Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way
Brussels based Ioana Banach, Deputy Director at the European Green Foundation, is a passionate European and a strong believer in the value of cooperation and gender equality. We had the pleasure to interview her on the role of women in European politics, the impact of networks like WIL Europe and much more!
What enticed your move to Brussels and what does your current job specifically entail? Why did you choose to work at a European level rather than on a local level?
I studied Political Science for my Bachelor (University of Bucharest and University of Warsaw) and EU Public Affairs for my Masters (University of Maastricht). I always had a keen interest in politics at the global and international level because I believe that societal issues related to topics such as as migration or climate change cannot be solved at a local and national level solely and that cooperation and open innovation at a European and global level is crucial.
While studying, I was involved for three years in a student-led project that was promoted by the United Nations: the 'Making Commitments Matter' project, which analysed the extent to which UN agreements were implemented at national level. It was through this experience that I realised what a powerful actor the EU is on the global arena. I decided to continue my academic formation with a Master in EU Public Affairs in Maastricht, and then the career path to Brussels was a very natural step to take.
I am now Deputy Director at the European Green Foundation (GEF), a European political foundation funded mostly by the European Parliament. It is linked to but independent of other European Green actors such as the European Green Party and the Green Group in the European Parliament. The main tasks of GEF are to contribute to the development of a European public sphere and to foster greater involvement of citizens in European politics. It works to create a common Green vision for Europe and to communicate it to the broader public.
There is less than a year to go to the EU Elections of 2019, in which EU citizens in 27 countries will vote to elect their representatives in the European Parliament and help decide who should lead the EU Commission. First-time voters usually abstain more than older voters, delegating their future to the older generation. How do you think we could counteract this issue?
The European elections will be taking place during a period of profound political and economic crisis and will shape EU politics for the next five years. Interestingly, what happened after the Brexit vote of June 23rd, 2016 is that, after a couple of decades of stagnant, rather ignorant sentiments towards the EU, people actually started to care. Whether supporters, critics or skeptics, citizens started to engage in debates about the future of the EU.
In many places, young Europeans are the most fervent in voicing their ideas about Europe. At the same time, they are also the ones who mistrust politics and institutions the most. So, while they definitely care and have an opinion, they might not believe that voting is the right avenue to voice their concerns.
So our job is to reconnect with citizens and discuss together how important their vote is, what they are voting for and what the EU actually is about. I am actively involved in promoting the role of the EU institutions not only here in Brussels but also in my country of origin, Romania, where we are experiencing a worrying political turmoil.
I am actively involved in promoting the role of the EU institutions
not only here in Brussels but also in my country of origin, Romania,
where we are experiencing a worrying political turmoil.
Women’s equality is directly linked to Europe’s overall well-being. Only by overcoming gender inequality can we indeed lay the foundations for our continent’s future. What are the main issues for women in EU politics?
In many EU countries, women are still vastly underrepresented in government. In the European Parliament, only one-third of elected MEPs are women and the female representation of women in the EU Parliament has increased by only 20% in the last 40 years. How can discuss policies affecting more than half of the population without this half being properly represented? We need to support women who might be inclined to choose a career in politics, if we want a fairer representation in parliament, both at a European level and a national level. This starts with what they hear at home, in schools, in fashion, advertising and media. It is unacceptable that in the year 2018 we still see such a backwards mentality: girls being educated to believe they can achieve less than boys; industries and fields of work which are completely women-unfriendly, huge pay-gaps between genders. Progress is being made, but in my personal view, not fast enough. We need to step-up our game.
We need to support women who might be inclined
to choose a career in politics, if we want a fairer representation in parliament,
both at a European level and a national level.
You are active in many organisations that support gender equality, and you are also a participant WIL’s Women Talent Pool Programme. What role do organisations like WIL play?
Brussels in this sense is unique; there are roughly 50 women's movements here. Organisations such as WIL Europe which work on developing leadership skills and offers networking opportunities have long driven global and national action on women leadership. Women organisations are essential sources of knowledge on how to advance women's rights. In pushing for change and accountability, they develop leadership skills and transform political arenas. Through these networks, women can find support from their (more experienced) peers, and they can even identify mentors, which is not only useful, but sometimes absolutely necessary if they wish to attain a leadership position.
Organisations such as WIL Europe
which works on developing leadership skills
and offers networking opportunities
have driven global and national action on women leadership.
We at WIL have a tradition to conclude the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following one for you: Which living person do you most admire?
I have to say social activist and writer Gloria Steinem. She has been an inspiration for millions of women worldwide, she helped create the New York magazine in the 60s and was among the founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus and the feminist Ms magazine. But most of all, she has this contagious charisma and a rebel spirit that mobilises so many of us to play our own small part in improving the society we live in.
To learn more about Ioana, read her biography!
