Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way
Meet our Members
Interviewed by Aurélie Doré
This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing WIL member Mary Lawrence, Partner in Osborne Clarke’s commercial and regulatory disputes team and Head of Osborne Clarke’s health and safety practice. We discussed her work on advising businesses during the current unprecedented public health and safety crisis, and why it is so important to her to be involved in a network dedicated to female leaders.
Can you describe your current role as Partner in Osborne Clarke’s commercial and regulatory disputes team and Head of the health and safety team?
In my current role, I work alongside a fantastic team of other lawyers to help businesses understand their health and safety duties. My mission is to help them make their businesses safer and healthier places to work, as well as supporting them when something goes wrong and they are investigated by the authorities.
What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
I get to spend most of my time speaking to - and hopefully helping - people, which is what I really love about my role. I am lucky that I get to lead a team of eight lawyers who are specialised in health and safety.
Among them are some excellent women with whom I have worked for several years and whose development and progression I have championed. I am proud to work with these women, and especially proud to have gender diversity in the team.
I was lucky enough to join the team when we were much smaller. As the team has grown over the years, I have had the opportunity to mould and shape it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented public health and safety crisis. In this context, your role is more crucial than ever. How do you plan to help your clients navigate the challenges that lie ahead?
We have been hugely busy during the pandemic, helping our clients to navigate how to do business with all the restrictions that have been put in place. We have been running frequent webinars, or simply talking to clients about the issues to try and keep them abreast of what the rules are, and what the law is. Not only have we been helping our clients understand the current restrictions, but I have also been working with clients to help them think ahead and reflect on how this crisis is going to affect businesses of the future and shape things in the longer term.
One of the most absorbing projects that I have been involved in during this time is focused on helping one particular industry in the UK shape their industry guidance. This same guidance, which focused on how to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, was then endorsed by the UK Government. It was interesting to watch how this played out, with the aim of helping businesses stay up and running.
Why is it important for you to be involved in a network dedicated to female leaders?
It seems to me that you have a different conversation when you are all women or when there are many women together. It feels safer, you can talk more openly, and I like that. I often work with men, so I am not afraid of that situation; however, I do relish the opportunity to gather collectively with a group of women from time to time.
I also believe that role models are crucial. Finding someone who has traits you admire and wish to emulate is so important. That is not just about looking up to people who are more senior than you but it is also about observing anyone you work with and seeing what you can take and learn from them.
Before joining Osborne Clark, I had reached a stage in my career in my mid-thirties where I really felt that it was important to have a female role model to look up to. I had worked with a female boss before and she was fantastic. When I interviewed for a position at Osborne Clarke, I saw the possibility to have another person above me from whom I could learn a great deal, and that was one of the main reasons why I moved to the organisation.
Role models are crucial. Finding someone who has traits
you admire and wish to emulate is so important.
What advice would you give to your younger self and to the young generation of female leaders?
The best advice I received was from my Dad when I was starting out in my career. It was about authenticity, trusting your gut instinct, holding your values close to you and not letting them be impacted. This was at a time when I was a junior lawyer, or maybe just entering the profession. It is a time when you do feel constantly challenged and you are not sure if you are becoming the right person, the person you want to be. That advice really helped me navigate through a complex time.
When you are choosing a place to work, take the time to question if it is the right fit for your values, and if it is not, ask yourself if it really is the right place for you.
Of course, it is important to be challenged and to listen to other people, but I do think that being authentic is crucial. This advice from my father is still relevant to me and I would give it to people of a younger generation.
The best advice I received was about authenticity,
trusting your gut instinct,
holding your values close to you
and not letting them be impacted.
One of the big conversations we have been having recently is about the critical role of men in this conversation, and the need for both men and women to really support and champion those below them in their careers and actively provide opportunities to women progressing in their career. Whilst it is important to have groups which bring together women only, we must also look at what we are asking of men, and how they can help us.
Interviewed by Hanna Müller
2020 has been marked by a global pandemic which has taken its toll on women economically and socially. In this interview, Olena Podoleva, Professor of Economics and Vice President at the Ukrainian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), talks about why this is the case, and about what she is doing in her role to support the development of female entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment in business and technology. An interview about the importance of keeping in mind the female perspective during chaotic times.
How would you define the mission of the International Chamber of Commerce and what do you see as its role in the world, especially during the COVID-19 crisis?
The ICC is the most influential organisation in global business. We are the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries, with a mission to make business work for everyone, every day, everywhere.
Through a unique mix of advocacy, solutions, and standard setting, we promote international trade, responsible business conduct, and a global approach to regulation, as well as providing market-leading dispute resolution services. Our members include many of the world’s leading companies, SMEs, business associations and local Chambers of Commerce. We represent business interests at the highest levels of intergovernmental decision-making - whether at the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations or the G20 – to ensure that the voice of business is heard. This capacity to bridge the public and private sectors sets us apart as a unique institution responding to the needs of any stakeholder involved in international commerce.
In a coordinated effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the ICC and the World Health Organization have agreed to work closely to ensure that the latest, most reliable information and tailored guidance reaches the global business community. The ICC has launched SOS, a one-stop shop, as part of a global campaign to SaveOurSMEs. The SOS site highlights the challenges MSMEs face and features calls for urgent and coordinated action from governments, private sector leaders and international institutions to ensure their continued viability.
It is this capacity to bridge the
public and private sectors
that sets the ICC apart as a
The past few months have been a whirlwind for the global economy. How would you assess the current economic landscape and prospects for the future?
The baseline forecast of the World Bank in June 2020 envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020 — the deepest world recession in decades. By comparison: in 2019, Global GDP grew by 2.4 percent. Per capita incomes in most emerging and developing economies will shrink this year.
At that time (June 2020), few researchers expected a second COVID-19 wave. Now we can see that the second wave is hitting many countries much harder than the first did. No one knows what impact this will have on the dynamic of GDP decline. Advanced and Developing Economies are likely to experience a deeper shock and a slower recovery, but there is much we still do not know. Coronavirus makes the future uncertain. However, the message is clear: we urgently need policy actions to protect populations and improve our capacity to respond to a global pandemic.
Today, nobody can predict the
economic impact of the pandemic.
Coronavirus makes the future uncertain.
From your perspective, how is the Coronavirus pandemic particularly impacting women?
Compared with the 2008 financial crisis, when more men lost their jobs, COVID-19 is hitting women harder. At the start of the pandemic, 55 percent of all employed in the service sector worldwide were women. There were over 800 million women in retail trade, food production, tourism, restaurant business etc. Due to the pandemic women in these sectors are affected by job cuts and shortened working hours. In some countries, there was almost a complete paralysis of the restaurant and hotel sectors – and this sector employs 144 million women.
Female workers in the health and social sector are the next group most affected by the pandemic. These include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and care home staff. These female workers have a much higher chance of catching COVID-19. For example, in the UK, 2.5 million (or about 77 percent) out of 3.2 million such workers are women. At the same time, almost all low-paid positions (to be exact 98 percent) are held by women. Obviously, solving these problems should be the focus of our attention in the post-pandemic period. I believe that female leadership should play an effective role in this.
