Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way

  • 27 Sep 2018 12:32 | Deleted user

    Our member Christine Marlet has been working on an initiative regarding the potential of transforming the European Women Forum into a multidisciplinary think tank, with the aim of fostering research and allowing experts to develop new models, tools and methods based on common hypotheses, shared languages and expanded conceptions, which are not possible, or are difficult to achieve, “if each remains within their original area of competence”. Read our interview to learn more about this initiative!

    Since 2018, you are the EU Public Affairs and Communications Director of the European Women Forum. Could you tell us more about this organization and how you got involved in women’s issues?

    The Board of the European Women Forum in March felt that the forthcoming challenges of the modern society for women needed to be tackled in an innovative way and asked me to shape a new strategy, a vision, mission, and action plan. I accepted the challenge.

    I thus started to network and feel how men and women were responding to the idea of establishing a multidisciplinary think-tank for women in a society in transition. In addition, as the idea is ambitious, I have launched a consultation within the network to assess the viability of such a concept. 

    The Board felt that the forthcoming challenges

    of the modern society for women needed to be tackled

    in an innovative way. They asked me to shape a new strategy,

    a vision, mission, and action plan.

     I accepted the challenge.

    Why do you believe a multidisciplinary approach has become necessary and how will this think tank contribute to the advancement of women in society?

    Networks and associations for women empowerment in different fields and sectors are essential. However, these organizations do not have a transversal and holistic approach on what it means to be a woman.

    Engaging in a multidisciplinary approach in academic research would allow us to increase awareness about gender biases and stereotypes among both women and men. It would also allow us to address the concept of femininity/masculinity and complementarity between men and women, as well as the major role of culture in gender issues and the relationship between work and productivity.

    Multidisciplinarity is important as it means openness to different theoretical, conceptual and, of course, ideological premises. This does not mean that the approach should be eclectic or relativistic: the researcher will have his own hypotheses and assumptions, but he/she should also be open to the arguments made by those who do not think alike.

    Engaging in a multidisciplinary approach in academic research would allow us to increase awareness about gender biases and stereotypes among both women and men.

    One of the main pillars of this think tank aims at identifying best practices and initiatives which can inspire women and men around the world. Based on your experience, could you share with us some good practices concerning work-life balance solutions and the enhancement of women as role models?

    One initiative that I came across thanks to the European Network for Women in Leadership is the film “Dream Girl”, empowering women entrepreneurship with the complicity of partners.

    Another initiative in the field of women leadership and empowerment is “Brussels Binder”: under the slogan “No Women No Panel”, that we can also find at the international level through “The GlobalWIN conference”. On YouTube, you also have the channel “Femmes et Pouvoir” that focuses on women leadership.

    In the field of work-life balance, I could mention “MAAM, maternity as a master, which is a digital program that companies buy to transform the parental experience of their employees into an opportunity to develop soft skills that are key for productivity and success.

    In the audiovisual field, there are many important films, like “Pentagone Paper” or “Hidden Figures”, that serve as role models. You have books like “Hear me Roar” from Liz Grzyb.

    You are a member of the European Network for Women in Leadership. In your opinion, are women’s networks playing an important role and why?

    Being part of WIL was essential as it allowed me to find the right events and right people to speak to, and the right place for exchanging ideas. Somehow, I found the energy from the network to launch my own initiative. 

    I found the energy from WIL’s network 

    to launch my own initiative.

    To learn more about Christine, have a look at her biography!
  • 27 Sep 2018 11:29 | Deleted user

    Milena Harito is a French and Albanian citizen whose professional achievements, which cross sectors and international boundaries, have led her to receive the insignia "Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur", by the French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau earlier this year. In this interview, Milena shared with us more about her work on public services delivery, digital transformation, and her thoughts on women leadership. Curious yet? Read our interview to learn more!


    You have dual citizenship. How would you describe your relationship with France and Albania?


    Living in two cultures has both its challenges and its advantages. I came to France when I was 25 and spent about half of my life in Albania and the other half in France, so I really feel both French and Albanian.


    Having dual citizenship offers you a unique opportunity not only to live in and understand two different cultures, but also to open yourself up to the whole world and grow as a person!


    Dual citizenship also comes with some issues. You always miss your country of origin and you must make considerable efforts to integrate into a new culture. But it is worth the effort as belonging to two cultures represent an incredible assent, especially in a globalized world!


    Having dual citizenship offers you a unique opportunity 

    not only to live in and understand two different cultures, 

    but also to open yourself up to the whole world and grow as a person!


    Prior to your political engagement, you held different research and managerial positions at Orange France for more than a decade. In what ways did your private sector background help you succeed in politics?


    Coming from the private sector, you are used to working in a very practical and results-oriented way. In contrast, you are not familiar with the codes and rules of politics. Indeed, politics is less about results and more about perceptions, relations, connections, and sometimes manipulation.


    However, my private sector experience was very useful as it gave me the necessary resilience to implement reforms. Public administration systems are still weak in the Balkan countries. When you are a minister there, you do not receive the same kind of support from good civil servants and experts as you do in France, for example. In other words, you must be very committed and hard-working to get things done!


    In September 2013, you were appointed Minister of Innovation and Public Administration. Could you tell us more about your job and the reforms you managed to achieve?


    As Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, I oversaw the implementation of important reforms with the goal of modernizing the country: the public administration civil service reform and the improvement of the quality and efficiency of our public services.


    One of the reforms I led involved the recruitment and the career advancement of civil servants, one of the conditions of the process of integration into the European Union (EU). With the support of the Prime Minister we managed to vote a new legal framework and create a general competition for civil servants, which is crucial to ensure the country’s stability even when political parties change. We also partnered with ENA, the French National School of Administration, to work on the creation of the Albanian school of Public Administration, which is still in its initial phase.


    I also successfully led a reform to improve the delivery of public services. Surprising as this may seem, the concept of customer care did not exist in the public service. We thus created a series of rules and procedures to introduce the customer care principles. A central agency has been created to ensure that those principles were applied by the public administration everywhere in the country. The reform has successfully improved standards, procedures, and the organization of service delivery. It has fostered a customer-care culture in the Albanian public administration and contributed to our fight against corruption. Our achievements have even been featured in a case study published by Harvard University.


    Our reform fostered a customer-care culture in the Albanian public administration 

    and contributed to our fight against corruption.


    From September 2017 to May 2018 you served as Prime Minister Advisor on Regional Economic Area of Western Balkans. You now work as an independent consultant in this field. What does your work involve?


    Last year, the Prime Minister asked me to assist him with a project on regional cooperation in the Balkans.

    The project was led by the European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and aimed at establishing a regional economic area. In short, we tried to establish a common approach to trade, investment, and mobility of professionals. I also managed to bring a fourth dimension, the digital dimension, into this action plan, and create a common digital agenda.


