For the first time in the history of the Fortune 500, women run more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies today. Big corporations such as IBM, Oracle Corporation, General Motors, and others are opting for women leaders, showcasing a positive industry trend that seems to be growing as we move forward.
Many women today dream of leading a big company. However, achieving that level of success isn’t easy. To reach those higher levels, one needs to possess a certain skill set that hiring companies value and cherish. With the idea to help women achieve their dream, Aula Magna Business School came to life.
The Aula business school is the first online international business school for digital female leaders of today and tomorrow. At Aula Magna Business School, programs primarily focus on developing skills in women that companies can’t pass on, with an ideal learning environment for women aiming to excel in the industry toward new heights.
Clara Lapiedra is the Founder & CEO of Aula Magna Business School, and in its latest issue, “The Most Influential Women Leaders To Watch In 2023,” CIO Women has featured her. Below are some snippets from the fascinating conversation.
1. What inspired you to direct your journey in this particular field?
My in-depth knowledge of the executive training sector led me to detect an unmet need: up-to-date and flexible executive training for women who did not want to give up on their progress.
That is why I decided to found, in the middle of the pandemic, Aula Magna Business School, the first online business school for women because I knew that female talent could be a must in today’s market thanks to training adapted to the needs of every executive, businesswoman or entrepreneur.
2. How difficult were the initial years? State a few challenges you faced
On 23 March 2023, Aula Magna Business School celebrated its third anniversary. So far, we have managed to carry out five editions of our flagship program, the Executive Development Program (EDP), through which students are able to develop and improve their management skills. In addition, we have reached the third edition of the Data Analytics for Managers (D4M) program, designed to learn about the full potential of value creation through a data-driven organization.
But that’s not all, we also offer tailor-made programs adapted to particular cases. And, through The Equity Academy, we have the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Awareness Program together with the Stem Women Congress team. This training is designed to teach you the basic principles for implementing a policy of equality, diversity, and inclusion in your company or organization.
In short, these have been the first years of exponential growth in which we have achieved that more than 92% of the students have been promoted during the six months after graduation. This percentage proves that our formula works and has an impact not only in Europe but also in Latin America and the United States.
3. Please walk us through your professional background
A serial entrepreneur, as I am defined by those who know me, I come from the strategic consultancy sector. I have an MBA from ESADE and a General Management Program from IESE, having completed my studies in Italy, England, Germany, and the USA. In addition to my role as CEO & Founder at Aula Magna Business School, I am also the founder of the Wompreneur community and Stanford’s official ambassador for Barcelona and Madrid for the Women in Data Science (WiDS) program, which will celebrate its third edition this summer.
In addition, I have recently been named Top 10 Women CEO 2023 by the American magazine iEra Women Leaders, for my international role in executive education for women.
4. How has your education helped you to shape your enterprise?
Something stirred me when fresh out of graduate school, I continued to study abroad, both in Italy and the United States and, some summers, in the UK and Germany. I found that, in executive programs (aimed at management skills), women barely made up 20% of the classrooms, as a Harvard Business Review report found. I experienced all this myself and grew up identifying those “pain points” to make women lose their fear of attending executive programs, making them more agile in content, encouraging connection between participants, making them flexible, and updating the content.
You can count on the fingers of one hand the traditional cases where the environment is updated. I find that digitalization and the rapid impact of globalization have rendered most of the cases I have read obsolete. This is why, at Aula Magna Business School, we develop our own cases, concisely and with contextually relevant information.
5. When was the company incepted?
Aula Magna Business School opened its doors in the midst of the pandemic, demonstrating that entrepreneurial talent is that which, in the face of adversity, chooses to do, create, build, and, in short, undertake. It was a key moment in which training, both for children and adults, was forced to go digital, demonstrating that another way of educating and training was possible in a disruptive and changing market.
6. What was the vision of your company when you started?
The purpose of Aula Magna Business School has never changed. Fighting gender bias through training courses will always be the main objective of what will always be the first business school adapted to the needs of the emerging market. We were born as a space designed by and for women executives, entrepreneurs, courageous and eager to grow professionally.
Leading the training of women in different fields and through its own e-learning model, Aula Magna has already managed to reach half the world thanks to its up-to-date classes, designed in terms of equality, equity, sustainability, and digitalization. All without forgetting that talent, irrespective of gender, is developed thanks to the recycling of content and constant training.
On the other hand, the objective of Aula Magna does not end with training and learning. According to the alumni, this is also a school where you can build synergies and strengthen your network of contacts. A friendly and respectful space where you can grow both internally and externally. Proof of this is the fact that we are ambassadors for Stanford and its annual event ‘Women in Data Science’ in Barcelona and Madrid.
7. What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?
As our alumni always say, “We are the formula that works” because, from the beginning, we knew how to listen to the demands of female executives, businesswomen, and entrepreneurs, offering them products and services clearly adapted to their most immediate needs.
The Aula Magna Business School team, from its founder Clara Lapiedra to its teaching staff, understands what its students expect from each executive program because we, in our day, also went through the same thing. It should be added that the courses are given by women who are experts in their fields of knowledge and who also know how to transmit all their learning in a fluid, understandable, and practical way, adapted to each specific moment.
In short, we were able to capture a powerful market niche at the right time. Women entrepreneurs and executives needed a business school that was digital, diverse, and sustainable, with a well-developed catalog of teachers and speakers who could help them to enhance their professional careers with seriousness, rigor, and gender commitment. The result is a community of women who create synergies and acquire enriching knowledge, both for themselves and for their companies. At the end of the day, it must be borne in mind that gender equality will ultimately be progress for everyone, not just for women.
8. Post-pandemic, how has the era of entrepreneurship changed?
There has been an undeniable increase in the number of women entrepreneurs, especially in the case of Spain. In particular, this country has almost 24,000 start-ups. In other words, 4% of Spanish companies that remain active are start-ups. Women entrepreneurs are also carving out a niche for themselves in this emerging market. The percentage of female entrepreneurs has increased by 15% in the last three years, reaching around 30% of the total.
However, this remarkable growth is still dependent on horizontal segregation in which it seems that female talent never reaches the STEM sectors. Only 28% of people doing research in science are women, according to the latest study published by UNESCO. Moreover, in the field of education, the Spanish Ministry of Education notes that the presence of women in engineering degrees is less than 25% of the enrolled students.
Why does Clara Lapiedra make this point? Because at Aula Magna Business School we promote female STEM talent for those companies that wish to have an inclusive and diverse workforce, thus increasing their productivity and performance considerably.