The crisis has battered industry sectors
in which women’s employment is
But the financial impact is only half the story:
women are at the core of
the fight against COVID-19.
Analysing the national policies of the Coronavirus crisis, we can see that the effectiveness of policies varies. Female leaders such as Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-Wen, the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Finish Prime Minister Sanna Marin provide more effective anti-COVID policies than their male counterparts.
However, at the beginning of the pandemic, only 10 of 152 heads of state and government were women. Therefore, women were constituted only seven percent of the world’s leaders. We urgently need to empower more women to reach leading positions!
Policy makers, regional frameworks, multilateral organisations, and international financial institutions must recognise that women will play a crucial role in resolving the crisis, and that measures to address the pandemic and its economic fallout should include a gendered perspective.
Measures to address the pandemic
and its economic fallout should include
a gendered perspective.
In your role as Vice President at ICC Ukraine, you are responsible for a variety of international projects. Which one might be the most important from a societal perspective?
I am responsible for different international projects. However, our activities around women in business concern me the most. We support the development of female entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment in business and technology.Since 2017, we have organized more than 80 events among them trainings, panel discussions, round tables, webinars, and forums in which participated more than 4000 women from different regions of Ukraine. To help women create and run successful companies, we have launched a special program attracting investors for female business. We also have mentoring programs, and have conducted international conferences with experts, not only from Ukraine but from other countries as well. We had the pleasure to host the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, who shared her wisdom about female leadership and talked about her own career.
You also promote female leaders in social business. Can you tell us why you focus on helping women in this specific sector?
There is a trend, not only in Ukraine, but worldwide: the social enterprise model continues to attract more women than men. We find female leaders in many social business sectors: education, social welfare and employment, children and youth.
Let's have a look at what seems to drive them. Women tend to long for sustainable impact, to be innovative and to pioneer new solutions. They try to be independent and gain a better balance between professional and private life. Most aspire to develop new skills and grow professionally, while men are, in contrast, often motivated by more financial opportunities.
There are many barriers to starting up a new business, especially for women: stereotypes, uncertainty, lack of knowledge, financing, and experience are only some of them. That is why we launched different projects for female social entrepreneurs. We try to support women and accompany them along their business journey. We help them to find a partner, create a network, exchange experience, communicate, learn from each other, and find a mentor.
You are woman in leadership, holding a PhD degree in Economics, with a fruitful career not only at the ICC. What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your professional career?
No matter what career path you choose, there are three keys to success: a good idea, a good team, and hard work.
There are three keys to success:
a good idea, a good team,
and hard work.
Do you have a piece of advice you would like to share with women who wish to follow in your footsteps?
When it comes to career advice, listen to Steve Jobs: “The only way to be satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do”
We usually finish our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire. I chose this one for you: What is your motto?
Benjamin Disraeli, who served as Britain's Prime Minister, novelist and bon viveur, once said: “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.”
We were delighted to interview our WIL Member Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs for Kering ahead of her appearance as a guest speaker at our recent Online Debate. We spoke about Kering’s role leading the charge on sustainability within the textile industry. Learn more about Marie-Claire in this interview.
Companies are playing a crucial role in global efforts to stem the Covid-19 spread and to mitigate its economic and societal impact. How has Kering responded to the pandemic? What have been your main actions and how did you, at Kering, effectively decide what you should focus on first?
The health and safety of our employees has been our priority since the very early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak. Kering and ourHouses have been protecting our employees and workers in the supply chain and ensuring business continuity, whilst simultaneouslycontributing to the fight against the pandemic globally.
Throughout this period, Kering and our Houses have carried out several initiatives to support medical staff and health institutions, and those affected by Covid-19. Given the scale of the situation, we were active in several regions, and in each region we offered our support to suit the local needs. For example, we donated funds to Italy’s four major foundation hospitals and to organisations like the World Health Organisation and the Hubei Red Cross Foundation. In addition, several of our brands recalibrated their supply chain factories to make PPE for the medical community.
Another response that Kering took in the face of Covid-19 was in helping combat the notable spike in domestic violence caused by the pandemic. The Kering Foundation quickly responded to support its NGO partners by giving emergency funds and launching awareness raising campaigns, which provided information and tailored resources for women who have been especially vulnerable during this period.
The health and safety of our employees
has been our priority since
the very early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak
The COVID-19 pandemic reshuffled the priorities of European leaders and the EU is now set on reinforcing its efforts to launch sustainability as the main driver for growth. What are your views on the European Commission’ s sustainability commitments and the European Green Deal?
The European Green Deal presents an exciting new opportunity to set priorities in terms of the environment and people in an unprecedented way at the European level. It places sustainability at the core of the EU strategy and roadmap, as we do at Kering. This will undoubtedly support a larger shift throughout Europe towards the adoption of sustainability best practices, at both the governmental and corporate level. For instance, part of the Green Deal is about reporting on corporate environmental impacts - this will help drive transparency and accountability, which is key to stimulate climate action. At Kering we have been a leader in this transparency movement for some time through our Environmental Profit and Loss accounting, which is both a public report and an internal driver for change.
Overcoming both the economic and environmental crises will require a shared ambition and collective efforts. Even before the crisis, you promoted the necessity to work together, as evidenced by the launch of Kering’s Fashion Pact last year. Could you tell us more about this initiative?
At Kering we have always believed that collaboration in the fashion industry is essential to change the industry’s many outdated and unsustainable systems. This was the premise behind creating the Fashion Pact - to galvanise a commitment to common environmental objectives focusing on three major issues: climate, biodiversity, and oceans.
A year ago, our Chairman and CEO, François-Henri Pinault, presented the Fashion Pact to President Emmanuel Macron and the G7 leaders, and an update on its progress was recently shared. Since launching the Fashion Pact, membership has doubled to over sixty signatories from international leading companies in the fashion and textile industry, together representing over two hundred brands and approximately 35% of the fashion industry. This level of involvement is critical to ensure positive change along fashion’s supply chains - particularly around collaborative action and areas where scaled solutions are needed to achieve critical mass on a global scale.
The coalition has already made some key first steps, including the development of a public digital dashboard of KPIs to measure the members’ joint impact. There is real momentum behind the Fashion Pact, and it is now well mobilised in its journey to impact lasting change.
This summer, Kering published its Biodiversity Strategy, committing itself to a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2025. What are some of the strategies you will employ to achieve your targets?
Having a detailed strategy for biodiversity is key for companies to ensure they not only strategically mitigate their impact on nature, but also work to protect and restore nature. Our new biodiversity strategy is focused on the prevention of biodiversity degradation, the promotion of sustainable and regenerative farming practices favouring soil health, and the protection of global ecosystems and forests that are vital for carbon sequestration.
Alongside our previous environmental commitments, we set up new biodiversity targets with a goal to have a “net positive” impact on biodiversity by 2025. Part of this includes converting one million hectares of farms and rangelands in the Group’s supply chain landscapes into regenerative agricultureand, further, to protect an additional one million hectares of critical habitat outside of our supply chain. To help us do this, as an example, we partner with organisations on the ground like the Savory Institute to promote the regenerative production of raw materials. Our new ‘Kering for Nature Fund’ will also help support the fashion industry’s transition to regenerative agriculture more broadly.
