Women’s Leadership Institute Debuts At Manhattanville College

To steal a line from Virgina Slims, women have “come a long way, baby” in the business world. But there is still a dearth of females at the very top of the ladder in the corporate world, and Manhattanville College is seeking to be a catalyst for changing that situation. The Manhattanville College School of Business’ brand-new Women’s Leadership Institute, which was launched on January 29 at the Purchase campus, aims to “provide women with the skills and resources needed to succeed in the workplace, and create a place where women can collaborate, allowing them to develop their own unique presence in the executive suite,” says the Institute’s Program Director, Kathryn Meany. We caught up with Meany to learn more.

What was the driving force behind deciding to establish the Women’s Leadership Institute?

Meany: Facing challenges of managing careers and personal goals, we recognize women sometimes struggle with how to develop their own leadership styles and effectively embrace their power and status within an organization. We believe that it is essential for women to recognize, understand, and transform common business challenges and strategic priorities into career development opportunities. Relevant research over the past 25 years points to several ongoing patterns that create barriers to women’s access to top leadership positions and decision-making roles, including gender stereotypes. The Manhattanville School of Business developed the Women’s Leadership Institute to help women reach their highest levels of development.

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What are the goals of the Institute?

Meany: Our vision is to provide every woman who participates with the skills and resources to succeed. The Institute is a place where women collaborate to define, create, and expand leadership opportunities and entrepreneurial instincts by taking ownership and developing executive presence. It is our mission to advance the personal and professional development of women by offering a comprehensive array of educational programs, mentoring and coaching, and training.

What type of programming can we expect?

Meany: The Women’s Leadership Institute will develop and offer programs in a phased approach to ensure success. In 2015, WLI will offer a variety of programs and events, workshops, an academic certificate program targeted for mid-level female professionals or managers of high-potential female professionals, and a mentoring program supported by senior-level women professionals. Programs and events will include panel discussions, Conversations with the C-Suite, and the 1st Annual Women’s Conference on June 3 at Reid Castle, Manhattanville College. Future programs can include any of the following:  A Ramp Up program for women returning to the workforce; a service-learning program; community outreach; women’s gender studies; generational studies; women and politics; women entrepreneurs; women and the arts; the promotion of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); an internship program; mentoring and coaching programs.

What, in your opinion, are some of the issues still holding women back from leadership positions?

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Meany: Many women lack confidence—they are not risk-takers—and do not communicate directly, therefore, they do not always succeed in promoting themselves as leaders. According to neuropsychologist and founder of Brainsex Matters, Dr. Anne Moir, women are neurologically designed to keep a low profile while men are designed to compete; men put themselves out there for career opportunities knowing they offer a small percentage of required criteria, while women do not take the risk of pursuing an opportunity unless they offer most of the requirements. Confidence can be another contributing factor. The more comfortable women are in leadership roles, the more successful they will ultimately be and the more confidence they will exude. When other women witness this, it can be empowering. Confidence is contagious.

In contrast, what leadership skills do women possess uniquely? How and why are women well fit for leadership roles?


1. Communication is key to effective leadership. Great leaders spend a great deal of their time communicating, and traditionally women are thought to be better at verbalizing their thoughts than men.

2. Empathy positively relates to job performance amongst employees. The ability to understand what others are feeling—to detect if they are overworked or struggling—is a skill that “clearly contributes to effective leadership,” according to the Center for Creative Leadership.

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3. Leaders must have a vision (which they communicate to their team). Think of Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, on Europe: “The world is watching Germany and Europe. They are looking to see if we are ready and able to assume our responsibilities during Europe’s worst crisis since the end of World War II.”

4. Perspective: Women look at problems differently. They make up half the population and reflect the consumer interests, dreams, and desires of that population.

5. Maturity: Right after the financial crisis this value sprang up from nowhere. All of a sudden, risk awareness and caution became treasured characteristics. When Iceland suffered financial losses and denounced its male leader, the new female premier was seen as cleaning up men’s mess. The ability to think long-term came to be seen as a specifically feminine trait.

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