On the afternoon of March 14, 2016, WIL launched the 3rd edition of its Women Talent Pool Program (WTP), in partnership with Microsoft and Osborne Clarke at their London offices. This event was the talents first in-person meeting which started their 18-months’ program.
Following the Welcoming Remarks of Ray Berg, Managing Partner UK at Osborne Clarke, WIL President and founding partner of Samman Law & Corporate Affairs Thaima Samman took the stage with Brigitte Dumont, WIL Board Member & WTP founder and Chief Officer CSR at Orange, as well as WTP 1st Edition Alumni, Marie-Hélène Briens, Director of Programs Office B2B Sales at Orange, and Claire Monné, Economic Advisor for the French Representation to the EU to present WIL network and the WTP program.
Thaima opened the discussion by explaining WIL & WTP’s rationale, which is to encourage women to step out of their comfort zones and make their marks in this professional world. Brigitte outlined Orange’s strong commitment to promoting gender equality in top leadership positions. Diversity is a performance driver and programs such as the WTP are here to help women break the “glass ceiling” to senior positions. For Marie-Hélène, leadership is first and foremost understanding that there is not a single path to success. Therefore, women should start thinking differently and stop following predetermined tracks. Claire Monné shared her atypical career path, first as a vet and then as an economic advisor for the French Representation to the EU. For her, the WTP keyword is “to dare”.
Women must dare asking for a position or making a decision because they are as capable as men to do so. Marie-Hélène and Claire concluded this section by encouraging the new talents to get as much as they can from this program.
Next, Stefania Maschio, Partner at Excellence, Leadership development and Executive Coaching, gave a lively and inspiring presentation on Women and Leadership, the journey starts inside. Stefania explained that Women are not only facing external obstacles when it comes to build their professional career, but they are also suffering from what she referred to as “internal obstacles”, namely mental barriers built by gender stereotypes since childhood. She identified and reflected on four of those obstacles that affect women in particular, and makes it harder for them to reach higher positions. The first one is the “good girl syndrome”: as a consequence of their education, girls are expected to be polite, cute, nice and sweet. Under the good girl syndrome lies the need to be liked, and the inability to say no, which are often incompatible with high responsibilities. The second obstacle is the “imposture syndrome”, namely the constant anxiety to be considered as incompetent in their jobs. It takes roots in a lack of confidence on themselves and their competencies, and prevent them from applying for higher positions. Thirdly, women also experienced the “Power complex”, which is the difficulty of recognizing and accepting their ambition, as power is often deemed as a male attribute and negatively connoted for women. Finally, Stefania Maschio regrets that women are often lacking “proactivity” in their career’s plan. They tend to wait for opportunities to come instead of projecting themselves into a long-term future. Yet, strategic choices must be made within a long term vision.
In addition to the lively coaching presentation, the WTP session included an eye-opening roundtable session moderated by WIL Board Member Marina Niforos, President and CEO at Logos Global Advisors.
The roundtable was devoted to the testimonies of female leaders: Shelley McKinley, Associate General Counsel, Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft Western Europe, Despina Anastasiou, Country and General Manager for Dow Greece and Cyprus, and Wassila Zitoune-Dumontet, VP Group Roaming & Interconnect for Orange. Each panelist described her background, past experiences, challenges, both personal and professional, and shared lessons learned.
They all experienced non-linear career paths: After attending law school in Seattle and Washington, Shelley McKinley took 10 years ago the bold decision to quit an unfulfilled job in a law firm in Seattle to join Microsoft. Despina Anastasiou graduated with a PhD in Chemistry, before taking a radical turn toward the business sector. She then held various positions in Marketing, Sales, changing roles and sectors every 3 or 4 years, and feeling richer from each experience. Wassila Zitoune-Dumontet originally intended to be a lawyer, but “sometimes the plan is not the plan” therefore she ended-up being a senior executive in the Telecommunication industry. For these inspiring women, the path to success is not a straight road, it is about choosing your own journey, making your own choices and moving towards success. According to Shelley, the major lesson learned from her experience is to be opened to every opportunity that rose on your way and be willing to take risks. Daring, and speaking up your own choices are also Wassila’s main takeaways. Success is being comfortable and confident with your own choices, but also showing them clearly to the company. For Despina, it relies heavily on the concept of PIE, asserted by Harvey Coleman: “Success is 10% Performance, 30% Image and 60% Exposure”. To get a promotion you’ll need to perform well, cultivate a positive image and proactively gain exposure to the right stakeholders.
Speakers encouraged the Emerging Leaders not to be hold back by their fear of failing: “Try, fail and learn from it” in Wassila’s own words. Resilience is a key element for professional achievement: failure is not what matters, but the way you respond to it and your ability to move forward. Questioned about their work-life balance, panelists encouraged the talents to find their own balance, “be happy with what you get out versus what you put in”. For Wassila, it had been a tough learning to shut down her inner voice of perfectionism and to let herself dedicate more time to her family. Despina advocated for family balance, and explained that her partner chose to be the leading parent in the family for few years, while she was leading her career.
Later in the evening, the emerging leaders had further opportunities to discuss with their peers and get professional tips and advice from role models during a speed-dating session which was very much appreciated.
To conclude the afternoon session, Brigitte Dumont took the stage to ask the Talents to reflect on the afternoon’s takeaways and expectations for the upcoming 18 months. Following this vibrant discussion, all the guests were invited to attend WIL-Lenovo’s dinner-debate on Competencies for Success in a Connected World.
Finally, the next morning, WIL had the pleasure to collaborate with Hill and Knowlton UK and Catherine Cross, Director, Media Training, Hill+Knowlton Strategies for a vivid training and valuable insights on Presentation skills that our talents found extremely helpful for their future presentations.