Having a detailed strategy for biodiversity
is key for companies to ensure they not only
strategically mitigate their impact on nature,
ut also work to protect and restore nature.
What other SGD targets are you working on at Kering, and could you share with us some of Kering’s best practices?
Our social and environmental targets are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals and we have mapped the SDGs alongside our key initiatives. More specifically, whilst Kering can contribute directly or indirectly in variable proportions to each of the 17 SDGs, there are 7 SDGs which we can have a more significant impact than elsewhere: SDG #3 (good health and well-being), #5 (gender equality), #6 (clean water and sanitation), #8 (decent work and economic growth), #12 (responsible consumption and production), #13 (climate action) and #15 (life on land).
On an operational level, our detailed Kering Standards outline our best practices across raw materials and production processes, which our suppliers need to adhere to. We also have a Science Based Target on climate, and we are supporting the development of a Science Based Target for biodiversity, as well as having set the foundation to align with a 1.5-degree pathway for the Group.
You have been a member here at WIL Europe for a long time. Why is it important for you to be involved in a network dedicated to female leaders and to promote gender equality in general?
A dedicated network for female leadership provides a space where we can discuss how to maintain a healthy work/life balance with our peers. It is also very important to have the opportunity to exchange best practices and experiences in our professional environments – and sectors – where women are usually not in the majority. Promoting gender equality but also diversity in all its forms is crucial to ensure that all voices are at the decision-making table to create better outcomes for our people and our planet in the future.
Promoting gender equality, but also diversity in all its forms,
is crucial to ensure that all voices
are at the decision-making table to create better outcomes
for our people and our planet in the future.
For this month’s interview, we have had the pleasure to meet WIL Member Katie Vickery, Regulatory and Compliance Partner at Osborne Clarke. We discussed the survey she supervised on how the way businesses assess risk and approach compliance has changed since Covid-19, but also what she considers her greatest strength, leadership style, as well as her own experience of combining a career with a family life.
Can you describe your current role as a Partner specialized in regulatory compliance and risk at Osborne Clarke?
I am a regulatory litigator by background so I started my career doing purely contentious work, where I would defend businesses being prosecuted or investigated by regulatory authorities. As I became more experienced, having a deep understanding of what happens to companies when compliance systems fail has allowed me to give very rounded and risk-based advice on what good compliance systems look like.
Compliance covers a broad range of things, from building safety to marketing content. I work with international companies who want to implement an effective compliance system across their operations. Whether you work in France, Spain, India or China, more and more companies operate from the same standard, even if laws and culture are different. I help make sure the business is protected, and the system they implement works within the various teams and businesses - I find it creative despite what one might think about compliance!
Good compliance must be led from the top, be very engaging and actively adopted by the workforce to be effective.
Compliance sometimes gets bad press,but I really believe it is fundamentalto run a successful and profitable business.
You were the lead on-site lawyer in the aftermath of the Buncefield fire and explosion. What leadership skills were necessary for the successful conduct of this crisis situation?
The Buncefield fuel depot fire in December 2005 was the UK's biggest peacetime explosion. I was quite young in my career at that point, but I was asked to go on-site for 8 months. My job was to protect my client’s position, but also to work with the regulator to secure evidence.
It is probably my most extreme example of being a leader in a crisis, but that has also been a big aspect of my job for several other clients. It has led me to be the calming influence, the one with the clear head and the right direction in mind. Dealing with a crisis requires a good degree of confidence in yourself and being able to take control of a situation when everybody else is very emotional. You have to be very organized, flexible, versatile, and agile.
You also need to have excellent communication skills, as well as the ability to build relationships very quickly, and create that instant connection with somebody, whether that is your client or the regulator you are dealing with.
Do you think being a woman had an impact on the way you handled the crisis?
Being a woman in this kind of crisis was helpful. Thankfully, nobody died in the Buncefield fire, but understandably there was a huge amount of emotion. I think people are more inclined to open up to a woman, share information and tell you how they feel, which is crucial because it’s very hard to advise a business when you don’t have all the information.
On the flip side, there are times where a business is very male dominated, and you can feel the distinction of not being one of the boys but it has never stopped me building a positive working relationship. I’ve found that it is far better to stay true to who I am and gain respect that way..
Managing a team effectively requires vision, communication and a number of diverse skills. As a Partner, what is your leadership style and how has it evolved since the beginning of your career?
Your style of leadership really evolves as you become more experienced, work with great leaders, and learn from them.
You have to start by having a vision, see clearly where you are trying to get to, believing in it, and then inspiring others to join you on that journey, so that they see the vision as well, even if they might not see it in the way you see it, in full technicolor! Then, you have to be open enough to listen to others, accept their inputs and work with people to shape your ideas.
Some people are skeptical, they will challenge you and make it difficult. Which is why having people who are your supporters, who you can turn to for advice and who will constructively challenge you is important. There have always been people around me at work who I have massively admired and wanted to learn from. I also feel incredibly lucky that I have had strong family support, but also work with very inspiring people at all levels.
Good leadership, as opposed to management,has nothing to do with your position in the company, or your title,it comes from people at different levels,and in different situations as well.
You have extensive experience in Global Compliance, Enforcement and Crisis Management, having worked in leading international firms such as Pinsent Masons, Eversheds and now Osborne Clarke. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
Having that self-confidence and a clear vision are probably the greatest strengths I lean on.
From a family perspective, I could never remotely achieve what I have achieved if I did not have such a supportive family, and particularly my lovely husband. I am always careful about portraying the super woman image (which I am not), I have just married really well! I have this amazing person who gives me the space and the flexibility to do my job and fulfill my career, but who is also supportive to allow me to be a great mum.
You recently supervised a survey about how the way businesses assess risk and approach compliance has changed. One of the key points is that investment will be driven by risks to reputation and where an ethical stance has been taken. Could you give us more insights about it?
We started planning the survey before Covid-19 because I felt there was a real lack of research as to how businesses were properly implementing and measuring the positive outcomes of compliance.
One issue that came out of the survey is the focus business has on reputation. As the power of social media is so crucial, it does not even matter whether you are totally compliant with the law, but rather how your brand is portrayed in the media. This can lead to a risk of implementing compliance measures for the wrong reason; you can only sustain an external reputation that’s different to what is happening internally for a short period of time.
Covid-19 has obviously drawn attention to the importance of safety and cyber security compliance. But I do wonder whether Covid has provided a more rounded view on compliance and an appreciation of the need to deal holistically with multiple risk issues.
If the public perceives that what you are doing is unethical,then your reputation will be affectedand that is an immensely powerful incentive for businesses
to be on the front foot with compliance.
COVID-19 has created unprecedented business and regulatory disruption in a condensed period. In this context, how do you plan to help your clients navigate the legal compliance challenges that lie ahead?
I am pleased to say that there are lots of businesses that take compliance seriously and plenty of senior leaders and directors that recognize the importance of it. So, you always have good champions within a business, but you still need to bring some people with you on the journey.
