Women Only Leadership Development: A Conundrum

  • Deirdre Anderson
  • Susan Vinnicombe
  • Val Singh


In its only concession to affirmative action, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 made a provision for women only training programmes. In 1986 British Telecommunications led the way in the corporate world by introducing a two-week residential programme with Cranfield School of Management for women managers facing the glass ceiling. The programme ran three times a year for 13 years. Today most major organisations committed to diversity have a women’s management programme in their training portfolio. In the 90s Cranfield pioneered two public programmes for women managers — a leadership programme and a management development one. In only the last few years have other major business schools, like Harvard, Insead and IMD, followed suit by introducing programmes for women managers/leaders. The availability of so many programmes, however, has not dampened the debate on whether women need women only management development. In this chapter we review the lack of women in leadership, and the challenges faced by women on MBA programmes. We then look at the nature of women’s careers and women’s development. We argue the case for women only development and conclude with a case study of a programme we ran for our cohort of female MBA students in 2007.


Affirmative Action Woman Manager Career Success Leadership Development Glass Ceiling 
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Copyright information

© Deirdre Anderson, Susan Vinnicombe and Val Singh 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deirdre Anderson
  • Susan Vinnicombe
  • Val Singh

There are no affiliations available

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