INSEAD’s Ilian Mihov Imagines The Future

But there are also some factors that are harder, if not impossible, to correct, yes?

Yes. Throughout this process we’ve realized it may in general that there are fewer women who want to apply for one reason or another. And that is impossible to correct. So if it is role models or marketing or scholarships or age, these are things we can correct, we want to correct them, and of these corrections can lead us to parity, that would be fantastic. We want to make sure that there are no biases and barriers that stop women from following this career.

What can you tell us about the Women Leaders program scheduled for the end of June?

Jennifer Petriglieri is a professor of organizational behavior and the program is basically dealing with the problems that females executives face in organizations. How to deal in a boardroom that is mostly male, or an executive committee that is mostly male, and so on. And how to help other women move in their careers.

Very often people talk about mentoring. But mentoring is a thing that sometimes can go a little bit too much. It’s not about mentoring but about giving responsibility. It seems, according to one of our hypotheses, that executives who are male are much more willing to give responsibility to a male than a female executive. So we are seeking ways to remove these barriers and just say, “Look, enough with mentoring, from now on you’re the executive vice president or you’re the head of this division, and so on.”

This is one of the key things. There is still bias. Gender bias is something that has been with us for thousands of years — all of us have it, to some degree, and the mistreatment of women has taken many different forms. So now we’re trying to fight something that is very deep in our brains, and even the well-intentioned people do not realize how much their decisions are driven by a bias of going with the safe choice, because for you the safe choice is what you have seen before which is male executives.

And the Gender Diversity Initiative?

I was a member of the first Gender Diversity Initiative in 2007, and we did some studies trying to understand why we had fewer women in the classroom, why we had fewer women as faculty members, and we did some analysis. But this time I think is very different because every single question that we ask, it’s not just to get some data plots, we’re trying to do serious, rigorous research to understand the answer to the question. I’m an economist, so I started reading these papers, and some of them are absolutely fascinating. We have psychologists,, economists, management and finance scholars doing research on the experiences and impact of women in business and society.

In Peru they did a study where they want to understand how to attract more women into coding training programs. So in one of the groups, they just sent an email: This is how you sign top for the course, and so on. And in the  other group, in addition to an email there’s a role model — a woman who has been a coder and who has been successful. Just including this small thing dramatically increased the signing up for the course. And then you start thinking, Why? If I start to think about getting more women to come to INSEAD from Germany, for example, I can design an experiment with two groups and one of them has a role model and the other doesn’t, and I can see the ways people behave in one way or another. It’s very exciting.

There’s been a lot of talk and even some data about the so-called Trump effect, the driving down of international student enrollment at U.S. business schools as aa result of the rhetoric and policy proposals of President Donald Trump. Have you seen a rise in applications that can be attributed to this effect?

Yes, we have. For us it was a bit difficult to disentangle some of the causes, because there is a rankings effect (INSEAD was named the Financial Times top MBA program in 2017 for the second straight year), and then there is the effect of the election of President Trump, and we don’t know which is driving the increasing applications. But the numbers are up.

When we talk to students, the number-one thing they say they were looking for when they came to INSEAD was the career opportunities, then the quality of teaching, the global nature of the school, and things like that. Now what we have seen from Latin America, indeed the applications have increased tremendously and probably that’s beyond the ranking — it could very well be Trump.

In Asia, the increase in applications was very much due to the ranking, and while we have seen an increase from Muslim countries, but we don’t have that many students from Indonesia or the Middle East.

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