NEOMA Business School was born in 2013 from the merger of two major French business schools: Reims Management School and Rouen Business School. When Delphine Manceau took over the management of NEOMA in 2017, the young B-school was still trying to define itself.
“I think it was a strength that I didn’t come from either of those schools because I had a new vision and I could push a new identity,” Manceau said. Poets&Quants. “I think my main achievement is that today no one asks what NEOMA is. I tried to consolidate the identity of this new school, to make it proud of its achievements and to really start a new era after the merger.
As new deans often do, Manceau began his tenure with a five-year strategic plan that included a new focus on digitization while integrating technology and management training. NEOMA opened Europe’s first 100% digital campus at the very start of the pandemic, accelerating projects already underway for a virtual campus to connect students from its three French campuses as well as its international students across the world. The virtual NEOMA is a bit like an island on Minecraft, where student avatars can hop into over 80 rooms, lecture halls, and breakout spaces to attend lectures, present projects, or simply mingle with other students they meet in virtual space. .
In Manceau’s first term, NEOMA also built a new campus in Paris, and it open a new Reims campus in 2025. “I think it’s a great opportunity to combine the architectural transformation with our digital transformation, because it means that we have designed the new buildings for new mixed teaching approaches and also for the new student experience combining online life and on campus. I think it’s essential to really think about both together,” says Manceau.
ONE OF THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS IN FRANCE
At the undergraduate level, NEOMA offers a diverse range of business-related majors, including a Bachelor of Service Management, Global BBA, and CESEM, an international dual degree program in which students earn a BBA in France and one country in the Americas, Asia or from Europe. NEOMA also offers a Global Executive MBA with courses in France, China and Iran; its flagship Master in Management; and an expanding portfolio of executive education.
It is one of around 1% of business schools worldwide to be triple-accredited by all three international accrediting agencies – AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA – and it is consistently ranked among the top 10 business schools in France and among the 50 best in France. Europe. Poets&Quants named NEOMA a European Business School to Watch in 2021.
Before joining NEOMA, Manceau spent 18 years at ESCP Europe, she holds a doctorate from HEC Paris and was a senior researcher at the Wharton School. In February, she was appointed for a further four-year term as Dean of NEOMA.
We last connected with Manceau in March 2021 to share lessons from 12 inspiring business school deans. In the conversation below, edited for length and clarity, we ask Manceau about female leadership in business schools, her big accomplishments so far, and what’s next for NEOMA.
Tell us a bit about your professional background.
I am an academic and for many years I was a professor of marketing and innovation. My area of specialization was how to do marketing when talking about major innovations because usually the market and consumers don’t know what to expect and what they are really aiming for.
I was also a high-level expert for the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, and we worked on how to stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation in the EU. I have also tried to transform my research into public policy.
So that was the first part of my career as an academic. I worked for many years at ESCP Business School, and I became associate dean of programs and then associate dean of what is called the corporate division, which included everything we did with companies: continuing education, corporate partnerships, corporate financing, etc. Five years ago, I joined NEOMA business school as dean.
NEOMA is a French business school based in two amazing regions: Champagne and Normandy. It has very strong historical roots and today we have three campuses: one in Champagne, one in Normandy and one in Paris.
Despite attention to gender parity in business schools, there are still fewer women in leadership positions. When and why did you decide to take this step towards leadership?
There were really two stages: the first was when I moved from a position of standard professor to that of associate dean. It was in the same school, so it was quite natural. After a few years, you wonder why the programs are like this and not like that, and you complain about the way things are going, and one day you say to yourself, “OK, so if you want to change things , go ahead and assume the role of leader.
Then at some point, after being Associate Dean in two different positions, I thought that if I really wanted to be Dean and have really comprehensive leadership, it was basically now or never. I had spent 18 years at ESCP, so if I wanted to take the plunge, it probably meant changing schools. I then started talking about it, and then I was approached.
Why do you think women are still lagging behind in these leadership roles?
For a long time, I think women in general have had a harder time accepting their ambition and willingness to take on a leadership role. Maybe they expect things to happen naturally, and often it doesn’t happen naturally. I think women tend to be less assertive in the sense that they don’t say, at some point, “Okay, now I’ve done this and that, so it would be natural for me to take on the role next.”
But I think that’s changing. Currently, in the top 10 business schools in France, for example, there are three women (in the deanships), and in the top 12 there are four. That’s more than a few years ago.
Why is gender parity important in the post of dean of business schools?
Well, first of all, because I think it’s just normal, it’s just, there’s no reason for it to be gender distorted.
But the second reason, which seems very important to me and which the students tell me about, is so that young students have role models. This is true for female students, but also for male students. It is important that they see that the leader of the school can be a woman and that it is natural. Some students told me how important it was for them to see that it was possible. They asked me how I did it, how I combined it with my family life, and things like that.
I think this is really essential: if we want society to change, higher education should be the first step. It is a way of showing the way to the younger generations. Very often, our activities are at the forefront of what will happen in 10, 20 years in other sectors of society.
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