Top Secret: Tell Everyone
Why Smith’s all-women approach to leadership development outperforms Harvard's, Wharton's or Stanford's.
Ok, here’s the top-secret question: How can Smith’s all-women approach to business leadership education really make that much of a difference in how fast and how effectively your company can develop high-performing women executives?
Hi, I’m Iris Newalu, head of Smith College Executive Education for Women. I recently posed this question to 200 women executives and high-potentials who were either past participants in one of our women’s leadership programs, or executive leadership decision makers who select participants. Guess what they said?
Warning: these answers may make you rethink your company’s ideas about how to develop high-potential women executives
of respondents say Smith College Executive Education's unique understanding of the issues women face climbing the corporate ladder is one of its strongest advantages.
of respondents say that because Smith College Executive Education's leadership programs are delivered in an all-women learning environment, it is an important advantage to companies because it encourages increased risk-taking leading to accelerated and more productive learning.
of respondents say Smith College Executive Education's ability to design and deliver a robust, targeted curriculum based on the specific leadership needs identified directly by corporate learning officers makes it more responsive to business- critical industry imperatives than other education providers.
of respondents say that since Smith College Executive Education is not a business school, it’s unique ability to bring together the very best team of faculty and outside experts from leading business schools and organizations around the world is a very meaningful advantage.
of respondents say that the team of faculty and outside experts Smith College Executive Education brought together for their program were thought leaders who have a very deep understanding of not just “best” practices, but the far more important NEXT practices that will be required for global business.
The No.1 thing participants and influencers would tell their CEOs…
When asked a slightly different question – “What uniquely distinguishes Smith College Executive Education in the marketplace from other top executive education providers?” – the No.1 thing participants and influencers said they would tell their CEOs about Smith is….
- Targeted to women in leadership
- Focused on advancing women leaders
- Focused on the unique needs and challenges faced by women in industry
- Focused on not just leadership, but women's leadership
I believe this is a critical insight: given the freedom of choice to say anything to their CEOs (the most important person in their company, right?) about what makes Smith’s leadership programs unique and different, the number one answer was Smith’s expert focus on not just leadership, but women’s leadership.
The ONE additional critical element company executive decision makers said they value…
Not surprisingly, influencers (i.e., company decision makers who select program participants) also singled out ONE additional critical element they believe distinguishes Smith from other top executive education providers: applicability.
This is best expressed in a 5-part value equation that goes something like this:
Or, as one of your peers (from Johnson & Johnson) put it, “Smith gives us content and learning that can have an immediate impact on our business.”
But how does Smith make you feel?
This is not meant to be a “soft” question. The fact is, your company chooses its learning partners for many different reasons. S ometimes for practical benefits (like above) and sometimes for deeply emotional benefits. After all, a partnership is ultimately about understanding each other, isn’t it? When asked, “How do you feel when you engage with Smith College Executive Education,” the emotional benefits identified by participants and influencers were as follows (in rank order):
Next, when asked the metaphorical question, “Which car brand do you think most closely resembles Smith College Executive Education?”, participants and influencers chose BMW and Mercedes-Benz (representing qualities of “premium, status, and high performance”), followed by BMW’s Mini-Cooper (representing qualities of “innovative and specialist”). “Quality” and “very dependable” followed closely behind as additional identifiable attributes and benefits.
The big insight here?
When companies work with Smith, executives feel deeply ENGAGED in learning – both right brain (creative) and left brain (analytical) – and they feel like they are being challenged by the level of the program and the people around them. Research shows that this engaging emotional connection translates to learning that sticks.
Back to that top–secret question…
So, back to the top-secret question: Does Smith Executive Education’s all-women approach to leadership training for women executives really make such a measurable a difference?
According to you (well, people just like you), yes, yes it does.
Here are three compelling reasons why we think Smith offers a significant advantage over even premiere programs like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, and, well just about any other top business school you can name. (NOTE: the following 3 reasons are based on our real-life experience with hundreds and hundreds of women executives, as wells as scientific research):
Reason #1 | Increased Risk-Taking
Problem: Most women executives experience isolation, especially in "male-oriented" leadership development programs. They feel "on their own" and without support. And thus less inclined to take risks. Yet research proves breakthrough learning only occurs when a person steps beyond everyday boundaries and take risks.
Advantage: Smith's all-woman setting systematically creates an environment of shared experiences, common issues, personal connection, candor and trust - which leads to increased risk-taking, and results in accelerated leadership development.
Reason #2 | Not Just Leadership, Women's Leadership
Problem: The curriculum of most "Top-10" leadership development programs is very good academically, but also very similar and often stubbornly narrow-minded when it comes to addressing the real barriers women face in male-oriented executive education classrooms.
Advantage: Smith Executive Education is not a business school, it is a Women's Leadership Center. Our programs focus on the challenges women leaders are actually facing as identified by the Fortune 500 companies we work with, our participants and the best thought leaders in women's leadership today. And since Smith is not a business school beholden to one set of faculty, we have the flexibility to handpick the best women's leadership experts from universities, corporations and consultancies. And, Smith’s programs also help women reflect on all aspects of their lives. Our 360-degree approach to executive learning stresses the growth of authenticity, self-confidence, personal empowerment, reflection, balance and emotional intelligence in women leaders; the very qualities essential to great leadership.
Reason #3 | Exposure to Real Peers
Problem: Most networking opportunities for talented women executives are male-dominated and devoid of accomplished women leaders like themselves.
Advantage: Smith's all-women executive programs afford women the chance to network with their real peers (other women leaders and high-potentials) from different companies, countries and industries in ways usually reserved only for their male counterparts. Here's a fact: 90% of our attendees report that Smith's all-women learning environment enhanced their network and networking capabilities in surprisingly meaningful ways.
What should you do now with this new knowledge?
I am going to hazard a guess here: You must believe in the power of developing women leaders for your company, otherwise you would not still be reading this.
So, if you believe in the value of developing women leaders, why not start a conversation with Smith today? Just like forward-thinking learning and development officers from Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, IBM and Accenture, as well as hundreds and hundreds of women executives from companies around the world already have.
Please, call me or email me directly. Or fill out our short Request Info form and I will email you information about how Smith can work with you to prepare strong, capable and strategic women to lead your company into the future.
Director, Smith Executive Education
P.S.: Don't miss our Real Women, Real Stories, where you can hear directly what women participants have to say about their leadership experience at Smith.