    The region is comprised of six small countries that are still in the accession process for joining the European Union. In many ways, these countries have very similar problems, including but not limited to the history of war, nepotism, and instability in public administration. Our Prime Minister had a very important role in bringing more cooperation to the Balkans. It was the first Prime Minister who visited Serbia in more than 67 ears! Aleksander Vucic, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, also played an important role in the process of fostering cooperation among the countries in the region. I can say with confidence that this was a beginning of a new era for the regional cooperation in the Balkans, and I was lucky to have had a chance to be part of it.


    I can say with confidence that this was a beginning of a new era 

    for the regional cooperation in the Balkans, 

    and I was lucky to have had a chance to be part of it.


    How would you describe your personal vision of digital transformation in the public sector?

    There are many issues in the digital transformation. Some studies show that in the EU countries round 60% of digital projects fail. It is enormous.


    This is partly due to many people assuming that when a process is digitalized, it will automatically solve all issues. On the contrary, digitalization can potentially make problems even worse because there are fewer people that manage the process!


    In the process of digital transformation, it is essential to first clearly state the problems you want to solve. This cannot be done by a computer scientist. You need people who know their organizations very well and are motivated to solve problems and then use digital transformation as an instrument. They do not necessarily have to be engineers. Engineers are the ones who are going to implement the project but not the people who understand the inside structures and processes. The people who lead digital transformation of their institutions are called Chief Information Officers (CIOs) or Chief Digital Officers (CDOs).


    Unfortunately, these are the people we lack the most in both the public and the private sector, for example even the municipalities in France lack them. This is why achieving a successful digital transformation is difficult.

    Digitalization can potentially make problems even worse
    because there are fewer people that manage the process!

    What are the main challenges women face in politics?


    During the communist era, most women were working in the Balkan countries. This was a key factor of emancipation. Yet, in these countries, men were traditionally the ones who went outside and discuss business while women were expected to take care of their families. 


    I feel that men in executive position have some sort of a coalition that is governed by special rules and codes of communication. I strongly believe that women need a similar kind of coalition. This is one of the reasons I decided to join the European Network of Women In Leadership!


    I feel that men in the highest position have some sort of a coalition

     that is governed by special rules and codes of communication. 

    I strongly believe that women need a similar kind of coalition.


    To learn more about Milena, have a look at her biography!

  • 31 Jul 2018 09:59 | Anonymous

    This month, we had the pleasure of catching up with WIL Board Member, Katherine Corich, a commercial pilot turned expert in business transformation and Founder & CEO of Sysdoc. We discussed her career shift and what it takes to lead a successful transformation programme in the 21st century, as well as her extraordinary charity work in Brazil as Chairwoman of Happy Child International.  Katherine also reiterated the importance of networks such as WIL Europe and shared with us a lesson she recently learned through her millennial employees!

    After qualifying as a commercial pilot, you decided to pursue a career in information management and became an expert in business transformation. Why did you make such a career shift and what did you learn from the aviation sector?

    Whilst working on an information technology project at the London Stock exchange, I realized that principles completely evident and normal in one industry such as aviation could be used in another such as in global finance.  Principles ranging from stimulation training and learning organisations, the understanding of human factors, black box thinking, to the importance of culture and many more.

    In particular, within aviation, we are able to learn from our mistakes by analyzing  the black boxes fitted in every aircraft which records everything leading up to and during an accident or event. This ‘black box thinking’ enables us to  to continually learn and adapt. We send out a notification globally and alter the training and behaviours on this specific area. Not enough organizations adopt this mentality of learning from mistakes and implement  the change globally.

    Therefore, I introduced some of the principals and insight of aviation in business to help organizations to be more successful, safer and more stream lined.

    Founder and CEO of the highly successful London-based business-systems consultancy company Sysdoc, you have led many transformation programmes across various companies. How do you lead transformation in the turbulent 21st century?

    Recently, we are seeing a global trend – people have become much more open and honest about the state the world is in. They have become more aware that business ethics make sense and profit at any cost doesn’t. If a profit degrades the environment or a community, removes water or pollutes the region, then it is not acceptable business.

    Directors and Senior Leaders within companies need to ask those hard questions, change products, services and revenue streams when they notice a negative impact. There is now enough global financing and funding in the world for a company to transform its offerings into a new area and stream of business that is good for the environment and for humanity.

    One of the reasons I teach at Oxford University Said Business School is because it allows us to work with the finest leaders from the corporate world with a different way of thinking and encourage them to think about the wider issues and legacy they wish to leave behind. With this programme, and if they are true leaders, they can provide a much greater impact on humanity; we simply need those who are brave enough to lead the change as at this time, the impact is needed more than ever.

    If they are true leaders, they will be able to provide
    a much greater impact on humanity, and at this time,
    the impact is needed more than ever

    Alongside running your business, you have been involved in charities and you are on the board of numerous organizations, including the NGO Happy Child International, founded by WIL Member Sarah de Carvalho. Why did you become such a philanthropist and how do you think you can best help the charity sector?

    I became a philanthropist because I believe it is a natural pathway for entrepreneurs. When one has had the privilege of running a strong performing company, then it is natural to give back!

    We have always been a generous company and we pride ourselves of being one of the first to have many female senior leaders and practices that attract younger mothers! However, we wanted to improve our generosity from simply donating money to making a real difference by using our skill sets as a team to make the greatest impact.

    This is what led me to becoming the Chairwoman of Happy Child International. One of the Charity’s main focus is of rehabilitating and reintegrating young girls and sometimes boys in Brazil, of the ages 11-13, whom have been prostituted on the streets, become pregnant and are now living on the streets. The charity rescues them and begins the often three to four-year process of learning to love themselves and their baby as well as other basic skills necessary for their integration back to their family life.

    We also work via our It’s a Penalty campaign with the Brazilian and other governments to focus on why the young girls are prostituted in the first place and who is responsible. Through our research, it is mostly foreign workers and visitors attracted to their cities by big sporting events. We have lobbied governments in the lead up to events, assisted police and social services throughout the event, set up help lines and raised awareness of the problem. Our impact has been enormous as we have been able to reach hundreds of millions of people, with tangible impact such as working with the police to identify and  shut down brothels near major sporting venue, received thousands of calls to our help line and changed legislation for the criminalization of abusers abroad.

    Using our skills along with our money, we are much more powerful than a few donations could ever be.

    When one has had the privilege of running a strong
    performing company, then it is natural to give back!

    You are also a Board Member of the European Network for Women in Leadership (WIL Europe), which has been acting over the last 10 years as a platform where senior-level women can meet and exchange, network and support each other. Why are such networks important and what changes in attitudes and policies are still needed to facilitate women’s professional advancement?

    As a leader you are a trailblazer, you have broken through the mold and found a way to the top of what you are doing. Many refer to it as ‘breaking through the glass ceiling’. In my personal experience, most of the women leaders I have met have stated there might have been glass ceiling, they simply never noticed it.

