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A final, quiet discussion among the participants. The chairs are moved into position. We hear someone clearing their throat. The presentation starts. This is how the “Women Back to Business” course at the Executive School of the University of St.Gallen should have started at the end of March. It turned out differently. Within a week everything was changed. The first modules of the management training programme designed for women returning to work or repositioning themselves professionally took place online. The lecturers adapted their didactics, our tech team provided the necessary infrastructure and support in no time at all, and our participants spontaneously embarked on a double learning experience. In addition to being introduced to management models, strategy and international management, they also learned how to participate in virtual group work and bring their LinkedIn profiles up to speed.
The learning curve has been steep for everyone, but we’ve also had a lot of fun. However, the online modules will not completely replace face-to-face training. This is because participants are still looking forward to networking opportunities, which is a key element of executive education at the University of St.Gallen and for one’s career. For participants of the “Women Back to Business” programme in particular, it is essential to establish direct contact with potential employers and to exchange ideas with other participants in a similar life situation. The coming weeks and months will show how we master this challenge. We already have a few promising ideas in mind.
What will remain after the crisis: In the future, our valued face-to-face teaching will be supplemented with online modules and the new learning opportunities they offer. The previous “Female Leaders Seminar” consisted almost exclusively of face-to-face teaching and has now been revised to reflect the current situation. The new format “Aiming Higher – Women’s Leadership Programme” – a three-and-a-half-day programme for women in lower and middle management – is now an exciting combination of virtual online learning sequences and face-to-face teaching. The classroom day will focus on mutual inspiration and personal exchange, in addition to networking opportunities with role models from different industries. These are extremely important aspects of the learning process that we would not want to do without in the future.
We have learned this in the last few weeks: the Greek word “krisis” does not mean a situation that is hopeless. It indicates the turning point in a situation. From this point, things can only get better (source: zeit.de). We humans are adaptable and creative. And so, we are looking ahead and using the crisis as an opportunity to make our empowerment programmes for women even more effective.