The stereotype of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) student as a middle-aged male no longer rings true – and New Zealand's leading university is making changes to accommodate more businesswomen.
More women and younger professionals take time out of their career to do the premium business degree for executives so, in response to this changing demographic, the University of Auckland is revamping its MBA programme to be shorter, more flexible and more future-focused.
Rick Starr, Director of the MBA programme at the university, champions these changes: "There are tectonic shifts at play in the business world which include the growing influence of businesswomen."
An example is 32-year-old student Catalina Miguel, who has a Bachelor of Design in Fashion and a Graduate Diploma in Business; she has returned home to New Zealand to undertake an MBA – which has proved exciting and at times hectic.
Getting to know the other women in the programme, who make up 36 per cent of her cohort and range in age from 27-50, has also inspired Miguel: "They are a diverse mix of women and it is fabulous to meet people from all walks of life who all have the same goal of advancing themselves and their communities."
"A woman doing an MBA is a beautiful thing. I want to be a part of a generation of Kiwi women who continue to challenge the status quo," she says.
Next quarter Miguel is excited to be working with a New Zealand handbag designer, Jessie Wong, and her brand Yu Mei as part of her International Business paper: "My team and I will be visiting Taiwan to investigate business opportunities. It will be an interesting adventure and experience that I am unlikely to have had otherwise."
Now three quarters through her degree, Miguel says studying an MBA has brought her confidence, credibility, expertise, advancement as well as networking – "not in an aggressive 1980s business card-grabbing way - but in a genuine environment where I can meet like-minded and supportive individuals," she says.
"It has definitely been challenging, but I have loved being exposed to subjects like financial reporting, strategy, marketing, leadership and ethics," she says.
If that was not enough to do Miguel has been sharing her experience with others via a blog (theunimpossibles.com). It includes a section entitled A Girl's Guide to Surviving an MBA that contains top tips from other students on how to do more than just survive, but thrive.
The advice includes giving yourself permission to prioritise your own needs. As one young entrepreneur advises: "As women, it is instilled in us to prioritise others… whether it's kids, work, house duties or social commitments. We have to remember our priorities and not forget why we decided to do an MBA in the first place."
Miguel, Head of Content for TheMarket, says meeting powerful female role models has given her hope for what is possible.
"We have a young, female Prime Minister who has had a child while in office. We need as many smart female leaders as possible to step up and help us to compete on the international stage, and education is one way to achieve that. It is an exciting time to be alive."
The 2019 MBA programme is designed around three major themes - achieving excellence in an existing business, driving change, and thriving under complexity. This integrative and flexible programme equips managers with a set of skills and the confidence to maintain and grow organisations within this dynamic context.