    To be a leader you must be brave and have the capability, courage and talent to just say ‘I can do it’. You build the great relationships and team along the way but arriving at the top can be lonely and this is why leadership networks are so vital. The networks of incredibly talented ladies such as WIL Europe give us the ability to collaborate, share ideas, share best practices, support each other and celebrate each other. It is great to be amongst other leaders who want to change their company, organization or the world in such a positive way.

    The networks of incredibly talented ladies such
    as WIL Europe give us the ability to collaborate, share ideas,
    share best practices, support and celebrate each other.

    At WIL, we strongly believe that leaders are constant learners. What is the latest lesson you have learned in your personal and/or professional life?

    I completely agree with your statement! I learn something new every single day!

    The most recent lesson I have learned would be yesterday evening. I brought together all the millennials from one area of our business together to discuss mental health in the consulting industry, as I believe that as a company and human beings we need to constantly evaluate the environments we work in.

    Millennials are trying to find their place in such a connected world through social media, new technologies every day, a world where money is a constant struggle and of course for British millennials, the impact of Brexit.

    Therefore, I asked them how we are going to shape our mental health strategy, as we all experience bad physical and mental days at some point. I wanted them to feel in a safe environment, so we would be able to trial the strategy through building a support for each other, to call on one another, call on a colleague or the wider services to solve the problem through the network in place. The team needed to know the distress they feel regarding all the problems are valid and real and we will find a way to address them and through this, the team were willing to work hard to find the greatest strategy!

  • 28 Jun 2018 14:35 | Anonymous

    We had the opportunity to interview our WIL Member Despina Anastasiou, Regional President for Dow in Central Europe and President Dow Hellas A.E., an industry leader in advanced materials, industrial intermediates, and plastics businesses delivering a broad range of differentiated technology-based products and solutions to markets such as packaging, infrastructure, and consumer care. Despina is a chemist by training and has been working for Dow for the past 28 years. She is deeply committed in supporting the advancement of women to leadership positions and in creating sustainable communities around the globe.

    After completing your PhD thesis on organometallic chemistry, what made you branch out from research and start working for Dow in the private sector?

    While working on my PhD thesis, I enjoyed the camaraderie of being part of a research team, but I wanted to branch out from laboratory work, yet still be linked to innovative technology. A friend’s accounts of the diverse opportunities for professional growth he had been exposed to within Dow Chemical (Australia) caught my attention. I approached Dow and joined the company two weeks after I submitted my thesis.   

    You are an Australian of Greek origin and you have worked in both Asia and Europe. How has your international background and career helped you master your leadership skills?

    I started in the technical services for ANZ and after two years, this role was expanded to the Asia-Pacific region. Having a graduate diploma in Japanese language and an understanding of the cultures across Asia Pacific helped me enormously, as did my PhD. In Asia, formal education is highly valued, and although there were not many women in my field at this time, our customers were very receptive to what I had to say.

    The reason I joined Dow is because Dow invests in people, and not a day has passed where I haven’t learned something, and something of transferable value – if not about our customers and markets, about my team and myself.  My personal motto is to be the best that I can be, and I genuinely believe that when you stop learning, it’s time to go. 

    I like change.  I like challenges and I definitely seek out opportunities and projects with the view to continue developing and growing.  My company has been very receptive in supporting this growth, which has enabled me to broaden my skills and ascend to more senior roles in business and market

    development, channel and distributor management, sales, marketing and strategy development.

    I’ve always gravitated to coaching and mentoring but more recently have formalized this both within Dow and externally, not just for women, but for all; across all education levels with a particular focus on STEM and Leadership skills.  In short – none of us turn up to fail, yet not enough effort is allocated to guidance early or when it’s needed most. 

    The reason I joined Dow is because Dow invests in people,
    and not a day has passed where I haven’t learned something,
    and something of transferable value.

    You have been a WIL member for over three years, and Dow will be supporting our 2018 Annual Gathering in Warsaw; how important do you believe is the promotion of women leadership and how is Dow tackling this matter?

    As a proud WIL member, I’m deeply engaged in supporting the advancement of women to leadership positions and regularly join international panel discussions to talk about the importance of promoting gender parity in the workplace. When we respect the diversity of our workplace, we create an inclusive environment where everyone can perform to their highest potential.

    At Dow, we are committed to building a vibrant, diverse and talented employee base — investing in each employee’s growth and development as part of Dow's inclusive global community. We value the differing experiences, backgrounds and perspectives our employees bring, and rely on those differences to fuel innovation.

    Dow’s strategic focus is to help Dow women grow their skills for today and prepare for the future’s unique market challenges.  For more than 20 years, Dow’s Women Innovation Network – one of our eight employee resource groups – has provided a framework for Dow women around the globe to share experiences, find mentors, seek professional development and gain access to senior leadership.

    When we respect the diversity of our workplace,
    we create an inclusive environment where
    everyone can perform to their highest potential.

    Apart from gender equality and diversity, how is Dow committing to CSR?

    Corporate Social Responsibility is an integral component of Dow's identity.  Dow is committed to identifying, understanding and addressing society’s most pressing challenges and determining how the company can help provide solutions to create sustainable communities throughout the world. 
    As part of this effort, Dow looks for solutions to enable economic development, sustainability, and education that lead to socially healthy and resilient communities, while also supporting and furthering business success, in alignment with the company’s 2025 Sustainability Goals.  Dow’s holistic approach promotes relevant, long-term change for communities by engaging in integrated solutions and cross-sector collaborations.

    Dow’s Global Citizenship efforts are multi-pronged and focus on education, workforce development, hunger, water resources, substandard housing, energy efficiency, and poor health. Dow focuses these efforts within two strategic commitments: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow and Innovating for Global Solutions.

    Through Global Citizenship, Dow puts its commitment to advancing human progress into action. Dow is a catalyst for positive change around the world.

    Dow’s Global Citizenship efforts are multi-pronged and focus on education, workforce development, hunger, water resources,
    substandard housing, energy efficiency, and poor health.

    If you had to recommend a book or paper to our network what would that be?

    I recommend, Carla Harris, “Strategize to Win” and if you cannot make the time to read the book, definitely view the various videos of her talks and especially note her messages on power and  “relationship currency”.


    Dr Despina Anastasiou is Regional President for Dow in Central Europe. In this role, she is responsible for leading Dow’s operations across the Central European region with a particular focus on exploring and driving business growth. She is a member of Dow’s European Leadership team, the European Women’s Innovation Network and Sustainability Steering teams and a board member for both the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and the Hellenic Association of Chemical Industries.

    Despina joined Dow Chemical Australia in 1990 and in the years that followed, she has held diverse roles of increasing responsibility in Market and Account Management, Business Development and Business Leadership across a broad range of products, markets and countries, including a three year assignment in Shanghai China. In late 2013, Despina was named President for Dow Hellas relocating to Athens, Greece with her family and was appointed to her current role of Regional President Dow Central Europe on March 1, 2016.

