Last year saw Cass Business School launch the Global Women’s Leadership Programme, which aims to equip women with all the tools they need to fulfil their career ambitions. Amy Ripley meets the Director of the programme and two of its scholars for insights into why the scheme is so important.

In its first year, the programme awarded four scholarships, funded
by the Coca-Cola Foundation, to Artis Kakonge (Modular Executive MBA, London), Kylie Poole (Executive MBA, London), Esra Baykal (Executive MBA, Dubai) and Renee Kroner (Full-time MBA, London). The existing scholars were recently joined by Cassie Newman, a London Modular Executive MBA scholar.

Serving as leaders within their respective programmes, the scholars develop and practise their leadership skills by coordinating development events spanning across London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Beijing and New York.

The issues surrounding women, work and leadership are complex. According to the Office of National Statistics, more women are working today than ever before, with over 70 per cent of women aged 16-64 in employment. The state pension age for women also rose recently from 63 to 65 and is expected to rise again by 2020 to 66, meaning that women will be working longer, making it even more important to be happy at work.

However, although the number of women on boards has increased slightly (from 11 per cent to 28 per cent from 2007 to 2017, according to a 2017 Cranfield School of Management report), women are still falling behind in leadership positions. Earlier this year, Women in Business, a 2018 report by Grant Thornton, found that women held just 22 per cent of senior leadership positions.

It is this imbalance that the programme seeks to address, says Canan. “We need to see a dramatic increase in the number of women in leadership positions. We need to ensure a gender balance to make sure that our institutions – whether they are banks, businesses, charities or government – reflect society as a whole and encourage a breadth of perspectives and original thinking.

“At Cass we lead by example and our programme provides our students and alumnae with a platform to develop the leadership skills they need and learn from women who are at the top of their game. We are here for Cass women at every stage of their career and beyond.”

Artis Kakonge is a barrister specialising in children’s and family law at Garden Court Chambers and was the first scholarship recipient of the Global Women’s Leadership MBA Scholarship.

She holds joint American and British citizenship and grew up in East, West and Southern Africa. After reading Law, she went on to gain an MSc in Criminal Justice Policy and an LLM in Law and Development. She was called to the Bar in 2006 after completing the Bar Vocational Course at the Inns of Court School of Law (now The City Law School).

Artis decided to study for an Executive MBA (EMBA) and apply for the scholarship after opting to diversify her skill-set to ensure longevity in her career. Choosing a Cass EMBA meant she could continue working while studying part-time.

“I saw how the implementation of cuts to legal aid in 2010 changed the market for children’s law services dramatically,” she says. “It is a much more competitive arena and we must now be much more business-minded, doing more with less and finding creative solutions to deal with dwindling budgets.

“I realised that in the long-term, specialist legal knowledge was insufficient to progress my career or to deal with the current challenges that I faced. I noticed that lawyers who were now senior executives in the public sector had an MBA and considered it a good investment.”

Her involvement with the programme has also given her the impetus to develop the leadership skills she needs to have an impact in the public sector.


Amy Ripley is a Senior Communications Officer for Cass Business School. She trained as a journalist at the University of Technology Sydney and has freelanced for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph and BBC World Service.