Twenty percent of the current Oxford Executive MBA class are female – a figure pretty much in line with many leading business schools but one which falls short of the parity to which most schools aspire. The reasons for women’s lower MBA participation rates are much discussed, as are mechanisms to address it, but the gap remains unbridged, and the need for diversity in the upper ranks of organisations is more pressing than ever.

‘Awareness of the opportunities business schools offer women is a critical part of the story’ says Kathy Harvey, Director of the Oxford Executive MBA. ‘Business schools  are not getting the MBA message across sufficiently clearly to high potential women in business, and I am therefore delighted to partner with the 30% Club to raise awareness of the benefits of a business education for aspiring women leaders. An MBA can create a bridge to the kind of boardroom performance which should be within the grasp of many high potential women managers, and not enough of them are taking advantage of this opportunity.

That’s something I’m determined to change. As a well-regarded and high profile organisation which works persistently to advance the representation of women in senior roles in business, the 30% Club’s endorsement of the Oxford EMBA, and their commitment to spreading the word about the benefits of an MBA for female executives, will do much to help us attract the talented female candidates we are seeking.’

The benefits to organisations of having women in senior roles are well documented. There is a powerful intuitive argument for having a varied board and executive team, with complementary skills and less danger of ‘groupthink’. Institutional investors are increasingly considering overall board effectiveness including diversity as an important aspect of good governance.

Helena Morrissey CBE, CEO of Newton Investment Management and Founder of the 30% Club said: ‘The 30% Club is delighted to partner with Saїd Business School on this Scholarship. Tackling the lack of female talent progressing to senior levels in industry is something that needs a continuum of efforts – and not just within companies but at all levels of education. Having such a prestigious business school tackle this head on is key to long term change being achieved.’

A growing body of research shows that women excel in precisely the traits necessary to address the challenges currently facing many large organisations – providing key inputs to enhance corporate performance. ‘Skills such as corporate diplomacy and greater competency around global risk are ever more important. All the more reason why women – and their organisations – should be considering how an MBA can boost their performance and accelerate their careers’ says Kathy Harvey.

‘Many of our female alumni have achieved great things as senior executives in large corporates or as entrepreneurs leading their own companies. But the continuing low numbers of women in leadership positions globally indicates that companies and individuals have still not found a way to utilise the skills and insights which women can offer. We hope that by working closely with the 30% Club, we can break through to women, and their employers, around the world, and convince them of the benefits of investing in their business education.

It is not enough to exhort women to “lean in”. Women need access to the knowledge, insights, resources, networks and mentoring which world-class business schools like Oxford are well placed to provide. At Oxford, women have an opportunity to argue their case, debate future solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems, and to emerge confident in their ability to make difficult judgements.

An Executive MBA, which allows participants to combine study with a demanding job, is also an opportunity to reflect on leadership style and to build a professional and personal development plan to manage career acceleration up to board level. Through this scholarship we hope to attract some of the best candidates for senior leadership positions globally.’