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EMBA scholarships give women the XX factor

If you think that taking an Executive MBA (EMBA) is like those days at university when you could sit back and relax or even skive, then think again. Like most executive courses, the Ivey Executive EMBA programme requires persistence and commitment.

And for those female executives and managers who think they have what it takes, The Women's Foundation (TWF) has launched a scholarship programne with Ivey Business School. Sally Hasler, policy and networks manager at TWF, says the scholarship aims to build and promote a pipeline of executive and non-executive directors in Hong Kong. "So there's three scholarships offered annually to support women," she says.

Dr Janet De Silva, dean of Ivey Asia, says women only represent 25 per cent of the intake in EMBA courses, versus 50 per cent for undergraduate courses.

"That is why this programme… is so important in raising the profile and visibility of continued education and more experience to build up a ready pipeline of aspiring women," she says.

"By the time you've completed our 15 modules, you'll also have debated and prepared a 150 business cases... So you'll become really good at dealing with many of the real-life issues faced by senior executives," De Silva adds.

All the cases are real-life scenarios and sourced from companies, alumni and organisations.

Students are expected to engage and contribute actively in a class typically made up of 10 different nationalities. Cultural diversity is not the only benefit. About 15 per cent of the class comes from companies with a headcount of fewer than 15, and 40 per cent from those with 50-1,000 staff, while 8 per cent are from corporations with over 100,000 employees.

Relentless debates in class are seen not only as beneficial for extending networks but also as very enlightening. When most of the students are senior company executives, the chances are participants will be exposed to marathon discussions on the real crises that many executives face.

Students rate each other in terms of contribution and interaction. They meet for four days of weekend classes each month, and students are expected to spend 10-12 hours a week on homework.

Simon Heaton, head of recruitment at Walmart Asia who is halfway through the course, says: "For me personally, it's been a transformational programme."

While considering that he has benefited a great deal from the programme, Heaton especially embraces the 100 per cent case-based study method and attributes his work appraisal result to it.

"I just had the assessment centre that we go through in Walmart … And I can honestly say I would not have got the feedback and the strengths in the report that I got had it not been for the three professors particularly, and the classmates that I have that we debated the cases, " he says.

A former CEO of Canada Sun Life Financial's business in Hong Kong and then a China joint venture, De Silva explained why she took the programme in the 1990s. "I was at a point of in my career where the people at the next level up seemed to have broader skills and experience than me. The programme helped me round out my skill set and build my confidence to higher-level, more strategic discussions, and this raised my visibility for and access to, more senior, complex roles," she says.

Women who can demonstrate strong managerial skills and growth in their career, as well as contributing to the community by heading non-profit boards or mentoring jobs, are encouraged to apply. The scholarship is also aimed at role models who have helped other women advance in their own organisations.

The course will start in August and the intake admits about 35-40 students, who take 18 months to complete the programme. The admission requirement is a minimum of 10 years' managerial experience for undergraduate degree holders, and 15-20 years for non-degree holders. Applications should be in by May 31.