What are some of the popular postgraduate degrees for C-suite women?

What postgraduate degree does it take for a woman to rise to the upper echelons of the corporate ladder? Source: Shutterstock

It is a strenuous climb to the top for female leaders in corporate institutions. 

The upper echelons of corporations, particularly senior management, have long been a space dominated by men, but the tide could be changing.

Last year, a survey by consulting firm Korn Ferry showed that women now hold 25 percent of the five critical C-suite positions – an increase from 23 percent in 2018.

Their analysis includes the US’s 1,000 largest corporations across eight industries. 

They add that women hold a majority of only one of those spots – CHRO – and only six percent of CEO spots are held by women, unchanged from 2018.

An MBA can help with the ascent to C-suite positions, making them a popular option for those looking to arm themselves with a qualification that can facilitate career progression. 

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported last year that the percentage of women enroled in full-time MBA programmes have been climbing, adding that it reached an average of 39 percent last fall at more than 50 of the top programmes in the US, Canada and Europe.

It’s clear that women still have many glass ceilings to shatter, but apart from factors including tenacity, drive, talent and skills, education can also play a role towards their progress.

In light of the upcoming International Women’s Day this March 8, we take a look at some of the past and current female leaders across numerous organisations across the world to explore their postgraduate qualifications.

Helena Helmersson 

H&M is a Swedish fast-fashion giant, with thousands of stores and even more employees worldwide. At its helm, inspiringly, is a woman.

H&M CEO Helena Helmersson holds a Master’s degree in international business and an MSc in business administration and economics from Umeå University in Sweden, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She’s been with the company since 1997 and has risen up the ranks in her years of service, holding various positions such as business controller in the buying office and section manager working with assortment planning and purchasing. 

Her work has taken her from Bangladesh to Hong Kong and back to Sweden, a career trajectory that fits her education background aptly.

Emma Walmsley


Walmsley graduated from Oxford University. Source: GSK

Walmsley is the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, British multinational pharmaceutical company with a revenue of US$41.1 billion

Her education background is a stark contrast to her industry, but that hasn’t deterred her from flexing her business and marketing-prowess. 

Walmsley is a graduate of Oxford University, and holds an MA in Classics and Modern Languages. 

She has held numerous marketing and general management roles abroad, such as Paris, London and New York with L’Oreal prior to joining GSK.

Ruth Porat


Porat is armed with three degrees under her belt. Source: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images North America/AFP

Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat is a highly accomplished woman. Just last year she opened up about her battles with cancer, and how her personal experience inspired her to support healthcare initiatives at Google and its parent company, reported CNBC.

She was among Google’s most senior female executives who joined a mass protest at the firm’s handling of sexual harassment, walking out with her finance team from Google’s Mountain View headquarters in California.

Apart from holding a BA from Stanford University, Porat also holds an MSc from the London School of Economics and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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