For me it is all about helping the company to recognize that good compliance is essential to running a business. Regulation is increasing across Europe, there are new regulatory risks emerging including climate change and an increased focus on safety. Regulators struggle with a finite budget, so they get more creative about how they are going to enforce regulations, but when they do take enforcement action, it tends to be much more hard hitting.
For a business to ignore the importance of compliance or to limit it to a team or department is missing the point. Understanding that it must be inherent in all parts of a business is crucial.
I tend to work with clients by having a good hard look at the risks the business is facing. It is important to assess all compliance areas and not treat them in silos but try to have a more holistic approach. Doing a gap analysis to figure out how the business can make changes, and realising that it is rarely a quick process and you are not going to be able to cover everything at once, means you need to prioritize what your top five risks are and focus on addressing those.
The essential part of effective complianceis about improving the culture and it has to be led from the top.Management needs to be seen and lead by example,because if you do not do that, people won’t follow.
Petra De Sutter is not only a Member of the European Parliament, but also a professor of gynecology, and former head of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Ghent University Hospital. Her political credo: Do not take the progress on women’s rights for granted. Learn more about our new Member in this interview!
Prior to your career in European politics, you worked as a gynaecologist and fertility expert. What made you take the leap into politics and how has your unique background influenced your political activism?
Since 1987, I have been a gynaecologist and a specialist in reproductive medicine. I went through purely scientific work in the lab, through the clinic and then ethics, which finally brought me to politics. I was a member of ethical committees and advisory boards giving advice to the government, public authorities, and ministers; they did not always follow my advice and I realized that decisions are, in reality, made at the political level.
My work has always been directly related to environmental topics, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals: a group of chemicals that damage hormones and can lead to infertility, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. In addition, I have always been intrigued by social justice, solidarity, human rights, discrimination issues, equality, and as a gynaecologist obviously gender equality. If you combine these topics, you have half of the program of the Green Party.
As a scientific expert, in 2014 I joined the list of candidates for the European Parliament elections. A little later, I became a candidate for the Senate with a half-time mandate, which allowed me to combine my political interest with my work at the hospital and the university. Finally, I ended up in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is an institution older than the European Union (EU) itself. After those first exciting steps into politics, I am at the European Parliament today working on the internal market and consumer protection and also on health, environment and social rights, which brings me back to the protection of workers against chemicals. As you can see, it has been a logical career path.
You are the first Green Chairwoman of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Affairs (IMCO). Could you tell us more about this Committee and the current Green agenda?
A current area of concern of this committee is consumer protection. There is a lot of spam, unfair prices, and faked or unsafe products coming from outside the EU that you can buy on Amazon or other platforms. All these emerging technologies like artificial intelligence must be human-centred, which means that there needs to be accountability behind every application, be it self-driving cars or medical diagnostics.
We also work on topics such as consumption, goods production, circular economy, waste management, and the right to repair. For example, we want to reduce plastic and electronic waste, introduce universal chargers for cell phones or other electronics, and increase the lifespan of the products we use. Citizens should be able to decide whether they want to buy a television set for 1000 € with a lifespan of ten years and another one for 300€ that will break in two years.
We also support the circular economy which is currently emerging. The commission has already proposed a few topics in the framework of the Green Deal such as the zero-CO2 emission target for 2050.
You defend sexual and reproductive health of girls and women and are part of the group MEPs for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRHR). How can we empower girls and women in this area, and what are some key policies you are fighting for?
Working on reproduction issues for more than 30 years, this is a crucial subject for me. Everybody should have the right to decide for him or herself how many children to have, with whom, when and how. It is a matter of human rights, much broader than just sexuality and reproduction, and it touches especially upon women’s rights.
Empowering girls and women all starts with education. We must make sure that girls go to school, that they are not married when they are 13 and have three children by the age of 18. We must ensure that women are independent and can take care of themselves.
There is still a lot to be done, even in Europe because of the ideological battle and the counter reaction that we have seen growing in the past years, which is now very active and organized and goes back to the traditional norms and values of men. This patriarchal idea is indeed currently growing in Europe, mainly in the politically extreme right movements, but also in other very conservative reactionary groups that are politically present at the European level and getting support from the US and Russia.
That current movement is a growing concern and we must be aware. At the UN level, language is changing: what we did 25 years ago concerning international treaties on women’s rights would not be possible today. Many countries have taken a very conservative discourse. Even the EU, which has always been a champion in that domain, is now more and more silent because the EU speaks with one voice at the UN level. Under the influence of countries as Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, there is a lot of pressure not to be too progressive and advanced on topics like SRHR.
Everybody has the right to decide for him or herself how many children to have, with whom, when and how.
2020 has been a year of unprecedented turmoil and change. How can we keep conversations focused on ecological transition and a socially just society amidst the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you optimistic for the future?
Yes, I am, and I will tell you why: even the European Commission and most member states in the EU declared that we will have to consider the ambitions of the Green Deal to recover from the current crisis. If your house burns down, and you must rebuild it, you will not rebuild it with the materials and methods of 30 years ago when it was first built. You will build it with an eye towards the future, in a sustainable way. This is a message that most member states, industries, and entrepreneurs understand.
Now is the time to make decisions respecting the green transition. It is an opportunity, not a problem. This Green Deal should be the core, the skeleton, the guideline for economic recovery.
The same holds for digitalization. It is very important for the European Commission to go digital. If we have learned anything from the crisis, it is that we must invest, give people reliable internet solutions and think about remote work in a more structured way for the future.
Now is the time to make decisions respecting the green transition. It is an opportunity, not a problem.
You are a strong advocate for the LGBTQI community in Europe. Do you think that European politics are becoming more inclusive and tolerant?
I am not positive; but I am an optimist. One the one hand, there are a lot of things heading in the right direction: two years ago, Ireland decriminalized abortion. On the other hand, Poland is making access to abortion more difficult or even tried to ban it during the COVID crisis. There are still many Eastern European countries where domestic violence is tolerated; and Hungary is not teaching gender studies at their universities anymore.
Sometimes countries move forward, and sometimes others try to move backwards. The overall outlook is still encouraging. However, my main message is “let's not fall asleep.” The world needs to understand that maybe one day things could change for the worst. Who knows what political forces will be dominant in the future? If political forces further to the right take majority, they are likely to immediately attack a lot of treaties, liberties, and rights that we have been building for the last 30 years.
So never think that our rights are permanent and that we can rest secure and go to sleep!
Let's not fall asleep: the world needs to understand
that maybe one day things could change for the worst.
As well as your extensive work in European politics, you are still a professor of gynaecology at Gent University in Belgium. How do you juggle your many different roles, and more importantly, how do you make time for yourself?
I have learned to understand what is important and what is not and if I believe in something, I will go all the way. But I also know my limits, both physically and mentally. Occasionally, I need some time off, take some quality time with my partner, be out in the nature, playing the cello, meditating and I have been doing yoga for years. Meditation brings a lot of order to my thoughts.
I am very privileged to do things that give me energy and that bring a sense of responsibility to my life. I live in the here-and-now, leaving the past in the past, and what happens tomorrow for tomorrow.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I do not think about great achievements or ambition. I hold a lot of degrees and prizes, but it is all very relative. I understand that tomorrow everything can be gone, and everybody has forgotten about you.
