This year, WIL’s partner INSEAD, a top international business school, marks the 50th anniversary since the first woman was admitted to its MBA programme. The timing provides us with a great opportunity to discuss with our Board Member Nida Januskis, Associate Dean of Advancement about how INSEAD is promoting career advancement among women, notably through its partnership with WIL, and learn about her own experience of combining a career with a family life. And as it is quite rare to meet an American and Lithuanian living in France, we also used this occasion to learn more about Nida’s origins and her views on preserving one’s language and culture!
This year, INSEAD celebrates 50 years as one of the first business schools in the world that admitted women to its MBA programme. However today, only 30% of all applicants are women. What do you think is the reason for this number of women who are interested in the programme, and what can be done to increase their participation?
There are several reasons why fewer women are applying to the MBA programme. The first is that the average applicant age at INSEAD is higher compared to our peer schools. The second is that INSEAD is a global business school, which means that we have women applicants from all over the world. Some countries are well-represented by women, such as the US and China, with more than 40% participation rates. However, we would like more representation from Central and Southern Europe, and we will be focusing on growing these numbers. Finally, as we have a global pool of women applicants, their financial challenges are more complex. By increasing our scholarship offerings, we hope to better facilitate their access to INSEAD.
It is our aim to increase the percentage of women students in our MBA programme to 40% overall in the next five years. We have taken a number of steps to achieve this ambitious goal. For example, we have started a targeted campaign called Limitless to attract more women applicants. The campaign highlights our alumnae by featuring their stories, which we hope will inspire other women to join us. We also plan to expand the applicant pool by targeting younger women and building referral programmes.
During the application process at INSEAD, the applicant is always interviewed by two of our Alumni. In order to avoid biases, we are making sure that in the case of a woman applicant, she is always interviewed by at least one woman, which was not the case in the past.
“It is our aim to increase the percentage of women students in our MBA programme to 40% in the next five years. To attract them, we have started a targeted campaign called Limitless.”
INSEAD has chosen to partner with WIL and also offers a customized Woman Global Leaders Programme. Can you tell us why?
This year, INSEAD celebrates the 50th anniversary since women were first admitted to our MBA programme. We realize that partnerships with organizations like WIL, and in particular, WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme, help to feed our pipeline. This partnership is very important to INSEAD and is very much aligned with our mission and values.
INSEAD also offers a Women Leaders Programme to executives. The programme addresses the challenges women face when progressing into senior leadership positions. It is specifically designed for women with 15 years, or more, of professional experience.
“The partnership with WIL and in particular WIL’s Talent Pool Programme is very important to INSEAD and is very much aligned with our mission and our values.”
You are a great example that taking maternity leave is not an obstacle to a career advancement for professional women. You were working for Harvard Business School (HBS) as an Associate Director for External Relations when you moved to Paris and decided to stay at home with your children for almost three years. What led you to make this decision, and did you disconnect entirely from your professional life during that period? In addition, what was the biggest challenge you encountered upon your return?
I was working for HBS in Boston for almost 6 years when my husband was transferred to Paris. Although I have never thought I would stay at home with my children, I realized that this was a good opportunity for me to learn French and become part of the community. At the time, I was doing pro-bono work, such as fundraising for schools and nonprofits. Looking back, I think it was the best decision I could have made at the time.
Nevertheless, after three years at home, I wanted to return to the workforce, knowing that I had a lot of value to bring. Maternity leave for me was not an obstacle, and I was lucky enough that my previous employer Harvard Business School was entering their second capital campaign and recruited me back to work for them remotely. The challenges were mostly logistical and related to childcare. However, at the time, I was fortunate that my office was within walking distance of where we lived so it ended up being an easy transition. Now, I enjoy being a working mom, and I also feel that I am being a better mom because of it.
As already mentioned, upon your return, you started working for HBS International Alumni Development Team, where you were raising private funds from former students. When it comes to asking for money, Europeans are very different from Americans – was this an obstacle? How did this experience benefit you once you joined INSEAD as an Executive Director for Development in 2016?
The culture of philanthropy in Europe is very different from that of the US, where one is exposed to fundraising at an early age, often through a sports team, your school, or through your church. By the time one attends University in the US, fundraising has become an accepted, and even welcomed, way to elevate institutions one cares most deeply about. In a strong sense, philanthropy is seen as an investment in the self, as to improve the institutions that have launched our careers can only improve our own standing in the world.
“INSEAD was founded on the idea of rebuilding a war-torn Europe by bringing people together through business education.”
Nonetheless, the tide is changing, and Europeans are starting to understand that fundraising is important. If we can make the case that their donation to an organization or to a school will make an impact and that it will touch more people, than people will be willing to donate.
INSEAD was founded on the idea of rebuilding a war-torn Europe by bringing people together through business education. I feel that we have stayed true to our mission and that the funds we raise go to good causes, such as scholarships, thought leadership and new ventures. Our alumni understand that for the school to compete with peer schools and to promote our mission, it is important for them to support INSEAD.
You are American and Lithuanian and have been living in France for 9 years. Where do you feel at home and how important is the preservation of one’s cultural origins for you?
“I believe the language is key to preserving one’s cultural identity, and that it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.”
Being an American, Lithuanian and living in France, I truly feel at home at a global institution such as INSEAD. In fact it makes me think of my children, who are third culture kids and whom I wish to raise as global citizens of the world. I believe that language is key to preserving one’s cultural identity, and that it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.
INSEAD’s flagship MBA programme has a policy that no more than 10-12% of the class is represented by any one nationality, which makes diversity part of INSEAD’s DNA. Diversity adds value to the conversations and the decision-making process, which is often lacking in corporate boards. I believe that being inclusive, diverse and gender-balanced is of utmost importance for INSEAD, which is also why our gender initiative, in which men are also involved, can make a big difference in management education.