    Despina attended Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and holds a B.Sc. (hons) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry. She also holds a Graduate Diploma in Japanese language from Swinburne University. Despina and her husband Peter live in Athens Greece and have three sons.

  • 31 May 2018 10:51 | Anonymous

    Valérie Ferret is the new Vice President of Learning Experiences (Education) at Dassault Systèmes, Number 1 in the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world. WIL had the pleasure to interview Valérie and discuss her leap from Legal Counsel to the French-American Chamber of Commerce, to working in the private sector. We also discussed the importance of remaining sustainable at heart, the need for more women in tech and the importance of networking inside and outside of the WIL community!

    What prompted your career change from legal counsel in a Law Firm to working as Public Affairs and Sustainability Manager at Dassault?

    After graduating from Law School, I worked as Legal Counsel from 2002-2006 before moving to the United States. As I realized that my degree in Law would not be that useful for an American market, I began networking and eventually became Director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce. In this role, I was responsible for advocating the French Business community to both the French and local government.

    Whilst working at the Chamber of Commerce, my knowledge of technology was limited. However, a presentation from Dassault Systèmes convinced me of the importance of bringing good to society through technology and I decided to make the change to the corporate world.

    So, to answer your question, my career change was driven by meeting new people, extending my horizons and being open to new opportunities!

    I was convinced of the importance of bringing good to society
    through technology and made the change to the corporate world

    In January 2018, Dassault was named no1 in the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world by Corporate Knights. (See here) As Public Affairs & CSR Manager, how did you and the company implement the Dassault Systèmes’ vision of Corporate Social Responsibility?

    When I Joined Dassault Systèmes in 2008, as manager for Public Affairs & CSR, my mission was to expand and nurture the global influencer’s network to position the company as the best partner for sustainable innovation. It was a time when Dassault Systèmes had redefined its purpose to provide business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. Therefore the CSR mission was not one of a dedicated organization but the company purpose.  This was a very visionary approach, and I was exciting about leading a cross-organization project.

    Achieving Number 1 ranking is a recognition that this approach to sustainability is successful, not only in terms of social and environmental impact but also of our overall performance as this ranking relies on the computation of many different indicators, including innovation, financial and fiscal ones.

    To achieve this high ranking, we have put into place a robust environmental process to assess and mitigate our environmental footprint, as well as strong policies on our social indicators such as the promotion of women in the company.  

    Do you believe that the 4th industrial revolution is a sustainability revolution?

    Definitely! More precisely, we refer to this as the Industry Renaissance as it is about the total redefinition of the industry rather than the rebirth or optimization of the existing one. In other words, not only should the focus be on digitizing the industry but on inventing a whole set of solutions with new means of production for new categories of consumers. We call them experiences in Dassault Systèmes.

    For example, the Industry Renaissance will most likely bring a whole new mobility experience (car sharing, connected vehicles…) and the digital world allows for the new definition of models to be sustainable by heart.

    At Dassault Systèmes, we have a start-up accelerator and incubator, the 3DEXPERIENC Lab, which provides start-ups with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, making it feasible for them to design their products and giving them the ability to grow as a company. We have great examples of start-ups which thought about their concept as sustainable innovations such as “L’increvable”. This company does not produce a washing machine, but a personalize washing experience with a machine built to last the longest possible time. It was built on the circular economy principles. There is also a generation effect with the willingness to shake up and disrupt the existing models.

    Two years on from the Paris agreement COP21, how successful do you believe it has been since its introduction? And has it unlocked new opportunities for business?

    There are two ways in which a sustainable model can emerge. The first is a pro regulation approach, such as the Paris agreement, which is a belief that we will bring the right constraints in order to foster innovation. The second approach is through a market approach, consumer-driven.  

    Currently, countries have not reached the collective commitment they made, as we still sit between 3-5 degrees rise and some countries are backing out of the commitment. To bring all the countries back together in agreement is a long process. Therefore, I strongly believe that we should focus on providing people and innovators, with the right tools, skills, and mindset to bring disruptive experiences to the market which will be sustainable innovations.  

    Eventually, we won’t need the Paris agreement, once we’ll have an innovation on renewable energy storage which will be competitive.

    We currently have a unique opportunity to define the models for the future, we need to put the right efforts on research and innovation for sustainability.

    We need to ensure we have people who want to innovate,
    with sustainability at the heart of the model.

     As a member of WIL for over 7 years now, how important do you believe is the promotion of women and overall diversity within a company?

    It is VERY important. All over the world the position of women is still low within society, yet we realize that no country can lead with only one half of society. It is not about promoting women for the sake of promoting women, it is about a society working together be it in an organization, enterprise, company, NGO’s with all talents to solve the global challenges ahead of us.

    Working for a Tech company, I know how much of a challenge it is to hire women. When we recruit from top Schools, there are less than 15% of women graduating making it more difficult to find the balance!

    As Engineers, we want to solve issues and solve challenges
    and for this we need all of society, men and women.

    What I most appreciate as a member of WIL is the opportunity to meet and exchange with women who come from very different sectors, allowing us to learn from one another, go outside the boundaries and scope of which we are used to, and come up with new and innovative ideas!


    Valerie Ferret is VP of Learning Experience (Education) at Dassault Systèmes. Her mission is to connect education and industry on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, to provide the right skills and right mindset for people in the Industry Renaissance.

    Valerie Ferret joined Dassault Systèmes in 2008, as Public Affairs and CSR manager. In 2012 she became Public Affairs and Sustainability Director. She was responsible for developing the global influencer network to promote the company vision to provide businesses and people with 3DEXPERIENCE universes to imagine sustainable innovations.

    Valerie started her career in France in 2002 as legal counsel. Two years later, she joined a fast-growing private postal services operator in Luxemburg to create the in-house legal function. In 2006, she moved to the US and became Executive Director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Boston. Valerie holds a law degree from University of Montpellier.  She is married and proud mother of two children.

  • 30 Apr 2018 10:22 | Anonymous

    For this month’s interview, we have had the pleasure to meet WIL member Isabella Lenarduzzi, a committed feminist, entrepreneur, gender equality expert and the founder of the social enterprise JUMP, «Promoting gender equality, Advancing the economy». Since she was a child, Isabella has always wanted to make an impact in society, and after many years as a social entrepreneur, she decided to use her personal and professional experience to specifically help other women reach their full potential and autonomy.

    Our first interview with you was in 2009, just a few years after you created JUMP, which has become a leading international social enterprise. Could you tell us more about JUMP and how it has evolved over the years? Did its mission and activities change with the society’s developments with regards to gender equality?

