The Broad College of Business is on a mission to develop global transformational leaders who positively impact organizations and society — and women make up a growing network of business leaders today.
To help advance the careers of women and support workplace diversity, the Broad College offers two complementary online programs, Women in Executive Leadership and Women in Senior Executive Leadership, through Executive Development Programs.
“Recruiting a diverse workforce provides an organization with unique viewpoints and problem-solving ability,” David Frayer, assistant dean for outreach and engagement, said. “We’re pleased to be able to offer programs like these to help women excel in today’s workplace.”
Now entering a third year, both programs are offered virtually each fall, bringing together women leaders across industries to provide them with opportunities to be empowered and to excel. The programs help participants perform at a higher level in their careers and provide the tools to support other leaders within their organizations.
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Women in Executive Leadership is designed for individuals with five to 10 years of experience, and Women in Senior Executive Leadership benefits women with 10 or more years of experience. Both programs include the latest research from Michigan State University faculty in the fields of leadership, emotional intelligence, communication, negotiation and inclusion.
Jennifer Dunn, fixed-term faculty of the Broad College’s Department of Management, has enjoyed facilitating sessions on negotiations through the programs. She said, “The participants are eager to learn from faculty and from their professional peers. They take full advantage of the interactive nature of the program.”
World-class organizations such as Clark Construction Company, Dow, Eastman Chemical Company, Greenstone Farm Credit Services, Kellogg Company, Meritor WABCO, Pilot Chemical Company, Whirlpool Corporation and the State of Michigan have sent participants to Broad’s programs. Many have sent multiple women across both programs to maximize change in their organizations though mentorship, the creation of support networks and increased capacity of attendees.
“We believe in giving people the tools they need to advance,” Lyn Hewitt, vice president of human resources at Clark, said. “Construction is a white, male-dominated industry. We have made some good progress in cultural change, and we still have a long way to go. Programs like these offered at MSU help women navigate this white, male-dominated culture successfully. Since adding these types of programs to our team curriculum, our employee retention and performance is stronger.”
For Hewitt, investment in DEI-related training programs such as Women in Executive Leadership and Women in Senior Executive Leadership are strategic initiatives for the company, not simply human resources initiatives.
“This is an investment in our workforce,” said Hewitt, who has completed both programs, including the inaugural iteration of the Women in Senior Executive Leadership program in 2020. “Women bring unique skills to the workplace, and our goal is to leverage those strengths as a team.
“Personally, I found the networking opportunities across various industries to be especially helpful in shaping my perspectives and leading to continued success in my role as vice president on the team.”
Clark Construction has since sent 10 other women to the series and has seen positive outcomes in turn. “The program has inspired several individuals and has provided the skills to help them reach their personal and professional goals,” Hewitt continued. “When people learn things and come back and challenge the status quo, that’s how we learn and grow as a company.”
Some of the topics covered in the program are universal, such as the need for meaningful work. Other issues are explored from the unique perspective of women, such as work-life balance and perception by peers.
“It is important for women to have a springboard to share struggles and ambitions. That’s what these two programs provide,” Marcie Stowell, assistant director of open enrollment programs, said. “The experiences are as varied as the individuals in our programs.”
While many informal networks — such as those on platforms like LinkedIn or created through women-led virtual happy hours — exist and are helpful, the EDP women’s programming provides a more formal structure for change. Participants have opportunities to hone their skills and build their network during the program.
Senior executives from industry share their best advice for creating value during optional presentations that immediately follow a few of the modules. All of the content presented is designed to have real-world application that women can use to lift their organizations.
Hewitt mentioned that Women at Work, an employee resource group and support network, was created internally at Clark Construction. The group is now 46 members strong and provides career and mentoring support to help one another shine in and out of the workplace.
“Women in leadership and women in trades have vastly different needs and experiences,” she said. “It is important to support them both, and we are doing that by investing in our people.
“At Clark, we are pleased to partner with MSU and utilize the Women in Executive Leadership program to advance our female leadership team members,” Hewitt continued. “I would highly recommend the program for those who wish to expand their knowledge and network and also hone some of their unique skills for career success.”
Both programs are currently offered virtually. Hybrid options are also being explored this spring to enhance the networking component.