Our partner INSEAD is one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools which offers participants a truly global educational experience. Of particular note, INSEAD was ranked by the Financial Times as the #1 MBA programme in the world for two years in a row (2016 & 2017) and rated in 2017 the ‘Top International Business School’ in the world by Bloomberg Businessweek. We recently had the pleasure to interview their Associate Director of Development, Anna Sarr, who is also a participant of our Women Talent Pool programme! Read our interview if you are curious to learn more about her new programme, the Young Alumni Initiative, the role INSEAD plays in advocating and advancing women and gender balance, as well as her greatest influence, her mum!
Could you tell us a little bit more about your job position? What is your favourite part about your job at INSEAD?
As Associate Director of Development at INSEAD, I am in charge of engaging our MBA students and young alumni (up to 10-years post-graduation). My position has broadened and become more complex and, in the process, with three other passionate young alumni I created a new programme called the Young Alumni Initiative (YAI). It comprises a dedicated team of YAI ambassadors from around the world who form the backbone of a digital-savvy group of key stakeholders for our engagement programme and fundraising campaigns.
It has been a great opportunity for me to leverage my masters’ education in business, social and economic administration in my current responsibilities. It has given me a foundation to understand, empathise and engage with these key stakeholders. Our student and young alumni community is part of a diverse, powerful international network with 161 nationalities distributed over 174 countries. My background has also helped me in fostering a strong bond with them and in facilitating a stronger connection between this group, their classes and the school. This is definitely an interesting and enriching part of my job at INSEAD, which I am very passionate about!
You are participating in the 4th edition of our Women Talent Pool programme. What has motivated you to join the programme?
Freedom is what has motivated me to apply to the Women Talent Pool Programme. Freedom to learn every single day from success and failure, freedom to interact with people from different nationalities and backgrounds, and freedom to make an impact on people’s lives to make the world a better place. Freedom to pursue my dreams.
Being part of the WIL Women Talent Pool Programme represents the perfect next step in my advancement as a professional and a woman who is curious, eager to learn and continually seeks opportunities to help others advance.
Freedom is what has motivated me to apply to the Women Talent Pool Programme.
Freedom to learn every single day from success and failure, and freedom to make an impact on people’s lives to make the world a better place.
You have now been working at INSEAD for over seven years, which is also a partner of WIL. Do you feel empowered to work in an environment that actively encourages female leadership?
Organizations can and must do their part to help women to advance in their career. It means committing to empowering women and putting structures in place that will allow women to pursue their dreams on an equal footing with men. It must be driven from the top, and our INSEAD leadership has demonstrated their commitment to gender diversity.
Working at INSEAD is a great privilege for me. What I appreciate the most is my interactions with highly talented women and men with a growth mindset, who are members of our student and young alumni community. I am able to contribute significantly to the School’s mission and vision, and still have time for my family. INSEAD also gives me the opportunity to work in a pleasant multicultural environment, where I am pushed to do even better and advance in my career.
Working at INSEAD is a great pleasure for me.What I appreciate the most is my interactions with highly talented women and men with growth mindset, who are members of our student and young alumni community. I am able to contribute significantly to the School’s vision and mission, and still have time for my family.
At WIL, we have a tradition to conclude the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following question for you: Which figure do you most identify with?
My mother! I grew up in Senegal, in a polygamous environment where a woman’s role is pre-defined. I am the daughter of a single mother of eight children, six daughters and two boys, who raised her children with strong values led by lifelong learning, hard work, respect, humility, caring and openness. My mother was a high school teacher in Dakar with a monthly salary ten times lower than the guaranteed minimum wage in France (I let you do the maths). In addition to her work as a civil servant, she became an entrepreneur to realise her dreams for her children which is to have access to the best education that her limited resources could permit. We were taught that women and men are equal partners who together can achieve great things. We were constantly reminded to always fight for our dreams, to think and learn out of the box and to be a source of inspiration for our peers and the next generation. My mother has been and will always be my inspiration.
Today, I am a single mother of two, and I share the same values with my children. I am a proud member of an international family comprised of five nationalities living on four continents who speak five languages including Mandarin.
My mother was a high school teacher in Dakar with a monthly salary ten times lower than the guaranteed minimum wage in France. We were taught that women and men are equal partners who together can achieve great things.
Anna is Associate Director of Development: Students and Young Alumni at INSEAD with expertise in relationship building and fundraising with MBA students and young alumni.
She has more than 15 years’ experience working in a global, dynamic, complex and international environment. Anna has expertise in Marketing, Change Management and Strategy. She is a cross-cultural communication professional with two bachelors and two masters degrees in Business, Social and Economic Administration. She is specialised in Public and Private Administration as well as Justice and Rule of Law in Africa. She recently completed a Certificate in Negotiation Dynamics from INSEAD’s Executive Education Programme. She firmly believes in lifelong learning, in the fact that education and freedom remain the most powerful forces to sustain human values, and for social and business change.
