INSEAD celebrates women in business with events in Singapore

25 April 2018 3 min. read

INSEAD, the business breeding ground and finishing school for the global consulting industry, has continued its year-long celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its first female MBA admissions with a series of events in Singapore.

In 1967, the internationally renowned business graduate school INSEAD accepted two ambitious young women into its MBA programme at Fontainebleau as one the first business schools anywhere in the world to do so, welcoming Solange Perret and Hélène Ploix to its class-rooms.

Graduating in the class of 68’, Perret and Ploix would go on to become successful leaders in the international business and finance realms, with Perret founding the management consultancy London Perret Roche Group and Ploix currently serving as the co-founding partner and Chairwoman of the Investment Committee of Pechel Industries. For Ploix, her career journey upon graduation began as a consultant for McKinsey & Company, fulfilling her earliest driving ambition.

Fast-forward 50 years and the landscape looks quite different. For starters, INSEAD has operated a campus in Singapore for nearly the past 20 years, again breaking with business school tradition to launch a second full-fledged Asian campus with a permanent faculty to join its original base in Europe. Further, the school’s graduate profile is now 30 percent female, with nearly the same number originating from Asia-Pacific.INSEAD celebrates women in business with events in SingaporeBut while many things have changed, others have remained the same. The MBA graduates of INSEAD still seek out the management consulting realm as their go-to employers, with 33% last year landing employment in the sector (and 30% of those within the Asia-Pacific region doing so in Singapore). McKinsey, also, still views the school as feeder of talent, leading the way as the principal employer of INSEAD graduates in 2017, ahead of Bain and BCG.

A less flattering stasis in continuity is that women are still battling for gender equality within the business world, and of course beyond. The moral imperative for equality aside, the business case alone for greater gender diversity in leadership is compelling. A report from McKinsey earlier this year found that “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation.”

Meanwhile, a recent BCG study on the largest economies of Southeast Asia found that just 10% of the CEO/board-level positions in Singapore were held by women. Amid such prevailing statistics, the INSEAD events held in the city this year to celebrate the 50-year milestone of its first female graduates – now totaling more than 7000 – take on a flavor of local importance beyond simple festivities, despite their good-natured spirit.

Kicking off the recent week of INSEAD Celebrates Women activities, with sponsorship from strategy firm Roland Berger, was the community event Walk in her Heels, an almost literal interpretation of one of the challenges women face on a daily basis wherein the participant men were invited to take a stroll in an large pair of high-heels. On a less playful but still encouraging note, was the ‘Changing the Status Quo: Gender Equality in Corporate Leadership’ discussion, featuring a panel of top female executives from some of the world’s most prominent companies, including PwC’s Banking and Capital Markets Leader, Karen Loon.