Financial TimesBuilding trust, gender parity in business education

November 23, 20200

Welcome to Business School Briefing. We offer you insights from Andrew Hill and Jonathan Moules, and the pick of top stories being read in business schools. Edited by Wai Kwen Chan and Andrew Jack.


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Andrew Hill’s management challenge

Trust is fundamental to trouncing coronavirus — notably trust in a future vaccine — but, as I’ve written this week, trust can cut several ways. For instance, trusted politicians who flout health rules lead their trusting constituents down the wrong path.

For my management challenge this week, I’m after a public health message to convince vaccine sceptics to line up and have the coronavirus jab. Just a slogan will be enough. Send it to me at

Some fun entries for last week’s challenge, asking you to imagine the memo a famous historical, business or fictional figure would write to his or her successor. 

Robert Murray has legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson telling his hapless replacement David Moyes, “Good luck, I’ll be watching” (which he did — probably to Mr Moyes’ distress). Michelle writes that Alexander the Great, whose sudden death triggered confusion, would have left a note “It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan”. And Roman Ryan suggests a posthumous instruction from Jeff Bezos to his successor directing him to stage “an orderly, customer-oriented, and successful undoing” of the conglomerate, and to “remember to have fun, work hard and make history”.

In further reading, a short blog post from the Washington Post, written by Cathy Davidson. She explains the findings of internal projects that analysed the most important qualities of Google staff. Spoiler alert: they weren’t traditional STEM skills. The latest project “shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety”.

Jonathan Moules’ business news

Amid the celebrations about growing demand for MBA places this year lies a worrying development: stalled growth in the proportion of women enrolling on MBA programmes. Just eight of the 52 institutions in the Forté Foundation network, focused on gender parity in business education and boardrooms, enrolled a class that was more than 45 per cent female — unchanged on 2019. This is doubly disturbing given that a study by McKinsey estimated that women are 1.8 times more likely than men to lose their jobs in the current downturn and that demand for education is counter cyclical — rising when economies fall. It begs the question: why are not more women attracted to the MBA?

New research by Carrington Crisp for the Executive MBA Council highlighted the need for business schools to be more responsive to the changing world of work for both employers and their staff. Individual learners said they looked for flexibility in the delivery of teaching and the extent of digital delivery. Among employers, 81 per cent said they thought business schools needed to reinvent MBA degrees, 77 per cent did not want full-time study and 84 per cent said they would like schools to work more closely with them to develop programmes relevant for the future.

One respondent said: “Too often traditional business schools are product-centred like a vinyl LP when the contemporary school needs to be more like Spotify.” There is clearly still a need for business schools to adapt to changing times.

Data line

Where do EMBA alumni work? Our five year analysis from the FT EMBA ranking shows that the majority go into the industrial or finance/banking sectors. Finance had been waning in popularity but experienced a recent bounceback. Consultancy is ever more popular.

Column chart of Each year represents the EMBA cohort that completed an FT questionnaire from 2016 to 2020. The FT alumni completed their EMBA three years prior to the survey. showing Top five sectors which EMBA alumni work in — three years after graduation

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Top business school reads

Best Books of the Year 2020 From ideas for rethinking economics and politics to pure escapism, FT writers and critics choose their favourite titles of what has been an extraordinary year for books

Why financial literacy matters more than ever As the economic climate worsens, the FT’s new foundation aims to help improve money management skills for the most vulnerable

The kids aren’t alright: How Generation Covid is losing out | Free to read A global FT survey shows resentment is brewing among the under-30s as unemployment and restrictions bite

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