29. January 2020

Continuing Education for Women Only – Is That Necessary?

Gender and stereotypical role models still seem to have a lasting effect on career paths. Can a gender-specific continuing education programme offer professional women support on their career paths? With the "Female Leaders Seminar 2019" we put this idea to the test and gained valuable insights!

Did you pause at the close of the year to review the past year and consciously set yourself goals for the new year? Could continuing your education perhaps be relevant for achieving these goals? As a professional woman, have you ever asked yourself whether it would perhaps make sense to attend a seminar that is tailor-made for women?

We at the Executive School of the University of St.Gallen have been working intensively on these issues over the past year: Is there a need for a special continuing education programme for professional women? What content would make such a course particularly effective and offer participants lasting added value in their everyday working lives?

Among other things, we asked ourselves what contribution we at the Executive School could make in order to steadily increase in the proportion of women in middle and upper management? According to the Advance & HSG Gender Intelligence Report 2019, the proportion of women in middle management positions is currently 23% and sinks even lower to 18% in upper and top management positions. This is despite the fact that the gender distribution is balanced at non-management levels of the companies that participated in the benchmarking.

In November 2019 we held the very first “Female Leaders Seminar”, a compact 2.5-day seminar for professional women in lower and middle management. The course covered topics such as leadership, negotiation & presentation skills as well as stakeholder management. Particular attention was paid to social and personal skills with an online assessment. Each participant was also able to expand her personal network through unique and enriching evening events.

The first implementation of this format was a great success, as the evaluation showed. Almost 90% of all participants from a wide range of sectors assessed the learning benefit for their future as high to very high. The discussion of gender-specific topics was particularly appreciated. The seminar encouraged participants to reflect more deeply and strengthened their self-confidence, equipping them to pursue their professional goals even more persistently and to become even more visible in the company. It was also emphasized that the peer-to-peer networking within the class was very valuable and that the discussion of ideas also led to many new insights.

The graduates of the first course are now setting out to prove whether the programme will have the desired and sustainable effect in their everyday professional lives. We are looking forward to many exciting success stories. A reunion is planned for the summer of 2020, so that graduates can have the opportunity to share about the next career steps they have taken.

We are very excited about this and, after the first implementation, are more convinced than ever that a gender-specific continuing education programme can make an important contribution to promoting women in management and supporting them on their career paths. The further development of this format is therefore absolutely essential and a goal that is very close to our hearts.

Read more about the further development of the format under a rebranded name: Aiming higher – Women’s Leadership Programme

About the author
Sarah Lenz Sarah Lenz has a master's degree in sports science & one in journalism and media studies. Before joining the Executive School, she taught at various school levels and subsequently worked for more than ten years as a communications specialist in the financial sector.