I just want to do what I believe in and inspire those around me. If I can help, give answers, or tell someone where to turn for help, that is an achievement. That is what I have been doing as a doctor with my patients, every couple, man or woman. Getting a card with a picture of their baby makes me happy. That is my passion, my vocation. I am trying to do the same in politics.
If I can help, give answers, or tell someone
where to turn for help, that is an achievement.
Interviewed by Hajar El Baraka
Our premium partner Orange is leading the way towards corporate diversity, inclusivity, and gender equality. This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing our Board Member Delphine Pouponneau, Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Orange Group.
We discussed her work and her contribution to the development of an inclusive artificial intelligence and to promoting more gender diversity in data and AI related jobs. Delphine also shared with us her insights on Human Resources management during the Covid-19 crisis and reiterated the importance of networks such as WIL Europe.
In April 2019, you were appointed Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Orange Group. What are the most important decisions that you have had to make? What would you like to improve?
In an open, complex and competitive labour market, and to meet the technological, societal and environmental challenges that the world is facing, companies need to include diversity and inclusion ambitions in their priorities.
My mission is to design and coordinate the deployment of the Group’s diversity and inclusion policy in France and internationally, which means: constantly questioning our practices, to give men and women the same opportunities; striving to build an inclusive environment and helping our clients to confidently navigate the digital world.
Last year, we signed a global agreement on workplace gender equality, demonstrating our commitment to employee diversity and equality in the 26 countries within Orange’s footprint. This year, on April 21, together with the Arborus endowment fund, we launched the international charter for inclusive artificial intelligence, in particular with a view to promoting women in digital professions.
More generally, we are also working on initiatives with non-profit organisations to promote equal opportunities, support the professional integration of the most vulnerable people, and encourage digital inclusion.
Companies need to include diversity and inclusion ambitions in their priorities to meet the technological, societal and environmental challenges that the world is facing.
In July 2019, Orange signed a global agreement with UNI Global Union on workplace gender equality. What concrete measures has this agreement led to and how are you adapting them to the different challenges and contexts in each country?
Orange is an international group present in 26 countries. This agreement is the first of its kind amongst CAC 40 companies and in the telecommunications sector, and covers three areas: workplace gender equality, work-life balance, and combatting discrimination and violence.
We have set ourselves several objectives to achieve by 2025, such as improving the gender diversity of teams, especially in technical professions, and achieving a proportion of women in management bodies of 35%, etc.
The implementation of this agreement relies on a structured dialogue and on the active participation of all stakeholders. We created local diversity committees to review current situations and define an action plan that is adapted to the local context. Action plans will be tracked over time, in collaboration with unions and staff representatives.
We also focus on getting our offices around the world certified by the Gender Equality European & International Standard (GEEIS) label.
On April 21, Orange and Arborus launched an international charter for inclusive artificial intelligence. What are the companies that sign the charter committing to, and what issues does their commitment address?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an excellent driver of progress and an opportunity for reducing inequalities, so long as it is designed inclusively. The aim of the charter is to create a framework of trust because the potential of AI can be fully realized only by designing, deploying and operating it in a responsible and inclusive way.
The commitments made in this charter address three major issues:
We hope that many companies and institutions will sign this charter, which is an initial step towards the introduction of the GEEIS-AI label.
We also support the initiative taken by Institut Montaigne called “Objectif IA” to introduce at least 1% of the French population to the fundamental aspects of artificial intelligence.
The potential of AI can be fully realized only by designing,
deploying and operating itin a responsible and inclusive way.
Orange has been a partner of WIL for over 10 years. Many of your female executives are part of our network and, every year, 10 of your talents join our leadership programme. Why is it so important to continue to support us and to take advantage of the opportunities our network provides to senior executives at Orange?
Orange promotes the development of many networks, within and outside the company. Today, at Orange, fifteen internal networks are active in a dozen countries worldwide with over 6,500 members, both women and men.
WIL Europe is a wonderful opportunity to exchange with talented women, create networks, gain access to different cultural and professional environments. It also gives us the opportunity to offer our young talents a leadership programme and help them boost their career by meeting Europe’s elite in the political and economic spheres.
WIL Europe is a wonderful opportunity to exchange with talented women, create networks, gain access to different cultural and professional environments.
In this time of crisis, women working at home also often have to deal with a greater workload due to the increase in household duties. How can a company guarantee work conditions that foster gender equality whilst protecting work-life balance?
This health crisis is highlighting the inequalities in our societies.
Managers and executives can work remotely but many employees are forced to expose themselves to the virus to go to work. This is notably the case of women who are on the front line dealing with the pandemic (healthcare, cleaning, etc.). With the lockdown and the closing of schools, the added load of teaching children full-time often borne by women on top of the usual domestic chores, regardless of whether they work or not.
While working from home has become a well-established way of working over the past few years at Orange, we have been forced to review our practices, especially the requirement to be physically present at the workplace two days a week.
To support our employees, we have communicated online training courses such as “Working remotely together.” Or “How to work from home”. We have also reminded everyone of their right to log off out of working hours and introduced customised support for people with disabilities. A confidential hotline is also available for Orange employees in France with 24/7 support from independent psychologists, doctors, social workers, and local HR managers if required.
Still regarding the coronavirus crisis, many examples of female leadership are emerging in countries such as Germany, Finland and New Zealand. These female leaders offer an interesting alternative to how power is exercised. In your opinion, what can we learn from them?
These women have handled this health crisis by deploying a strategy without procrastination, with an open mind, determination and empathy. Forward-planning, pragmatism and responsiveness are also key to effective management. They also talked directly to the population without mentioning the word “war” …
I don’t know if we can conclude from this that women handle crises better but more egalitarian societies, focused on the common good and where men and women are in positions of power, work better.
More egalitarian societies, focused on the common good and where men and women are in positions of power, work better.
In your opinion, what will the post-covid-19 world look like?
The health crisis will probably go hand-in-hand with an economic and social crisis. Companies have a social and environmental role to play if we want to avoid rifts in our societies and can no longer operate in a vacuum without caring about potential social inequalities.
That is actually the aim of our mission, i.e. making digital technology accessible to everyone in a responsible way. We can see how the internet and telecommunications networks are essential tools, especially for education, access to healthcare, and to maintain social relationships.
We are currently living in a sort of ‘freeze frame’. It is probably the right time to design a more cohesive and ecologically-viable society.
We are currently living in a sort of ‘freeze frame’.
It is probably the right time to design a more cohesive and ecologically viable society.
Interviewed by Laura Packham
Helping to shape the world of business in Europe, Nathalie Berger has spent the last two decades contributing to the European Commission. In this interview, Nathalie shares with us more about her role in managing the European economy in the face of financial crisis and coronavirus, as well as her thoughts on leadership and the ‘double-glass ceiling’ in the banking industry.
You began your career as a lecturer and freelance consultant for a banking group. What drove you to join the European Commission in 2000 and what has kept you there 20 years on?
Since an early age, I have been very interested in international organisations, peace-making, integration and co-operation. When I was in Strasbourg, I was a very active member of The European Movement. Then I had the opportunity to join the European Commission and thought that it could be the best place for me to make a contribution.
