Women Leaders Worldwide
  • Leadership

Women Leaders Worldwide

How Smith College and Fundação Dom Cabral are preparing women to lead in the global marketplace


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Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of female board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation, according to a 2007 report from Catalyst. If this message is slow to get through in Europe and the US, it is even slower in the rest of the world. According to Deloitte's 2015 global survey, women held only 12% of seats on corporate boards worldwide with only 4% chairing boards.

Not even matching the 2015 global average, only 6.5% of board positions in Brazil belong to women. “Businesses worldwide are realizing that they need to leverage the talent of women, but there is still a large gender-gap in executive suites across the Latin American region,” said Iris Newalu, Executive Director, Smith College Executive Education for Women.

Based on its unrivalled 40 years of experience in developing women leaders Smith College Executive Education for Women takes a broad holistic view of how best to empower women to be business leaders and how to engage with companies to confront cultural biases that are holding women back.

Epitomising the Smith College Executive Education approach, the FDC-Smith Women’s Global Leaders Program, a collaboration between Smith and Fundação Dom Cabral (FDC), prepares women based in Latin America for the unique challenges they face doing business in the global marketplace.

In a study conducted by Smith College Executive Education, long time cultural constructs emerged as the greatest barrier to career advancement for women in Brazil. In general, women face a lack of sponsors, confidence, and exposure to business training, e.g. negotiation, when climbing the corporate ladder. However, when provided with high-quality leadership education, women can manoeuvre beyond these constraints and succeed – a benefit for themselves, their employers and the global economy.

The FDC-Smith program is aimed at women at the director or senior executive level, with strategic performance responsibilities, who seek to understand global context and to expand their capacity as leaders. Addressing obstacles head-on, these are some of the key areas covered:

Strategy and Innovation: Developing skills to create a culture of innovation in a fast-changing global market

Authentic Leadership: Deepening self-awareness and applying self-knowledge to evolve as a leader

Strategies for Optimal Living: Enhancing health and well-being for long-term success

The Woman’s Path to Leadership: Exploring leadership through immersion in great art

Collaborative Decision-making: Building strategic adaptability into decisions with major uncertainties

Leadership Narrative: Honing personal stories to inspire and lead

Persuasion: Exploring and practicing how to move ideas into action and results

In addition to the curriculum, Smith’s signature all-women classroom model supports women’s natural collaborative and participatory learning style, creating an environment that inspires increased risk-taking and greater confidence. Participants also benefit from access to a global network of true peers – other women executives striving to advance their careers in the face of isolation, subtle bias, and ongoing struggles with work-life integration.

Exemplifying the positive experience of others, past participant Cláudia Vassallo, chief executive of CDI, said this of the program:

“At FDC-Smith I discovered that I would be a more complete, productive, secure and admired professional if I embraced my femininity and my roles as mother and wife. In lectures and conversations with participants, it became clear that I had been caught in a common trap: thinking professional success and competence meant denial of a life outside the office.”

FDC-Smith Women’s Global Leaders Program will next run September 17-22, 2017

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