Supporting Women Leaders: Oxford Said Launches Online Women’s Development Programme

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Saïd Business School, University of Oxford is launching an online women’s development programme to give women the confidence and capability to progress their leadership ambitions.

The Oxford Women’s Leadership Development Programme has been developed using insights from a study of women CEOs by Oxford Saïd academics (Athanasopoulou, Moss-Cowan, Smets, & Morris, 2018). This research suggests that an essential first step for aspiring women leaders is the self-acceptance of their leadership ambitions and potential.

Subsequent research by the team has found that almost half of female leaders interviewed do not immediately see themselves as leaders and only accept their leadership potential when prompted by an external trigger – such as other people saying they have leadership capability.

‘Women are rarely invited to go on leadership journeys. Some also suffer from what is known as ‘impostor syndrome’ which means they don’t believe that they deserve success. That’s why it’s critical for them to take active ownership of their career, ideally early on,’ says Andromachi Athanasopoulou, Associate Fellow at Oxford Saïd and Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour at Queen Mary University of London. ‘Women need firstly to self-accept that they have leadership potential, which means believing in their imagined future as a leader.’

The study of female CEOs highlighted many of the barriers that women must overcome in order to pursue their leadership ambitions. It suggests that in order to be successful, women need to accept the work-life compromises that they will have to make and improve their resilience to overcome both personal and work barriers.

The new programme seeks to help women navigate these issues by giving them the space and support to develop their leadership ambitions. Delivered over six weeks, teaching is carried out through a series of videos by Saїd Business School faculty and industry experts, plus assessed exercises, reading and self-reflection. Participants are encouraged to develop new perspectives and ideas to inform insights, which in turn generate action.

Being online, it offers significant flexibility for women to study around their work or home commitments, without the need to study on campus. Participants will be kept on track by regular assignments and have the opportunity to build a powerful network with like-minded participants through online discussions and groupwork activities.

The research which underpins the programme identifies three key activities for women leaders: developing a sense of self-acceptance, investing in self-development and building and using self-management techniques. The programme will offer participants the chance to examine their own leadership strengths, and ways by which they can use those approaches to influence others and successfully negotiate, with a view to get things done.

‘Many women show considerable leadership potential in their organisations, in communities and in wider society – but don’t necessarily consider themselves leaders because their leadership style may be different from the traditional image,’ says Kathryn Bishop, Associate Fellow and Director of the Women Transforming Leadership Programme at Oxford Saïd and co-convenor of the programme. ‘This programme will encourage more women to see themselves as leaders, and through investment in their own self-development, build their confidence and capability.’

Academic Director of the programme is Professor Sue Dopson, who is Deputy Dean of Saïd Business School and teaches on a number of the School’s on-campus leadership programmes.

The first Oxford Women’s Leadership Development Programme starts on 25th September 2019 and is now open for applications.

About Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford blends the best of new and old. We are a vibrant and innovative business school, but deeply embedded in an 800-year-old world-class university. We create programmes and ideas that have global impact.  We educate people for successful business careers, and as a community seek to tackle world-scale problems. We deliver cutting-edge programmes and ground-breaking research that transform individuals, organisations, business practice, and society. We are a world-class business school community, embedded in a world-class University, tackling world-scale problems.

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