Since then, it has been a fantastic experience! There have always been very interesting and fascinating opportunities, and it has allowed me to go toward what, for me, is a genuine objective in my life: contributing to the European project.
Under your leadership, your team contributes to the work of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, ensuring responsibility for the policy implementation of the Basel framework in the European Union. What is your role in contributing to the management of the economy in Europe and what are your key measures of success?
I am in charge of banking regulation and supervision in Europe and we pursue a double objective. The first one is financial stability which you need for the economy’s price. The second is to allow banks to play their societal role, that is which is to contribute to financing the economy, bringing cash and liquidity to industry, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) but also to consumers - to all of us.
When we want to purchase our residence, we need to have a mortgage and for that, we need to be able to count on the support of a bank. We need to ensure the bank is reliable because we give them our deposits. So, we pursue financial stability, as well as growth and competitiveness.
My role is to contribute to shaping the regulatory framework in which banks, credit institutions and investment firms, are active in the European Union. We do this by following very balanced rules that ensure appropriate protection. In 2008, there was a major financial crisis after which we implemented a regulatory framework at a worldwide level. Why did we need to have access to a worldwide level? Because markets are interconnected and consist of an internal dimension (the European Union) and an international dimension.
The global economic landscape is everchanging. How can the European Commission keep pace with the rapid transformation in economies, and manage the systemic risks this poses?
I don’t think that the Commission should “keep pace” but that it should be at the forefront. We should anticipate evolution and movements and create the basis and the context in which businesses can thrive and facilitate.
We should have a very quick response and create conditions that allow others to make the most of the market and of the opening of the market. With this opening and a wider playing field for our companies, in every possible sector, there is risk because everything is inter-connected. When something happens in China, it can have major repercussions in France and across Europe.
So we participate in the international corporation organisations; the Basel Committee on banking supervision, the Financial Stability Board, we work together with the European Banking Authority and the European Central Bank, as well as the Single Supervisory Mechanism, which has been put in place in the Eurozone. We have the opportunity, through these different areas of cooperation, to manage and monitor the evolution of risk to try to design the appropriate response, which is what we are doing now in the context of the coronavirus crisis.
We manage and monitor the evolution of risk to try to design the appropriate response, which is what we are doing now in the context of the coronavirus crisis.
Managing a team effectively requires vision, communication and a number of diverse skills. What is your leadership style and how has it evolved since the beginning of your career?
I have been a manager for about 10 years and the more I accumulate experience in this area, the more I am convinced about working on the basis of trust. I really believe it encourages my colleagues to give the best that they can. I remember the2012 Nobel Lecture by Aung San Suu Kyi on the value of kindness : “Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people ».
I try to find the right balance between being kind, demanding and supportive and leading them to excellence. I am extremely lucky because I have a first-class team, so it is an honour and a pleasure to lead them.
My management style is open and inclusive. I always associate with people, I organise brainstorming, I exchange opinions in an open matter but once a decision is taken, there is solidarity and we all stick to it and move forward. I also make sure that when there are successes, people are appropriately rewarded so that their contribution is acknowledged.
I want to empower people; I want to empower people in my team – in the moment and afterwards.
I have been a manager for about 10 years and the more I accumulate experience in this area, the more I am convinced about working on the basis of trust.
While the goal is the realisation of a workplace environment in which men and women equally lead, barriers remain to gender balance. Do you agree women in the banking sector face a “double-class ceiling”? What actions are being implemented to promote gender diversity in this sector?
I must say that I too often find myself the only woman in a meeting. Be it when I am talking about regulation among supervisors, policymakers and regulators or when I meet with industry. There are few women. Generally, when there are women, they will likely be the lobbyists or the coordinators, more rarely for a substantial exchange about the issues. This could mean there is an issue with the complexity of the rules, which makes it perhaps less attractive to women.
There is certainly a double-glass ceiling within banks. The European Banking Authority published a very interesting report about the very low proportion of women on the board of directors in banks. They are looking to implement strong encouragement measures because it is widely known that when you have a more balanced composition, you get better results. This is because women and men often have different ways of thinking, leading and managing and these competencies are very complimentary.
We are starting to see some changes by some groups and companies who are trying to diversify their boards and management teams - all this is very much welcome.
As women, we also need to go the extra step, jump in the hot water, and not to be impressed by the fact that we are facing all these men. Recently, I chaired a meeting with about 20 people present. I was the only woman in the room. When the meeting ended, a man from industry approached me, almost apologetically, highlighting the low number of women and hoping that it was fine for me. I said, “It’s absolutely fine for me – the problem seems to be more on your side”.
I have no problem being surrounded by men but at some stage, it is getting a little embarrassing – so up to the gentlemen to take action!
“I have no problem being surrounded by men but at some stage, however it is sometimes getting a little embarrassing – so take action!”
Studies show that a key component to a company’s success lies in the recognition and promotion of women in leadership roles. How can women leaders be recognized in the workplace, particularly in the banking sector?
The governance of the banks, in the banking sector, is really where a lot of effort should be focused. We should take a look into other areas, too, such as investment banking and trading, where the proportion of women is still limited. This could be because these types of positions involve very extensive hours and a lot of stress. I fully understand that when women have other priorities, they may not want to take on all that. Perhaps, it is up to the bank and managers to think of ways that will attract women to take up these positions. It should be an effort, an investment and an adaptation for the short-term in the direction of long-term benefits.
Proust Questionnaire: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My wonderful boys, Sidney and Hugo. I am the proud mother of twin boys, aged 17. They are the most wonderful boys on earth and if I have one achievement in this life - it is them!
“A leader who communicates well is able to manage her company well.” Active in cybersecurity and innovative multimedia communication projects, Cinzia Boschiero is CEO of ECPARTNERS and specialised in European Research programs. Read more about Cinzia’s insights on AI, scientific data, the future of work, and female leadership in this interview!
Considering the innovative EU research programs, what are the challenges for women in leadership?
Communication and artificial and emotional intelligence are the new frontiers of technology. Unfortunately, while many women participate to EU calls and to Horizon Research programs, there are still less women than men as chief coordinators of research projects.
Artificial intelligence (AI) deconstructs and reconstructs the logic of thought (reverse engineering) and accumulates knowledge (machine learning) by learning from our behaviours. The new technological machines contain an enormous amount of information including, for example, billions of words, images, and videos. However, if the data being collected is biased or contains cultural prejudices, the machines and their results will also reproduce these imperfections.
If the data being collected is biased or contains cultural prejudices, the machines and their results will also reproduce these imperfections.
The challenge for women at work and in innovation is to be present in this technological and scientific revolution, to monitor the AI applications and developments, and to be part of this new ‘connective artificial emotional intelligence’ that is changing jobs; but it is also to fight against old stereotypes and to avoid the improper use of high technology.
You work in the USA, Japan, and Europe in the private and public sectors. In addition, even if there is a family company, you opened your own company ECPARTNERS. Why and how do you manage family life and work?
Everyone can cope with difficulties and challenges in life with courage and enthusiasm. I also decided to open my own company ECPARTNERS in 1987 to be more independent as a working woman: to develop my passions and interests, but also to be close to my children, as I have two sons now 23 and 19 years old.