    I created JUMP in 2006 in Brussels, which later opened in Paris and Lyon. Over the years, I realised that in order to close the gap between women and men, working with women is not enough: we also need to work with companies and with men. Corporate culture is indeed too often masculine, leading women to adapt to specific behaviours, values and ways of working. This is why men must understand that gender equality is not only a women's problem and must commit to also contribute to trigger change.

    Our headline thus went from "JUMP for active women” to "JUMP promoting gender equality, advancing the economy": by transforming the corporate culture in a more inclusive one, we can change the rules of the economy, and by changing the economy, we can then change the world.

     ‘Corporate culture is indeed too often masculine,
     leading women to adapt to specific
     behaviours, values and ways of working’

    Before creating JUMP, you had a long career as a social entrepreneur. How did this will to change the world get started and why did you decide to work specifically on the issue of gender equality?

    Since I can remember, I have always wanted to change the world by bieingan activist or a political leader. At University, a colleague of mine who was already an entrepreneur asked me to launch a magazine for the campus. This initiative ended up being hugely successful and became a company of more than 50 employees, later sold to a big multinational. This experience led me to believe that also as an entrepreneur, I could have a positive impact on the world.

    I decided to work specifically on the issue of gender equality after reading a book by Paule Salomon, entitled "La Femme Solaire", which made me realize how powerful a woman could be if she combines her masculinity and femininity. Until then, I had only exploited my masculine side and tried to hide my feminine one, as I thought it was not needed to be considered as a leader, or even severely judged in the professional world. I decided to embrace my femininity entirely and to support other women in doing so and in reaching their full potential.

    Is this why you associate JUMP with the pink color, usually depicted as a “girly” colour?

    Exactly. I faced tremendous resistance when I chose pink to represent my company, especially from women, but I decided to pursue this decision because I strongly believe that women and men alike should embrace their femininity and that pink should thus be seen as a business colour like any other.

    Using pink is a statement that we no longer have to hide our femininity and adapt to the dominant leadership style and that on the contrary, we can be feminine and powerful at the same time!

    Using pink is a statement that we no longer have to hide our feminity
     and adapt to the dominant leadership style!

    What do you think are the difficulties women face when creating their organisation?

    Most of the time, women are less likely to open a company, or an organisation compared to men. Women certainly want to thrive in what they can do best, but they are also financially risk-averse and want to have a good work-life balance.

    At the same time, self-employed women globally earn half of what men earn for the same job,  but take charge of more than 70% of all unpaid work (domestic and family work). Being financially vulnerable, they are less likely to open their organisation and take such a risk that could jeopardise the balance of their personal life (meaning family, children...). 

    I believe and strongly advocate that women and men are equally capable of founding their own organisation and succeed in doing so if they do not lower their professional aspiration and pursue a filed they are really passionate about and want to be unique.

    What are the key messages that you share with organisations that want to promote women in leadership roles and leverage female talent?

    One of our key messages is that by having better gender balance in decision making positions, companies will obtain better innovation strategies and then reach higher level of success in the market. Gender diversity is thus strategically crucial for companies!

    Another strong statement is that the way women are perceived in companies has to change. For example, when a woman asks for a pay raise, she is often seen as overly ambitious and, in some way, arrogant (“bossy”), whereas a man in the same situation is seen as a hard-working leader. Therefore, a substantial cultural shift in companies is needed so that women and men’s behaviours and actions stop from being perceived differently!

    Gender diversity is thus strategically crucial for companies!

    Where do you see JUMP heading to in the next five years?

    My objective is to push even further our mission so that more companies become fully inclusive.  Spreading our mission would mean that we can impact the society in which we live even more and trigger a cultural shift.

    We are thus planning to broaden our horizons and open more offices around Europe, such as Germany, still bearing in mind that different approaches are needed because there are substantial cultural differences between countries and cities in the way women are perceived.

  • 24 Jan 2018 14:44 | Anonymous

    From El Salvador to France, first business lawyer then international affairs counsel, speaking three languages, Kenia Denoyés was named one of the most successful Salvadoran women expatriates by the El Salvador Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of El Salvador in Brazil in 2015.

    Based in Paris, Kenia is the Associate General Counsel-Europe for Hanesbrands Inc., the world’s largest marketer of everyday basic apparel. She started her career as a business lawyer in 2002, and occupied various positions at Hanesbrands Inc. and JCDecaux, that led her to work both in Latin America and in Europe. 

    “Will is power, discipline is always the method, smiling is a world-wide language, and that is a common denominator anywhere you go.” These are some of the inspiring words of Kenia. If you want to discover more, read our interview!

    You started your career as a business lawyer, then you became corporate associate. What drove you to integrate the corporate world, and would you consider practicing as a lawyer again one day?

    It is my taste for challenge and novelty that drove me to integrate the corporate world. I was offered the role as head in-house counsel for Latin America when I was 30 years old: this would be my first experience in-house and the first time I would be working directly with matters in jurisdictions like Brazil and Argentina. What could be more appealing? A whole new world literally opened to me, with countless opportunities to learn something new. I found it very stimulating to see the flipside of things, such as taking calculated risks on a regular basis, or learning about the impact of my profession on the course of a company's business -and vice versa.

     However, I do miss the advantages of private practice, including the chance of getting to know the most intimate details of the law or the doctrine, or being the precursors of new legal concepts or methods. For this reason, I would not exclude practicing as a lawyer again in the long-term future.

    Overseeing the legal affairs of Hanesbrands Inc. in the EU, South Africa and Russia, what are the specific issues you have to deal with and the challenges you have to address?

    We deal with any and all legal matters related to the manufacturing and sale of apparel, which goes from ensuring the respect of our consumers’ rights (through adequate labels and packaging, loyal advertising, transparency, etc.), or defending our company's rights from third parties, and ensuring compliance with laws that are applicable to us in our capacity of employers, vendors or data controllers and processors.

     A typical day might start by organizing a merger in France, followed by a labour litigation matter in Italy, a packaging issue in Russia and finishing with the review of a new contract for the UK.  Face to the volume and the variety of matters, my biggest challenge is to keep my mind open to the specific needs of each jurisdiction and business, and keep my priorities aligned with those of the business. 

    “My biggest challenge is to keep my mind open to the specific needs of each jurisdiction and business.”

    You were named one of the most successful Salvadoran women expatriates. How do your many international experiences help you succeed in your current position ?

    Greatly! My experience abroad is an almost unlimited source of ideas and inspiration. If something worked fine in Brazil, why not give it a try in France? Sometimes only a little tweak would need to be done! But more importantly, living abroad taught me that boundaries are in one’s head: will is power, discipline is always the method, smiling is a world-wide language, and that is a common denominator anywhere you go.

    “Living abroad taught me that boundaries are in one’s head.”

    Despite your international experience and studies, do you still feel deeply rooted in your culture and home country?

