Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Ukraine – Lviv Business School


Lviv Business School
of Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine, launched a programme aimed at providing skills to female entrepreneurs. Their aim is to  develop new, or further develop existing female-led businesses across the country. I spoke with Svitlana Kyrylchuk who works at the Business School about this programme and the impact it has already had in the country. 

 

Why did you decide to start a Women’s Leadership Programme?

Ukrainian women own 22-23% of small and medium-sized enterprises and only 2% of big ones. As involving of women is fundamental for democratic government, it is important that these numbers increase. This means empowering more women to be able to start and grow their businesses. We believe that we can have a significant impact in increasing these numbers through educational programmes and public discussions on the topic of women’s leadership here in the Ukraine.

What is the Women’s Leadership Programme?

Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS) and the Center for Leadership of UCU have developed an educational programme called «Women’s Leadership and Change Management». The programme is aimed at women-leaders from business, public and non-profitable sectors. This variety of students creates a special dynamics and synergy within one group and also establishes partnerships between different sectors.

The programme is based on the concept «Leadership based on character» that was developed by several researchers in Canada from Ivey Business School. According to this concept, leadership involves a character that is made up of 11 virtues and competencies. This can be divided into four categories: organizational, human, strategic, and business competencies, as well as commitment. The participants use this model to analyze their actions and behavior in order to develop their values and virtues.

The programme is practice-oriented and we focus on using case studies to teach the students. We believe that only through studying real examples can participations start to understand the role of a leader’s values to the utmost. The programme also includes several case studies from Ukrainian leadership research that has been undertaken by the Center for Leadership here which help students to understand the peculiarities of Ukrainian leadership and compare it to the leadership in other countries. For instance, according to this research, Ukrainian leaders mostly underestimate virtues such as accountability and humility, so in this programme much attention is focused on their study and analysis.

What do you hope to achieve through the programme? What have you achieved so far?

Throughout the programme we cover a range of topics including but not limited to character development, personal branding, networking and negotiating. The focus is on building the different competencies that are essential for a true leader. Since 2016 we have held 6 Women Leadership programmes that have involved 200 participants from across the country. In November last year the programme won the award of top 3 new management programmes at a Management executive and Professional Development conference in the US which we are very proud of.

What have been some of the challenges?

We didn’t have any difficulties with the program. The challenges are more focused on the difficulties for business women in Ukraine in general and what impact we can have on changing that. For example, recent research from the Center for Leadership of UCU looked at the differences of emotional intellect between men and women entrepreneurs. Preliminary results show that the differences in emotional intellect between men and women are minor. In particular, this is true when it comes to traits such as vocation, self-effectiveness and persistency. Despite this, Ukrainian women are seen as being less able to start and succeed in business than men. This is something we are hoping to change.

What have been some of the successes?

Among the program’s graduates there are successful women-entrepreneurs, administrators and leaders of social projects and non-governmental organizations. Some of our alumni include the founder of a social enterprise that recycles flowers from ceremonial events and uses the proceeds to finance charity projects called «Flowery Happiness». Another is the Chief Operating Officer of «Teple Misto», an innovative platform for creating opportunities and social transformations in Ivano-Frankivsk city. Other alumni have prominent roles at Transparency International, in national government and at the National Bank of Ukraine. One of the brightest, most active and determined participants of the program is Maryana Petrash, who is one of the co-founders of the initiative «Woman for Woman». This is a social project founded in 2017 to support and revive «The Walnut House» (Center of Integral Care for Women in Crisis). The project aims to raise money to restore the building in Lviv where the center for women has to be located and drawing more attention to its activities.

What’s next for the initiative?

As the program is in big demand, especially in Ukrainian context, we continue holding it twice a year.

What about female leadership in Lviv? What kinds of initiatives does your business school have and what is the state of women leadership within the School?

Sophia Opatska, the Founding Dean of Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, is now UCU’s Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. In the ten years since its founding, Lviv Business School, under the leadership of Sophia, has developed from a small start-up company to a truly successful institution with European values which is educating a responsible business community within Ukraine. Starting with only one program, the Key Executive MBA, in 2008, we have now developed to 4 master programs (Key Executive MBA, MSc in Technology Management, MA in Human Resources and Organization Development and MSc in Innovations) and up to 20 open-enrollment programs of Executive Innovation run every year in different cities of Ukraine. Much has been achieved so far and even more is to be done, but this time led by a new CEO, who is also a woman.

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