Everyone can cope with difficulties and challenges in life with courage and enthusiasm.
Managing my own company has allowed me to organise my time freely. I would have liked to be more helpful in the family firm, Simplex Rapid srl founded in 1948 by my grandfather. Simplex Rapid srl produces spring making machines and is well known abroad for the quality of its products. But since founding my own company ECPARTNERS, I work on multimedia communication projects and dissemination projects for research Horizon 2020, in addition to press office activities for firms, research centres, scientific associations, and foundations of high level technological and scientific areas. My goal is to remain curious, determined, humble, to accept daily struggles, and to be competitive in national and international markets.
My goal is to remain curious, determined, humble, to accept daily struggles, and to be competitive in national and international markets.
You are presently a member of the national board of UGIS, the national association of scientific journalists, member of EUSJA, European association of scientific journalists, and press office of the National Neurological Institute “Carlo Besta” best known internationally. How will AI and scientific data change the future of work for women and for communication at work?
Only leaders who communicate well are able to manage their company well. The problem is “either you control language, or it controls you”. The power of communication is extraordinary. Therefore the scientific data and the EU research projects we are doing with the DG Research and DG Connect of the European Commission concerning Artificial Intelligence and the use of Internet and social media in communication show that there can be several new jobs and responsibilities at work for women in the next years.
As women, we must take interest in scientific and technological matters. AI, internet, and social media are changing our ‘connective intelligence’ in a fast and deep process. This is something that must be studied and monitored, in particular for the young ‘digital’ generations. Life-long learning is important in every step of our life and we should learn a better use of the new “adaptive” AI technologies.
You are currently a Board Member at WIL Europe and a member of the women entrepreneurs national Foundation Bellisario, you are also a member of BEWIN, EWMD, WOMENTECH and AIJPF International associations recognized also by UNESCO. How important is it to be part of associations that are keen on gender matters?
I am part of several associations because I believe in the power of networking. WIL Europe is an excellence among them! The network is comprised of a high-level, selected group of women and WIL Europe has developed the Women Talent Pool program to support emerging talents in their careers. I became a member of WIL Europe because of my experience working on EU matters and programs, plus I am very keen on the European Union’s activities for cooperation and research development.
Each of us, as woman, can do more. We must never “let our guard down”. Gender policies need to be monitored day by day. Defending the identity and role of women is therefore increasingly fundamental with the arrival of new technologies that are globally deconstructing roles.
If there is one thing you would say to your younger self, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self: "frangar" not "flectar" (Latin for “I will break, but I will not bend”). Even though sometimes difficulties may bend us, we must not break, but instead we must go on. Everything goes by, “everything flows” as the ancient Greek Heraclitus of Ephesus once said (“πάντα ῥεῖ, - panta rein”). We must learn from each experience in our lives.
I would also tell my younger self a quote by Cornelius Nepos, “often we do not fall for the value of our enemies but for the perfidy of our friends.” So be aware every day, look around you, listen carefully, reflect every minute, and go on.
“Do not be afraid to ask questions” is the first advice given by our Member Debora Marrocchino on how to adapt to different working cultures. Based on her experience as Marketing Consultant, read this interview for insider advice on developing a signature brand and having a reputable work ethic!
You have a career background with over 15 years of experience in marketing, global brand development, licensing, and special events. What sparked your career path in marketing and what are some of the goals you have set for yourself?
I started out my career in New York in Media, working in international brand management within the magazine industry, which was a perfect combination for someone like me who seeks creative professional business environments.
After working for several years in magazines, I was hungry for online and digital experience, as well as, TV and was certain I wanted to continue on the international track. These were essential for me in order to obtain a more well-rounded professional background in marketing.
Could you tell us about some of the developments you have witnessed in corporate marketing, branding, and messaging?
Intense competition and constant technological development, coupled with exponential innovation, has changed the concept of branding as we know it. Today, it reaches far beyond just visual differentiation or unique positioning. Marketing encompasses a whole new set of elements – social consciousness, authentic customer relationships and community-centered communication.
I think what is most important today, is delivering a very personalized brand experience. If customers can relate to your brand in a more personalized way, they are more likely to trust it. Therefore, it is critical to build authentic relationships with customers rather than just trying to sell to them.
To me, storytelling is one of the important components of brand success in order to achieve a more personalized brand experience.
Marketing encompasses a whole new set of elements – social consciousness, authentic customer relationships and
You have worked in Madrid for five years as Marketing Director of Men’s Health Magazine. How do you develop a signature brand like Men’s Health Magazine?
Luckily Men’s Health Magazine has a a very strong brand identity and brand philosophy to begin with, so it was a question of ensuring that we were adapting and “translating” that philosophy to all the local markets where we published Men’s Health. I relied heavily on strong content, as content provides meaning for both readers and advertisers alike. A well-developed signature brand identity should connect with the lives and motivations of customers, as well as those who are likely to become customers.
A well-developed signature brand identity should connect with the lives and motivations of customers, as well as those who are likely to become customers.
Furthermore, you have experience working for global software companies in both the USA and in Europe. How did you adapt to the different working cultures?
In my experience working in both the US and European Markets over many years, I learned a lot about how to best manage working in different cultures, especially when it comes to very different work styles and ethics. The three most valuable “lessons learned” for me are:
You have a reputation as a dynamic, resourceful, and results-driven leader. How do you promote this work style on a daily basis?
Goal setting with clear action items and deliverables in an incredibly powerful tool for achieving results. By setting clearly defined, written goals, our ability to take the proper actions to create the results are vastly improved.
When I am working with my clients, I try to have them focus on their specific short-term goals on a daily basis. Both for my own personal work ethic and for my clients, I encourage daily “baby step” activities that lead to achieving their bigger milestone objectives.
You have joined WIL Europe as a member this year. What advantages do you see to being a Member in a women’s network?
I believe a major advantage to becoming a Member or participating in a women’s network is for the inspiration it provides.
Hearing the amazing stories of challenges overcome and lessons learned from other successful female leaders, executives, entrepreneurs is a huge motivator. These examples can really help especially the younger generation of women leaders to set goals and take their businesses to the next level.
executives, entrepreneurs is a huge motivator.
Lastly, we like to conclude our interview with a question from the Proust questionnaire: What is the quality you most like in female leaders?
Based on my experience working with and for successful women leaders, women typically possess a strong willingness for flexibility in the workplace and willingness to question the status quo.
Strong female leaders frequently feel the need to challenge “the way business has always been done.” They do not always necessarily accept a traditional approach to strategy and can be more willing to push back against convention when they feel strongly about finding a more effective solution.
What are the career advantages of curiosity? What characteristics do employers look for when recruiting talent? How can you make good career choices? Read the answers to these questions and more in this month’s interview with Stella Mantechou, Associate Director of Executive Development at INSEAD, the business school for the world. Let us inspire you to develop your career path!
You are currently the Associate Director of the Career Development for executive students at INSEAD. Can you tell us more about your position and how you support them in their career development?
INSEAD provides career development services to executive degree program students who are looking for their next career move. These students usually have over 14 years of experience, speak a variety of languages, have acquired international exposure, and are ready for either an internal acceleration, an external career switch, or the creation of their own enterprise.
