Nearly a decade ago, when they were looking to launch training sessions for women executives in Brazil, leaders of Smith’s Executive Education for Women program faced a brick wall.
“There really wasn’t any interest,” said Iris Newalu, executive director of the 35-year-old leadership development center at Smith. “They were not going to separate out the women.”
Since then, numerous Brazilian companies—along with many of their counterparts worldwide—have realized that advancing women business leaders is critical to success in a global economy, Newalu said. There is now growing demand for leadership training focused on women in business in South America.
To answer the call for nurturing such talent, Smith’s Executive Education Program for Women is partnering with a leading Brazilian business school to offer the first women’s leadership training of its kind in South America.
The six-day Global Women Leaders Program begins Sept. 7 on the Nova Lima campus of Fundação Dom Cabral (FDC), a prestigious Brazilian business school. Newalu said the pilot program has space for up to 40 women executive-level directors and senior managers, who will explore topics such as career advancement, strategic planning and achieving work-life balance.
The program is recruiting from among Fortune 100 multinational companies who have shown interest in training women executives they have working in Brazil, as well as Brazilian companies eager to develop their top female employees.
Newalu said the training sessions, offered in partnership with FDC faculty members, will help women use personal narratives and other reflective tools to explore barriers they face in the business world.
“We create an atmosphere where high-level executives can interact, discuss their business challenges and the barriers they face as women,” she said. “Once they realize they are not alone in their pursuit, it leads to increased confidence in the workplace and beyond.”
Smith’s Executive Education Program for Women, which was founded by former Smith President Jill Ker Conway, works with corporations that are actively committed to retaining and advancing women. The center provides high-level training and networking opportunities for women senior managers and executives in fields ranging from biotechnology to nonprofits.
Newalu said FDC was the ideal match for a training partnership in Brazil because, as a “business school with a social conscience,” its guiding principals are aligned with Smith’s educational mission.
Surveys and focus groups the Smith program conducted with women executives and Brazilian companies showed the vast majority felt there are too few “champions” of women’s issues and too little attention paid to the unique challenges women face doing business in Latin America.
“There are still too few women in prominent positions in business,” Newalu said. “But we see this scenario changing as a result of research showing companies with more gender diversity on their boards achieve better financial results.”
For information about the pilot program in Brazil, visit: http://www.fdc.org.br/en/