to broaden my perspective and succeed in a leadership role – which is why I decided to pursue an MBA.

The educational experience in a business school is much different from a regular master’s programme. One moment you could be listening to views on why Wall Street and chief executives continue to use certain valuation methods for companies despite pitfalls, and the next minute you could be simulating key decisions for an oil company trying to avoid a price war. 

It puts your knowledge and leadership skills into action and gives students a taste of some of the problems they could face in the real business world, only that in a school, one can make mistakes and learn. 

The biggest advantage is to develop a holistic insight of various components of any multi-national company today – marketing, product development, sales and human resources. I think students can be better managers if they know how an organisation is held together, and if their arsenal of business knowledge is complete. 

This fuels ambition, as does seeing other women on the course prove that their abilities extend much beyond stereotype jobs we are perceived to do. There are two specific individuals I really admire for their ability to break the glass ceiling. 

Hanne Sørensen, the CEO of Damco, a subsidiary of the world’s largest container shipping Danish conglomerate, A P Moller Maersk, serves a prime example that women can be successful in any profession and the world needs to acknowledge that. The international shipping industry, unlike financial services does not operate inside posh boardrooms and tall offices, and I admire Sørensen’s ability to manage cross-border mobility, family, customer relationships, global trade and become a leader in a heavy-duty competitive industry. 

British business woman Amanda Staveley, legal partner of the investment management firm PCP Capital partners who played a prominent role in the investment of £7.3bn in Barclays by Qatari sovereign wealth fund, achieved immense success in investment management, particularly cultivating relationships in the culturally diverse Middle-East.

Staveley testifies that when one has their mind set to a goal, it is achievable and cultural differences and personal set-backs have no role to play in long-term life accomplishments. Being a women in finance myself, Staveley inspires and motivates me to take risks, question my intellectual curiosity and move forward with my career aspirations. 

These two women testify that gender equality in the business world today has come a long way from what it was in the sixties and seventies. Finance is a very diverse industry, and indeed there are areas where more needs to be done about gender equality. Professionalism and strong business knowledge are two tools women can use to combat these challenges. 

Working with confidence, owning responsibility, and understanding the demands of your business along the year will help a woman gel with her employer better. I also feel that early communication and transparency is important. It makes the resource planning process more efficient and avoids set-backs later. 

We can climb to the top of the financial industry. 

Reema Arya is an MBA student at HEC Paris business school.

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