From elite athlete to empowered leader

Women in Leadership

By AGSM Aug 7, 2018 

When Lucinda Whitty received an AGSM Women in Leadership Scholarship for her Full-Time MBA studies in 2018, it gave her the 'breathing space' to focus her energy on the experience.

"Financially, it was hard to give myself the luxury of devoting myself to studies full-time," she admits. "But I was also really honoured to have this opportunity from Australia's top Business School, and to be an ambassador for AGSM."

Lucinda is used to the fast-paced, steep learning curve a Full-Time MBA program demands. As well as undertaking her undergraduate studies in business, she is an Olympic silver medallist. Lucinda spent seven years with the Australian Institute of Sport and represented Australia at the 2012 Olympics in sailing.

"I knew I'd need a Plan B after competitive sailing, and this is now the perfect time for me to continue my education and enhance my understanding of the business world."

As Co-President of her MBA class, Lucinda is also responsible for making sure every student has an experience to remember, and help create a supportive culture within the cohort. She says the Full-Time MBA experience has a lot in common with an elite athlete environment.

"We have 20 different nationalities in our year group. What we learn from each other is so valuable in this globalised economy."

She says that when you get a group of 56 driven, motivated people in one room and everyone has an opinion, it can be challenging to navigate.

"I see this as  another opportunity to hone my leadership skills, because I probably took communication skills for granted when I was sailing. Knowing how to work with different personalities and get the most out of people leads to being open and honest – and sometimes accepting that you might be wrong."

Focused on empowering women

Lucinda spent two years working with Westpac on women's, markets initiatives, which fuelled her passion for closing the gender gap through financial education. "Our team influenced products and policies to help women in the financial space, and also worked closely with Westpac's Inclusion and Diversity team," she explains. "By the end of 2017, Westpac achieved 50% women in leadership positions, which was an awesome milestone for a 200 year old company!"

But she knows there is still a long way to go in order to achieve true gender equality in the workforce. "That's why I am inspired to be a leader in this space, and help women advance in our economy. This scholarship is one platform for me to do that – as well as providing a great learning opportunity."

The AGSM Women in Leadership Club, established this year, is another avenue to foster education. "We'll be most proud when there doesn't have to be club – that's the mission," she says. But in the meantime, the conversation is still very relevant to both genders, and everyone is welcome to the club's conversation series, events and debates.

"We know it's a matter of changing attitudes and perceptions, and busting myths about women in leadership. Women are already across this – we need to make sure men feel involved in the change too. And given women currently make up about 35% of our cohort, I'd love to see that an even ratio within a few years."

Lucinda says that while the Full-Time MBA classroom experience is fantastic, the networking opportunities within her cohort have really shaped her learning so far this year. "It's such a diverse group – we have a few rocket scientists, some entrepreneurs who've worked in Silicon Valley, a few with a military background. Travelling together for leadership courses or competitive programs with other business schools has deepened our relationship. You get the chance to know them on a very personal level."

This has helped her understand the importance of empathy in leadership. "AGSM does a good job of helping us learn about our natural biases, and how they influence our decision making and how we think. I think the main thing I've improved is my ability to genuinely listen and hear different points of view – especially in a complex environment. The more you understand each person's mindset, the better the results."

After completing her MBA, Lucinda will be seeking consulting work. "I'm looking forward to a working environment that builds on my experience as an elite athlete: high intensity team-based work with hard deliverables. I'm keen to tackle some big business problems."

In the meantime, she urges anyone thinking about an MBA to take it on.

To find out more about the diverse scholarship opportunities available for MBA students, visit the AGSM website

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