WIL had the pleasure to interview Gabriela Ion, EMEA 4P Manager Data Center Group at Lenovo and current participant to our Women Talent Pool programme. If you are curious to learn why broadening one’s horizons is key to advance in one’s career and in which ways Lenovo is committed to gender equality, read our interview with Gabriela!
You have been working in the tech sector for over 12 years, first at IBM and now at Lenovo. What drove you to the tech sector? What do you find exciting?
I started my career 12 years ago in IBM Spain as a student and I found it that time a fascinating world and I still believe that the tech sector is an amazing place to be. Tech world is touching each of our life aspects, by defining trends, changing behaviors and accelerate the humanity progress.
Lenovo focus is to design and develop innovative products and solutions that are reinventing the future, and it is a great place to be part of.
It’s great to know that your company is constantly innovating, and it is deeply engaged in the research and development of the latest solutions which will change the future in a better way.
In your opinion, how has the digital transformation impacted the IT sector and more specifically customer experiences?
The digital transformation we are currently living can be compared to an industrial revolution. This revolution combines advanced technologies in innovative ways, dramatically reshaping the way people live, work and relate to one another. The world has the potential to connect billions of people that live all around the world to digital networks, improving the efficiency of organizations and of our lives.
In addition, digital transformation is the process that drives customer experience advancement. Companies that fail to address the needs of customers – especially in digital channels – risk getting left behind as the pace of change quickens and customer needs evolve.
Digital transformation combines advanced technologies
in innovative ways, dramatically reshaping the way people live,
work and relate to one another.
You have studied both in Romania and Spain. Do you think that studying abroad and speaking three languages (Romanian, Spanish and English) has helped you in your career?
Oh yes, absolutely! I believe that learning languages is a strong asset, especially for the new generations. For example, my work at IBM and my current role in Lenovo both required a globally-minded person who can speak at least several foreign languages.
On a more personal level, studying abroad gave me the possibility to meet people from all over the world and be exposed to an amazing variety of cultures and customs. In addition, it gave me the opportunity to build a global network of contacts.
Lenovo is a proud supporter of the 4th edition of our Women Talent Pool Programme (WTP). You have joined the Programme in March, together with 7 other employees from Lenovo. Why have you decided to join the Programme? What are the main takeaways so far?
We are proud that women represent almost 40 percent of our workforce. Lenovo promotes several diversity programs, including WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme, created with the objective of hiring, retaining and promoting the best female talents. Lenovo’s active and long-standing contribution to fostering gender equality and diversity creates better solutions for our business and our customers.
Joining WIL's WTP has been a great experience. I have participated to the kick-off in Paris and it has been incredibly enriching. Having the possibility of meeting so many like-minded women has been truly special. I can't wait to participate in the upcoming events!
Lenovo’s active and long-standing contribution to
fostering gender equality and diversity
creates better solutions for our business and our customers.
We at WIL have a tradition to conclude the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following one for you: Which living person do you most admire?
It is definitely my Grandmother! I grew up with my grandparents. My Grandma was an educator and a teacher, and she taught me to be independent, trust in myself and look for new challenging opportunities.
My Grandma was always very open minded and even in a very conservative environment my country was experiencing that time, she was showing me to look for challenges, know the world and discover new opportunities!
Gabriela is Run Rate Sales Manager for Data Center Group in Lenovo EMEA and she has over 12 years of professional experience in Channel Sales, Operations and Business Transformations. She held various Leadership roles in Lenovo and IBM and managed extended Sales Teams from different countries. Gabriela graduated Economics and Management University and holds two master’s degrees in international and Foreign Trade Management and Sales and Commercial Management from University of Barcelona. In her personal life Gabriela likes to spend quality time with her family and friends and she loves travelling and discovering new cultures.
Why is change important in an organization and how do you drive change? We had the change to discuss this issue with Corina Ghiatau, Organizational Development Manager at Orange Romania and current participant in the 4th edition of our Women Talent Pool Programme. If you are curious about the concept of organizational change and would like to know more about the upcoming trends in HR and the importance of valuing gender equality in a company like Orange, then this interview is for you!
What does your position as an ‘Organizational Development Manager’ entail? What is organizational development?
In a nutshell, organizational development takes care of the successful organizational change and performance. It aligns people with systems in both ways: it uses behavioural science to help people function better within an organizational context or adapts and redesign the organizational processes, systems, culture to help people be engaged and find a space to grow in the company. OD operates with key concepts like organizational climate, culture, engagement, employee performance, organizational design, talent management, employee experience, wellbeing. It can use tools like organizational coaching, design thinking, trends, organizational and individual diagnosis tools. One of the most recent examples which shows how the Organizational Development team contributes to the organizational change, alignment and focus on future is the Performance Process reshape in which we facilitate an innovation and co-creation expedition, based on design thinking, in which 11 colleagues from all departments have the assignment from the company leaders to create a revolutionary way of managing performance in Orange Romania.
