A fact might be known to all, but it is seldom that people act on knowledge. For example, it is very well known that the number of women in STEM fields and corporate roles is scarce, but people trying to affect change effectively are still inadequate.
One of the very few people trying to bring about this change is Clara Lapiedra. Clara is the Founder & CEO of Aula Magna Business School. This first-of-its-kind, women-oriented, international, online business school helps female leaders excel in business environments, providing them with skills that companies want and need.
The mission of Anula Magna Business School is to increase the percentage of women in management positions. It offers programs that correspond to current industry needs and are taught by women executives who are themselves active professionals in the field. Its content is also powered by top business schools such as Harvard and Stanford.
Clara is a business consultant specializing in Corporate Entrepreneurship using agile methodology and has worked on multiple projects with international companies. She is fluent in six languages and has an MBA from Esade and PDG from IESE Business School.
She has 10+ years of experience in international strategy, business development, and investments in the private sector and has been directly responsible for the launching and coordinating of 20 Country Managers. Clara is a Board Member of the Spanish Mentoring and Consulting Association (AMCES) and also of the WomUp Association for Executive Women.
She is an academic collaborator for ESADE and a member of the ESADE Social Consulting Program. She has been named the ambassador for the Women in Data Science (WiDS) program in Barcelona & Madrid.
Clara Lapiedra, in an exclusive interview with Insights Success, describes how she empowers fellow female executives through her work.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Briefly describe your professional journey up until now.
My name is Clara Lapiedra. I’m born and raised mainly in Barcelona (Spain), although I have also lived abroad for study reasons, in the US, Italy, Germany, and the UK. I’m a proud wife and mom of two boys who are 13 months apart. My family is what brings me energy and joy every day.
In the professional sphere, after completing my degree, several masters, and an MBA, I’ve been a manager in international companies for 20 years. Recently, I founded my own company, Aula Magna Business School, the first woman-centric business school that offers top-notch and up-to-date programs for women in corporations. I’m fluent in six languages and have been raised with an international background.
What challenges did you face along the way?
Probably the most remarkable challenge I’ve had so far is stepping out of my comfort zone with two babies aged 6 months and 1.5 years. I quit a very well-paid job because I needed to feel myself as a full woman in each sphere of my life, and my professional career was lacking everything I needed to make me happy. It’s been 5 years now since that moment, and I haven’t regretted that decision even for a day.
Coming to a closer time, I have faced the challenge in receiving funding from investors. It is not an easy job since most of the investors I meet with are men, and they don’t see the pain that I’m exposing with the issue in traditional business schools. They haven’t experienced this or haven’t felt this is a problem. However, it is tricky because 100% of the companies we’ve talked to so far in the last 2 years have agreed upon the fact that they’re lacking more female managers.
What significant impact have you brought to your industry?
I’ve been a woman, sitting in minority, in classes of executive programs such as my MBA in world-wide renowned business schools. I have figured out in all processes what it’s like to be in minority and what a program needs in order to be women-centric, approved for working women, some of them even moms, who do not wish to give up on their work-family balance in order to continue learning and progressing in their professional lives.
Tell us about your company and its foundation pillar.
At Aula Magna, we believe in Nelson Mandela’s saying: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change society,” and we believe that executive education shouldn’t be a luxury but accessible to anyone, especially women.
That’s why we’ve created our own eCampus and are present in 15 countries, but we plan to double this in 2023. Our programs are 100% online, and we do not have academic teachers. Still, very relevant women who are professionally active in their fields of expertise, and, on top of that, they teach at Aula Magna. This helps us skip the bias of teachers with many publications who are lacking real activity in the daily life of top sectors.
All our programs respond to the needs of current companies: global, connected, inclusive, and data-driven. We have an Executive Development Program, a Data Analyst program, a certificate in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and also an academy for female founders called Wompreneur.
What are the values that drive you as well as your company?
Our values are collaboration, effort, and striving for excellence. We’re also based on 4 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN, namely:
Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Reduced Inequalities.
What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?
I follow the motto, “the sooner, the better.” There’s a saying that says, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, it means you launched too late.” There’s no such feedback as the one by real customers who consumed your product or service. Continuous improvement comes next, and that’s something we implement in each new cohort because we listen to the Voice of Customers (VoC) with their experience, the data we get from our eCampus, and the surveys. That’s the only way in which you’re always creating, improving, implementing changes, and then selling again the wheel of lean start-ups.
What will be the next significant change in your industry, and how are you preparing for it?
The next significant change in online education is to find out the way in which programs need to be delivered. There are thousands of hours recorded in programs in the world, and online programs dropout is close to 50%. That’s probably because, most of the time, the available programs have not been designed to be delivered and consumed online, mostly on your own (in the case of on-demand learning platforms).
That’s why Aula Magna’s offering does not only bring the content itself but also the connection to the network of international Alumni, with private channels in which business happens and mentoring also happens. We’re giving a two-fold solution to the main pains: education and networking amongst professional women who seldom have a place in which they can talk business, give company recommendations or share job postings.
Last, but not least, we’ve partnered with the top two business schools in the world: Harvard, we’re partner educators, and our participants can benefit from their content; and Stanford, by whom I’ve been named ambassador in Barcelona & Madrid for the program Women in Data Science (WiDS).
What are your goals for the upcoming future?
I am striving for a world in which women have the same real opportunities as men. But I mean real opportunities, not the ones in which women cannot afford to invest a huge amount of unproductive hours in theoretical programs. I’m currently trying to expand in several African countries, even if it’s pro-bono, to help end all gender gaps in the economy.
Not only do I want to reduce the gender breach but also the breach between underdeveloped countries and the rest since, with globalization and access to technology, there shouldn’t be a wealth gap anymore.
What advice would you like to give the next generation of aspiring leaders?
I would say, “A ‘no’ is not the end. There are a number of B-plans, C-plans… up to Z.” To me, every ‘no’ has made me a stronger and more resilient person and entrepreneur, so I thank all of them!