Ruth Sacks: Where business and education meet – director and principal lecturer of londons biggest business school


We are thrilled this week to talk to Dr Ruth Sacks, who has just achieved the newly created position of Business Development Director at Westminster Business School and principal lecturer.

We hear about her rich and interesting career, her experience, feelings and views on her current role as a director at London’s biggest business school. We also hear about Women for the Board and Cohort 4, two programmes she is currently developing.

Your success:

Where and how did your career begin?

Well… that’s an interesting question – I started working full time in Italy – but whether that was the beginning of my career or whether it started before then with the various Saturday and holiday jobs I had as a teenager including cinema usherette, shop assistant and pub work I don’t know. I think all of my life experience has contributed to the decisions about my working life.

Was it an easy progression?

I was brought up to do the best you can… for me this has meant working hard  – that’s not always ‘easy’

How did you find career opportunities for women in your sector? Did you have a long term plan or was it opportunity that forged your career?

My career has developed through periods of steady, regular incremental progression and then twisted or turned through  ‘accident’ or opportunity. I’ve learnt that it’s important to be open to all suggestions, maybe not to say ‘yes’ straight away but to consider and maybe negotiate adjustments which make the opportunity more interesting

You are currently developing several post graduate and executive development programmes including Women for the Board, Leadership Perspectives, MSc Leadership as well as supervising doctoral students.  What a wonderful experience!  Please tell us more about this…

I am extremely proud of Women for the Board a 6-day session for senior women who want to take the next step. This programme, which only started in January 2014 and is now running the 4th programme, is a combination of skills development, increasing confidence and learning about the roles and responsibilities of board membership. We include among a number of topics, the legal responsibilities of a trustee and director – exec and non-exec, resilience, using social media, some work on finance, we have head hunters coming to talk about getting a role. Chief Execs, Chairs and Board members come and talk about their experiences. It’s a full programme giving good preparation to get onto a board. My goal is that 50% of the participants within 6 months of completing the programme achieve a significant promotion at work or a board role. We are just collecting the data for Cohort 2. I am delighted to say that 40% of Cohort 1 succeeded within 6 months.

Leadership Perspectives is a new series of workshops for all middle to senior managers who would like to refresh, or boost to their skills. These are 3 hour sessions run by experts in their fields and aimed to be challenging, but at the same time useful and practical sessions on a range of topics. Workshops include risk management, creating and selling your vision, nurturing innovation to be usual rather than exceptional. You can see these are stretching topics.

The MSc Leadership is a practice based part-time Masters. Participants will use the projects they are working on professionally to guide their learning about leadership. There will be sessions on different aspects of leadership, the challenges and strategies to enhance leadership roles which participants should be able to relate directly to their own context. We will also work in action learning sets as a further opportunity for problem solving and development. Each participant will be able to shape their learning journey. It’s going to be a challenging and at the same time a valuable experience. We start this course in October 2015.

What did you find the most interesting and challenging part of this responsibility?

I am learning all the time – organisations are changing and the challenges they face cannot be addressed with old-fashioned tools. Companies are now more than ever multi-generational multicultural work places. People work face to face and virtually across time zones. We need to respect and value difference and respond in ways which support and develop individuals within their working environment rather than take a one size fits all approach.  Obviously we have to be mindful of economies of scale, yet current and developing technologies can support this. As a result executive development has to consider different approaches to learning. A key driver in my role is finding ways to provide such a learning environment and one that meets the needs of 21st and 22nd century organisations.

For you, what are the global leadership challenges regarding parity?

This has to be addressed at many levels. Achieving real rather than token (through quotas) diversity throughout business communities is not just about who sits in the board room – it’s about valuing everyone whatever their working contribution. This may be through a job share or part time or term time working whatever your role in the company. Other facets of this challenge would be identifying role models for all, unpicking and tackling unconscious bias, having affordable childcare…. Sadly it’s a very long list. Yet we are making progress and the more we promote our progress, the more others sit up, take note and emulate.

The future and changes in attitude:

What differences exist for the younger generation and their opportunities for the future?

Work will be a different place with tools and opportunities that I cannot conceive of at the moment. We know that generations X, Y and now Z have different career expectations and aspirations, will meet challenges and have opportunities that will partly be based on what is happening now but may also be completely different. I believe that education is the origin of change – not necessarily through formal means by attending school, but knowing how to be aware of what is happening, having the confidence to ask questions and then find new and different answers. These will be the starting points to open new and different avenues to explore. I hope they enjoy the adventures!



Ruth Sacks – Principal Lecturer and Business Development Director for Westminster Business School – London’s biggest business school, Ruth combines her expertise in consultancy and project management with her research and teaching skills and understanding of the academic world.

She has instigated a number of leadership programmes featuring original and effective approaches to senior professional development. Ruth conceived, launched and runs the acclaimed Women for the Board Programme: successfully promoting women’s development at top levels, and is the course leader for MSc Leadership – a new action learning-based masters degree for senior professionals.

Ruth is a Fellow of the Institute of Consulting and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She has an MSc in Organisation Development and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration), which enabled her to engage in research on managing communication and cross cultural relationships in virtual organisations.

Prior to joining Westminster Business School three years ago, Ruth worked in consultancy and management development roles on a range of strategic projects in the UK, Europe and the USA. She lived and worked in Paris for 14 years and speaks fluent French.

Alongside her current role, Ruth acts as a coach and mentor in enterprise activities as well as personal and professional development. She actively supports a range of women’s initiatives including  Elevation Network’s ‘I am Visible’ leadership programme for young women and the Secret Pillow Project When not working, she spends time with friends & family, goes to the theatre and tries and fails to stay away from email.

Twitter:    @ruth_sacks


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