    Absolutely. Salvadorans are well-known for their industriousness, their hard-working ethics and their hospitality. I would like to think that I represent those qualities well, and that it will be the case no matter where I am.

    CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today and it seems to be an important issue for you. What are the actions implemented by Hanesbrands Inc. in this regard?  

    Our Hanes for Good program is very rich.

    In collaboration with the Wake Forest University, we provide medical assistance to communities in need in Central America and the Caribbean, we encourage our employees to pursue their education and hundreds of our employees in El Salvador and Honduras have obtained high school diplomas and superior education scholarships.

    Together with the Glasswing foundation, we sponsor after-school activities for communities threatened by the presence of gangs, as a measure to help keep children and teenagers in the right path. We support our communities’ environmental initiatives and our supply chain has been many times recognized for making a mindful use of the resources during the manufacturing process.

    I could go on and on. I am very proud of working for a company that is sincerely committed to doing things right.

    In the course of your career, you helped to negotiate several collective bargaining agreements. Could you tell us about a memorable case for which you had to use your negotiation skills ?

    One of the most useful negotiation lessons I have learned is to always seek to create value for both parties. When we focus on interests instead of positions, things are never black or white, there is always a range of gray in the middle. For instance, during a negotiation in the Dominican Republic, we had several occasions to reflect on the “orange example”: two parties are fighting endlessly for an orange ( “I need the orange”,” I need it too”, “I deserve the orange”, “I deserve it too”… ) until they realize that one of them wants the orange to make some juice, whilst the other wants the peel to make some orange jam.

    “One of the most useful negotiation lessons I have learned is to always seek to create value for both parties.”

    You are the youngest member of Hanes Europe’s Leadership Team: how did you work your way up so quickly in the company and what are the best pieces of career advice you would give to  younger generation ?

    I grew up being very close to my grandmother. She used to say all the time that “if other children can do it, you can do it too”. It seems that learning by repetition works, because that is the one idea that stuck with me throughout my life. If I were to give my son a piece of advice, that would be the following: you need to believe in yourself first, and the rest will come.

  • 22 Dec 2017 16:44 | Anonymous

    One of the most debated topics at the moment in the tech industry and beyond, is the protection of personal data, in light of the vast technological developments. As a response to the rapidly-evolving digital environment and its associated risks, the European General Data Protection Regulation will enter into force in May 2018.  This new EU regulation, designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe and to set a new standard for consumer rights, is not without posing challenges to many organizations across Europe striving to implement the appropriate level of compliance in their data management processes.

    To learn more about the implications of the GDPR and about the legal issues arising in the wake of new technologies, WIL had the pleasure to interview one of its Founding Board Members, Béatrice Delmas-Linel, who has recently contributed (inter alia with Thaima Samman, WIL President) to a publication meant to inform businesses regarding tools and methodology to reach compliance with the GDPR.

    Béatrice is the Managing Partner of the Paris Office of the international legal practice Osborne Clarke. In 2012, she was recognised as one of the leading IT lawyers in France by her peers and distinguished as Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, notably for her contribution to the digital economy. Béatrice is also Coordinator of a Master programme in IP and Digital Law at the HEAD – Hautes Études Appliquées du Droit in Paris.

    Technology tends to scare a lot of lawyers – obviously not you. What led you to gravitate, as a lawyer, towards Digital Technology?

    It was a combination of opportunity and personal inclination. In the early nineties, I happened to work for a law firm which was representing clients such as Apple and Microsoft. When the internet economy developed, I was intrigued by the debate at the time, especially on whether the internet was a ‘no-law-zone’ or not, what it meant for society and existing laws. I saw an exciting challenge in finding answers on how law could apply to the new technologies.

    Now 27 years later, technology is everywhere and its far more complex than back then, but I still see a challenge into bringing innovation back to the basic principles of law. The same reaction happens with each new technology and I am always eager to decrypt and understand the technology so as to be in a position to analyse how our existing laws do apply but also where any gap is that may require additional legislation. For instance GDPR reflects how personal data has become key in today's economy and requires enhanced protection. Artificial intelligence is becoming a key element of new technologies but raise core questions with respect to the ownership and protection of algorithms as well as liability and ethics.

    You have recently co-authored a publication to inform businesses regarding the compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to bring the laws regarding personal data protection in line with the realities of the Digital Age. Can you tell us more about it?

    This is a white paper, sponsored by three trade organizations (CIGREF, AFAI and TechinFrance), that is trying to inform businesses regarding the compliance with the GDPR and aims at helping businesses to be compliant with the new Regulation.

    As a lawyer, I believe that it is better to explain the opportunities this Regulation brings to our clients’ businesses, rather than letting companies being motivated only by the gola of avoiding the applicable fine for non-compliance. By implementing the required tools of the Regulation, clients will invest into the healthy long term management of data of their employees and customers, having in mind that data are today one of the most valuable assets for companies. The Regulation is a way for them to take control of their data, to show accountability and as such, to create trust among their employees and customers.  I believe that the more digital economy is expanding, the more trust is becoming a valuable competitive differentiator in business.

    What potential does blockchain technology have from your point of view?

    Blockchain is a fascinating technology, because it can remove the need for transaction intermediaries, like banks. In addition, we can see many potential applications of blockchain that go way beyond just payments or cryptocurrencies. In fact, blockchain could revolutionize how we interact with intellectual property, capital markets, insurance, etc.

    However, the question becomes whether this technology will provide a sufficient level of trust, so that it could have the potential to eliminate such intermediaries.

    “From an environmental standpoint, the more we become dependent on any kind of digital network,  we should ask ourselves how will we able to sustain the vast amount of energy that is required for new technologies.”

    Now, blockchain may bring a new world to our society the way Internet did, but this type of technology requires huge amounts of energy across the world and as we become more and more dependent on such networks , we should ask ourselves how will we able to sustain the vast amount of energy that is required for new technologies.

    Could you explain briefly the difference between smart contracts as used in blockchain industry and traditional legal contracts? What are the possible legal issues of doing business with them?  Will they enable to cut out the middleman and if so, do lawyers need to worry?

    Simply stated, the difference between smart contracts and traditional legal contracts is automation. Smart contracts are a form of automated contracts that use pre-defined rules to facilitate the exchange of nearly any good or service. In fact, we already use smart contracts in our daily lives. For example, when you want to park your car, you go to the parking meter, you insert money and you receive a parking ticket that gives you specific rights to use that parking space. You do not negotiate nor draft a contract.

    This is an example of a very basic form of smart contract, but the systems based on artificial intelligence and blockchain will now provide us with extremely customized offers. Smart contracts will evolve and will be able to process more complex transactions.

    “Smart contracts mean lawyers will need to be smarter.”

    The need for lawyers will not disappear, but they will need to adapt. Rather than a threat, it should be seen as an opportunity for lawyers to show their added value. Smart contracts mean lawyers will need to be smarter.

