Deakin partners with Business in Heels to help shatter MBA glass ceiling

Media release
08 March 2019

A new crowdfunding campaign launched by Deakin University and Business in Heels aims to shatter the glass ceiling and empower Australia's next generation of women business leaders.

The campaign hopes to raise $25,000 to support Deakin's Master of Business Administration (MBA) Access for Women Scholarship program, with the University matching every dollar raised.

Deakin MBA alumna Sarah Sytema, who graduated from the program in 2016, said her experience showed that more needed to be done to support women to become business leaders.

"In my experience there are two key challenges that all women face – unconscious bias and traditional recruitment methods," she said.

"Champions and mentors are critical to breaking through the unconscious bias women and others carry about the way they should behave and act as a women, business leaders and parents.

"There also seems to be a lack of women applying for entry-level leadership roles around their late twenties and early thirties, which is compounded by their child-bearing years and carries into their CV 'experience' when viewed against male participants under traditional recruitment.

"We have to get better at acknowledging parenting demands for women and men, so that women aren't carrying the burden and see opportunity rather than accepting a 'we can’t have it all' mentality."

Ms Sytema is now Projects Coordinator Major Projects for Deals, Investments and Major Projects at Wyndham City Council. She had two children during her time studying at Deakin, and praised the online learning environment, deferment options and other study options for allowing her to juggle study, family, and career.

"I was reading my university textbooks at the door of my children's bedrooms while they went to sleep," she said.

"It took a real curiosity and passion for continuous learning, and drive to leave this world better than I found it – as well as lots of partner and family support, the online learning environment, study support from my workplace, and plenty of green tea."

Ms Sytema had two pieces of advice for other women considering furthering their careers by undertaking an MBA.

"Be curious and try one subject, set out your aims and build incrementally towards your goal of 12 subjects," she said.

"Do not underestimate the value of learning and self-development you will achieve in all parts of your life through the MBA."

Deakin MBA's Dr Andrea North-Samardzic, Director of the Master of Leadership course, said it was important to bring more women into leadership roles to change our society’s perception of leadership.

"Across Australia, only 30 per cent of MBA graduates are women, yet an MBA is one of the most powerful qualifications that any leader can have," Dr North-Samardzic said.

"Good intentions aren't enough. If we want to see more women succeeding as CEOs, executives and in the boardroom, we need to do more to broaden our traditional vision of what makes a leader, and equip women with the skills they need to be successful."

Deakin MBA Director Associate Professor Colin Higgins said the scholarship program was part of the University's effort to reduce the gender imbalance in Australian MBA programs.

"Women should be able to benefit as much as men from the career opportunities of having an MBA, yet they are underrepresented in these courses, with the two biggest barriers being time and money," Associate Professor Higgins said.

"This scholarship program helps to remove one of these barriers, while Deakin's flexible learning approach helps reduce the other. We're delighted to have Business in Heels on board for this fundraising campaign and Deakin will be matching all funds raised."

As Deakin alumni, Business in Heels co-founders Lisa Sweeney and Jo Plummer both know first-hand the positive impact a Deakin MBA can have on the lives and careers of women leaders. The co-founders said they were pleased the new campaign would help support scholarships for women who would otherwise not be in a position to further their education.

"This campaign is about giving a future woman leader facing barriers to education the financial support she needs to develop the skills and build the networks that will enable her future success," Ms Sweeney said.

"The reason why we're working with Deakin is we have experienced the University's incredibly flexible and supportive learning environment that makes it easier for women juggling work and family commitments to advance their education."

To find out more, or to make a donation to the campaign, visit: https://deakin.is/crowdfunding

Deakin MBA alumna Sarah Sytema, who graduated from the program in 2016, is now Projects Coordinator Major Projects for Deals, Investments and Major Projects at Wyndham City Council.

Key Fact

Deakin MBA alumna Sarah Sytema, who graduated from the program in 2016, is now Projects Coordinator Major Projects for Deals, Investments and Major Projects at Wyndham City Council.

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