At the Career Development for Working Professionals, we partner with executive students along their career journey and teach them lifelong skills that will serve them beyond their program. I am honoured to lead a global team of career experts who support not only executive degree programs but also alumni of all programs from INSEAD. My team spans across all main locations of our business school, France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi, and consists of 20 coaches and 3 in-house staff.
We empower executives to take full ownership of designing their career. Our role as their co-pilot, is to move them from reflecting on their options, to developing their individualized plan and executing their career vision. Together we help executives and alumni put their dreams into action. We do this through personalized career coaching and a variety of events, complemented by our virtual programs that focus on skill development and on-demand digital content.
Because we have such diversity at INSEAD, from career switchers to aspiring entrepreneurs and internal accelerators we do not believe that “one approach fits all” and although we offer a great career program, we highly encourage our participants to customize an action plan with their coach.
Having over 14 years of global experience in the career development field within the higher education sector, what are the biggest changes you have seen in career management in relation to meeting the modern demands of our increasingly globalized job market?
Today’s fast-paced and dynamic business environment extends across national boundaries and demands a new kind of executive.
At INSEAD our executive students are well trained to meet these demands. We empower them to think of leadership in a global way, and that also affects how they view their careers. What they think of, as a clear career goal at the beginning of their program, may soon go beyond its initial scope. Once they graduate, they bring this global mindset and skillset to doing business as a force for good.
Another change that is observable, from the talent’s perspective, is that we see more people seeking meaning in their work. The millennial generation is leading this movement towards looking to develop a career path that aligns with their personal objectives for fulfilling work. This is one of the reasons that we see a higher number of moves between companies, while in the past, talent would stay in one position or company for longer. According to recent studies, the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life. With an ever-increasing number of different career choices on offer, approximately 30% of the total workforce will now change jobs every 12 months. This movement of talent is no longer being seen negatively as job-hopping, and links with one’s longingness for personal growth and better alignment with their career objectives; and that is also why we see more companies investing in employee engagement and retention programs.
We have also started seeing more career switchers. Talent that has been in one career for almost a decade is looking for a change or a new challenge in their next career “sprint”. To achieve these “switches”, more people are currently investing in their upskilling through education. For example, at INSEAD we see talent that wishes to leverage their MBA degree to achieve a radical career change, sometimes while simultaneously changing countries.
Finally, as we start to live longer lives, many senior professionals choose to continue their careers and retire later. Over 40% of professionals over 55 continue to work nowadays, compared to 29% in 1993.
There is also a growing amount of people who decide to start "Second Act" careers in their retirement, instead of leaving of the labour market. There are many cases of successful entrepreneurs not only within the millennial generation, but also within what we call “second act careers”, at talent closer to retirement who reinvent themselves at a later life stage. An AARP survey reports that 79% of Baby Boomers plan to work into their retirement years, at least in some capacity!
How does INSEAD help prepare its students for career management? And could you give any advice on how to make the right career choices?
A successful career is not a destination, it is a journey. It changes as you change, and as your life priorities change. In addition to that, defining success is also a very objective matter. What success means to me, may not mean the exact thing to you. For these reasons, we prepare our students to take full ownership of their career management and customize their personal development plan with a career coach. Questions such as, “what do you want to achieve in the short run”, and “how this links to your long-term objectives”, are very common in career coaching. Personal values must be considered when making what seems to be the right career choice to you: “what is important at that stage in your life”, and “where do you see yourself in the next five years?”; our role as coaches is to help talent find the way and skills so they can get there.
I encourage people to break long-term plans into smaller milestones. Sometimes, the right career choices are not always related to your education or acquired degrees but to your willingness to take a leap and listen to your true calling. Sometimes right career choices take certain sacrifices or time and persistence to materialize.
Sometimes, the right career choices
are not always related to your education
or acquired degrees but to your willingness
to take a leap and listen to your true calling.
Prior to joining INSEAD you held leadership roles in international education institutions while living in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the USA. Have you observed that the needs of talent in these countries differed in any way, and if so how?
It is interesting to observe that regardless of where people come from, their needs are very similar. Everyone wants to find fulfilling jobs and purpose in their work, personal growth and life-work balance. Yet culture plays an important role in the way career decisions are made. Certain cultures are more open to experimentation and exploration of non-traditional career choices. We are also different in how we define success. Certain cultures define success by high financial returns while in other cultures, financial success is not as important in their value system.
Each individual's “ikigai” is personal to them and specific to their lives, values and beliefs. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being." It reflects the inner self and expresses the source of value in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile. Everyone is looking for a career that will allow them to feel ikigai, regardless of what part of the world they come from!
You initiated and curated a regional “think tank” in 2012 (Middle East Career Development Conference) that ran for five consecutive years. What did it entail and what motivated you to set this up?
This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! At that time, in the Middle East it was difficult to find a forum where career coaches and talent developers could get together to share knowledge. Most of us had to dedicate time and budgets to travel to the US or Europe to find a knowledge exchange forum. And most of those conference would not bring the expertise and focus needed to tackle the talent needs of the Middle East region. This is why I decided to make the leap and bring people together from the region and for the region, to exchange ideas and focus on what was new in career development, at the time.
As it was an extra-curricular project and without a big budget to execute on this dream, I had to be resourceful and bring the right people together to create value, while keeping the event free and open to all. With a lot of passion for sharing knowledge and the right connections, I curated an event in Dubai that attracted over 300 professionals from all the corners of the MENA region, who learned from each other and exchanged knowledge! The event continued for five consecutive years, with other institutions hosting it every year and last year it was held at the NYU in Abu Dhabi.
You are Greek by origin and have chosen to live in Paris. Why have you chosen to make the French capital your current home?
The capital chose me! It was not planned... I was in San Francisco when INSEAD offered me the opportunity to either be based in Singapore or France. I had been to Paris before and I loved the city: it is gorgeous architecturally and there is always something to do! I chose France because of the variety, multicultural environment, and my personal objective of being close to home. Living in a different country requires a certain level of adjustment and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to feel at home – particularly so when you do not speak French! But after almost 3 years in Paris, it finally feels like home.
Lastly, we like to conclude with a question from the Proust questionnaire: What is your most marked characteristic and why do you think it has helped you in your career?
Always having an open mind and being curious to what is out there and what the future can bring, is one of my most marked characteristics of my personality. Curiosity led me to new opportunities, new skills, new countries, and new careers. Curiosity helped me explore my mental toughness and resilience to change. Curiosity brought me to places, I would had never thought of living in before! Also, the same spirit of being curious to learn has led me in asking questions such as “why is this important”, “what problem are we trying to solve?”; these helped me grow as a professional but also create impactful value in the businesses I worked for.
Exercising positive curiosity has expanded my knowledge,
improved the way I interact and understand people
from different cultures, challenged my limits,
and changed the way I make decisions.
Exercising positive curiosity has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to grow as a person. It expanded my knowledge, improved the way I interact and understand people from different cultures, challenged my limits, and changed the way I make decisions. So, remain an explorer at heart, be curious, and you will always become better in life and professionally!
Find out more about Stella, here!
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