    As a technology lawyer, I have responsibility towards younger generation of lawyers to make them understand that what matters isn’t often  what is written in the civil code but rather what is the role of law in society and how to question the existing law.  If I look at a contract, I ask myself, why do certain parties want a contract, what is their interest? What is the issue at hand? I tell younger lawyers to ask their client more questions to better understand their needs and therefore to create terms that are truly adapted.

    You are a founding Board Member of WIL and initiator of WIL’s partnership with Osborne Clarke France. What prompted you to take an active part in this cause and could you share some of the best practices in your group with regard to promoting gender parity and woman leadership?

    The mission statement of WIL is very appealing to me – it is the opportunity to network outside your usual horizons – across countries, sectors and professions.  As an entrepreneur and senior-level women I also feel that it is important to be active with leadership programme such as WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme so as to share my experience and give advice.

    At Osborne Clarke in Paris, we give special attention to diversity, gender diversity in particular as we think that parity is healthy: three out of our five founding partners and two senior partners are women! 

    We also wish to encourage the next generation of women to not fear leadership and entrepreneurship, and within Osborne Clarke International we have launched various initiatives to ensure that female voices are being heard.

    “I never felt that being a women could be a handicap but neither an advantage. I felt different and I always believed that difference is an opportunity."

    Which advice would you give to women ?

    I never felt that being a women could be a handicap but neither an advantage. I felt different and I always believed that difference is an opportunity.

    However, women must work on making that difference more visible, in a positive and effective way. In my opinion, women often take it for granted that someone is going to acknowledge what they have worked on, which in reality is not the case. Therefore, my advice to women is always to make sure they spare at least ten percent of their professional time in order to give more visibility to their work. Doing a good job is not enough, one has to make sure it gets noticed. In French we call that "savoir faire et faire savoir", which can be translated by "know how, and make it known"!

  • 30 Nov 2017 12:09 | Anonymous

    This year, WIL’s partner INSEAD, a top international business school, marks the 50th anniversary since the first woman was admitted to its MBA programme. The timing provides us with a great opportunity to discuss with our Board Member Nida Januskis, Associate Dean of Advancement about how INSEAD is promoting career advancement among women, notably through its partnership with WIL, and learn about her own experience of combining a career with a family life. And as it is quite rare to meet an American and Lithuanian living in France, we also used this occasion to learn more about Nida’s origins and her views on preserving one’s language and culture!

     This year, INSEAD celebrates 50 years as one of the first business schools in the world that admitted women to its MBA programme. However today, only 30% of all applicants are women. What do you think is the reason for this number of women who are interested in the programme, and what can be done to increase their participation?

    There are several reasons why fewer women are applying to the MBA programme. The first is that the average applicant age at INSEAD is higher compared to our peer schools. The second is that INSEAD is a global business school, which means that we have women applicants from all over the world. Some countries are well-represented by women, such as the US and China, with more than 40% participation rates. However, we would like more representation from Central and Southern Europe, and we will be focusing on growing these numbers.  Finally, as we have a global pool of women applicants, their financial challenges are more complex. By increasing our scholarship offerings, we hope to better facilitate their access to INSEAD.   

     It is our aim to increase the percentage of women students in our MBA programme to 40% overall in the next five years. We have taken a number of steps to achieve this ambitious goal.  For example, we have started a targeted campaign called Limitless to attract more women applicants. The campaign highlights our alumnae by featuring their stories, which we hope will inspire other women to join us.  We also plan to expand the applicant pool by targeting younger women and building referral programmes.

    During the application process at INSEAD, the applicant is always interviewed by two of our Alumni. In order to avoid biases, we are making sure that in the case of a woman applicant, she is always interviewed by at least one woman, which was not the case in the past.

    “It is our aim to increase the percentage of women students in our MBA programme to 40% in the next five years. To attract them, we have started a targeted campaign called Limitless.”

    INSEAD has chosen to partner with WIL and also offers a customized Woman Global Leaders Programme. Can you tell us why?

    This year, INSEAD celebrates the 50th anniversary since women were first admitted to our MBA programme. We realize that partnerships with organizations like WIL, and in particular, WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme, help to feed our pipeline. This partnership is very important to INSEAD and is very much aligned with our mission and values.

    INSEAD also offers a Women Leaders Programme to executives. The programme addresses the challenges women face when progressing into senior leadership positions.  It is specifically designed for women with 15 years, or more, of professional experience.

    “The partnership with WIL and in particular WIL’s Talent Pool Programme is very important to INSEAD and is very much aligned with our mission and our values.”

    You are a great example that taking maternity leave is not an obstacle to a career advancement for professional women. You were working for Harvard Business School (HBS) as an Associate Director for External Relations when you moved to Paris and decided to stay at home with your children for almost three years.  What led you to make this decision, and did you disconnect entirely from your professional life during that period?  In addition, what was the biggest challenge you encountered upon your return?

    I was working for HBS in Boston for almost 6 years when my husband was transferred to Paris. Although I have never thought I would stay at home with my children, I realized that this was a good opportunity for me to learn French and become part of the community. At the time, I was doing pro-bono work, such as fundraising for schools and nonprofits. Looking back, I think it was the best decision I could have made at the time.

    Nevertheless, after three years at home, I wanted to return to the workforce, knowing that I had a lot of value to bring. Maternity leave for me was not an obstacle, and I was lucky enough that my previous employer Harvard Business School was entering their second capital campaign and recruited me back to work for them remotely. The challenges were mostly logistical and related to childcare. However, at the time, I was fortunate that my office was within walking distance of where we lived so it ended up being an easy transition. Now, I enjoy being a working mom, and I also feel that I am being a better mom because of it.

    As already mentioned, upon your return, you started working for HBS International Alumni Development Team, where you were raising private funds from former students. When it comes to asking for money,  Europeans are very different from Americans – was this an obstacle? How did this experience benefit you once you joined INSEAD as an Executive Director for Development in 2016?

    The culture of philanthropy in Europe is very different from that of the US, where one is exposed to fundraising at an early age, often through a sports team, your school, or through your church. By the time one attends University in the US, fundraising has become an accepted, and even welcomed, way to elevate institutions one cares most deeply about.  In a strong sense, philanthropy is seen as an investment in the self, as to improve the institutions that have launched our careers can only improve our own standing in the world.  

    “INSEAD was founded on the idea of rebuilding a war-torn Europe by bringing people together through business education.”

    Nonetheless, the tide is changing, and Europeans are starting to understand that fundraising is important. If we can make the case that their donation to an organization or to a school will make an impact and that it will touch more people, than people will be willing to donate.

    INSEAD was founded on the idea of rebuilding a war-torn Europe by bringing people together through business education. I feel that we have stayed true to our mission and that the funds we raise go to good causes, such as scholarships, thought leadership and new ventures. Our alumni understand that for the school to compete with peer schools and to promote our mission, it is important for them to support INSEAD.

    You are American and Lithuanian and have been living in France for 9 years. Where do you feel at home and how important is the preservation of one’s cultural origins for you?

    “I believe the language is key to preserving one’s cultural identity, and that it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.”

    Being an American, Lithuanian and living in France, I truly feel at home at a global institution such as INSEAD.  In fact it makes me think of my children, who are third culture kids and whom I wish to raise as global citizens of the world. I believe that language is key to preserving one’s cultural identity, and that it is the greatest gift you can give to your children.

    Final words: 

    INSEAD’s flagship MBA programme has a policy that no more than 10-12% of the class is represented by any one nationality, which makes diversity part of INSEAD’s DNA. Diversity adds value to the conversations and the decision-making process, which is often lacking in corporate boards. I believe that being inclusive, diverse and gender-balanced is of utmost importance for INSEAD, which is also why our gender initiative, in which men are also involved, can make a big difference in management education. 

  • 20 Nov 2017 10:52 | Anonymous

    Could the Blockchain, the technology underpinning digital currencies like Bitcoin, transform how our economies work and foster financial inclusion and gender equality? WIL had the pleasure to interview WIL Board Member Marina Niforos on this topic.

    Marina is the founder and Principal of Logos Global Advisors, a strategic advisory firm to high-growth startups and large multinationals and a recognized expert, author and speaker on economic competitiveness and digital transformation. Recently, her whitepaper series the impact of blockchain were compiled in a special International Finance Corporation (IFC) Report, Blockchain: Opportunities for Private Enterprises in Emerging Markets, that has been distributed in the context of the World Bank’s Annual Meetings.

    If you had to explain Blockchain to a total newcomer, what is the most exciting thing about it?

    Blockchain is an emerging technology that offers the possibility of re-engineering economic models and enabling the creation of markets and products that were previously unavailable or unprofitable across emerging markets.  Blockchain is a database ledger that functions like a distributed network. It is often referred to as a distributed ledger that can register blocks of cryptographically-secure, tamper-proof data with members of a network. This unique structure offers near-frictionless cooperation between these entities, allowing them to transfer value or information without need of a central authority or intermediary. Its potential to deliver a new mechanism of ‘trust’ and to significantly limit transaction costs offers great promise for leveraging the technology to boost economic development in emerging markets. Evangelists call it a digital revolution and sceptics dismiss it as a combination of existing technologies with exaggerated potential. Despite its detractors, venture capital flowing into blockchain companies hit $544 million last year, according to KPMG.

    "Blockchain is an emerging technology that offers the possibility of re-engineering economic models and enabling the creation of markets and products that were previously unavailable or unprofitable across emerging markets."

    Blockchain’s ability to send blocks of cryptographically-secured, tamper-proof data through a decentralized network provides a scalable, secure system that can be applied to all kinds of transactions. The technology can help identify, authenticate, and track goods moving across different countries and modes of transportation. Ethereum — a second-generation blockchain — provides a programmable blockchain platform with ‘smart contracts’ that can be used in numerous scenarios, including the transfer of property titles, settlement of financial derivatives, shipment of goods, and payment of royalties to artists.

    Does it hold a potential to transform the economy and can we speak about the second generation of internet? Which industries will benefit most from it and what challenges does Blockchain still needs to overcome to become a mainstream technology? 

    Blockchain holds enormous potential to transform our economy. What the Internet did for the exchange of information, Blockchain can do for the exchange of value, eliminating the need for a trusted third party to authenticate and validate transactions and thereby significantly disrupting existing business models. It has the potential to deliver productivity gains to multiple industries, from the financial sector to energy markets, supply chains, health care, intellectual property management, the public sector, and beyond.

    "Emerging markets may prove to be ideal for the adoption of blockchain-based financial solutions due to their underserved populations, higher banking risks, lower bank penetration and legacy systems, and greater presence of digital financing."

    The financial services industry has been an early experimenter on and adopter of blockchain technology. Financial institutions around the world find their business models continually tested by technological innovation. The emergence of innovative digital financial technologies (fintech), including blockchain, is challenging traditional players in the sector by demonstrating new ways to deliver value across the entire financial value chain. And emerging markets may prove to be ideal for the adoption of blockchain-based financial solutions due to their underserved populations, higher banking risks, lower bank penetration and legacy systems, and greater presence of digital financing. The convergence of these factors may provide the basis for a faster adoption of the technology and could result in a technological leapfrog that boosts financial inclusion and growth.

    The technology is in early stages of development and will need to overcome serious challenges and risks, both technical and regulatory, before it achieves widespread adoption. Questions remain about blockchain’s scalability, interoperability, security, transition costs, data privacy, and governance. We are at the beginning of this experiment and the road to maturity is likely to create both winners and losers before sustainable and profitable business models can emerge and full network effects can be seen. Companies and regulators will need to strike a balance between allowing enough space for the innovation ecosystem to flourish, while also effectively managing the associated risks and costs. Companies—in emerging markets and elsewhere—can neither afford to wait until the outcome is evident nor expose their existing business models to overly risky wholescale blockchain initiatives. Instead, they will need to adopt an experimental approach that allows them to develop options and thereby learn in the process, inform their strategies, and improve their value propositions.

    In your final white paper, you make the case about Blockchain being the technology of inclusion. How can it address the barriers to gender equality? 

    Blockchain can also be used beyond fintech for a more sustainable and inclusive management of global supply chains. Two critical attributes of the blockchain in particular—the reduction of agency costs and auditable traceability—may help to boost trade facilitation as well as ensure compliance with specific goals regarding sustainability and gender inclusion. Two supply chains where specific experimentation with blockchain is taking place are food and agribusiness, and pharmaceutical safety.

    "Two critical attributes of the blockchain in particular—the reduction of agency costs and auditable traceability—may help to boost trade facilitation as well as ensure compliance with specific goals regarding sustainability and gender inclusion."

    Blockchain offers the potential to address some of the barriers to women’s inclusion in global value chains and their economic empowerment, both as individuals and as business owners. It could provide a cost efficient digital identity, which can help overcome women’s comparatively low access to formal identification and offer an entry to formal roles and remuneration in supply chains. It could also help women establish ownership of disputed land titles. Additionally, it could promote financial inclusion by helping women establish credit scores through alternative credit data sources, bypassing traditional intermediaries and banks. Finally, blockchain’s auditability and traceability can provide a tool for the monitoring and enforcement of supplier inclusion and gender empowerment initiatives that are currently difficult to monitor and enforce. Investors and credit agencies are now paying greater attention to non-financial performance issues, including human rights and gender equality. While blockchain technology alone is not sufficient to address the cultural and structural issues underlying the challenge of gender equality, it does present a strong toolkit to tackle significant facets of the issue. The potential benefits of even marginal change can be significant for both the private sector and entire economies.

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