Organizational development enables us to
improve organizational effectiveness while
adhering to the organization’s culture and values.
What do you believe are the Human Recourse trends for the next 5 years?
A major trend is that companies are completely reinventing employee performance evaluation by focusing on creating more frequent and meaningful feedback to help employees and teams grow together.
Another major trend is the culture of coaching. Organizations now tend to use coaching to help individuals reach their full potential, to help them strengthen targeted skills, build the right attitude, align with team goals, improve relationships or remove blockages in their development.
The last trend that I believe will be central in the upcoming years is customer centricity, meaning that HR puts the internal customer in the middle of each new process design. The empathic company knows its’s employees at least as well as it knows its customers, therefore many authors talk about HR as the new marketing.
Companies are completely reinventing performance evaluation
by focusing on creating more frequent and meaningful feedback
to help both employees and teams grow together.
Orange, proud Premium member of WIL Europe is deeply committed to gender equality. How is it to work in a company that values female talents? Could you share some of its best practices?
Orange makes diversity and equality during recruitment and professional career a priority, this being reflected by the figures and the external recognition received.
We have successfully received and renewed our GEEIS (Gender Equality for European and International Standard) certification in 2015 and 2017, when it was enriched with the Diversity dimension. We have an overall approach based on fostering talent and encouraging the inclusion of all employees, regardless of their differences. Orange focuses specifically on workplace gender equality and equal remuneration and offers a number of benefits for the employees like weekly wellbeing activities (parenting courses, hobbies, psychological counselling), work-life balance options (flexible working program, short Friday, remote working, sabbatical leave, paternity and maternity leave, birth allowance, flexible insurance), constant employee feedback open channels
Orange fosters talent and encourages the inclusion of all employees,
regardless of their gender.
At WIL, we have a tradition to conclude the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following question for you: What do you most value in your colleagues?
As a humanist, coach and psychologist, I look very much at what makes every person shine. What I appreciate in others and I noticed it is a success factor in their personal and professional life is self-awareness: an inward understanding of who they are, what are their strengths s and what kind of persons they want to become.
Equally important is the external awareness: having an appreciation and an understanding of how other people see us, the color of their emotional background and what learning opportunity they offer to us.
I also appreciate creativity, open-mindedness and finally integrity and honesty!
With a background in organizational psychology, psychotherapy and coaching, Corina has more than 12 years of experience in HR. She developed and implemented organizational development processes and programs like Talent Management, Wellbeing, Engagement, Culture, Employee Experience, Coaching in Orange Romania, but also going through international missions in Orange Poland and Orange HR Europe team. She is a trained innovation facilitator and currently she is leading a creative team which designs employee journeys and applies customer centric and design thinking methodologies in HR.
You have worked for 16 years in the police as a prosecutor and manager before starting a career at Microsoft. What made you decide to shift to the private sector and how did you feel working in such a male dominated environment such as the police?
I had 16 incredible years in the police with multiple challenging tasks, working as Prosecutor, Head of the Organized Crime Unit and later as Chief of Staff of the Police Immigration Service. I decided to change from the police to the private sector because I wanted to tackle new challenges, and immerse myself in cybersecurity and digitalization
I started working as the Director of the Norwegian Business and Industrial Security Council and during my time there, a major terrorist attack in Algeria on January 16, 2013 that killed 40 employees of one of the member companies that we represented. As a consequence I was exposed to a lot of media attention, interviews, discussion panels, and national tv that gave the organization political attention and visibility, and Microsoft offered me a position as they needed someone that perfectly understood the complex mechanisms of the government and knew how to carry a high-level conversation on cybersecurity. I decided to accept this exciting new challenge and since then, I have been working for Microsoft!
I decided to change from the police to the private sector
because I wanted to tackle new challenges,
and immerse myself in cybers ecurity and digitalization.
You have participated to WIL’s EU Luncheon Debate on “The New Face Digital Transformation: AI, IoT and Blockchain”, during which we explored the transformative impact of these technologies, which are disrupting all industries, bringing new opportunities but also new challenges, in particular in terms of data protection and security. Why is trust and cyber security so important on this digital transformation journey? How does Microsoft work to ensure that people trust technology?
Microsoft is one of the biggest cloud providers with / data centres available in 140 countries in 50 regions worldwide! Cyber security and privacy is thus fundamental for our company, and Microsoft and other tech companies are the first responders to cyber-attacks on the internet!
To tackle the increasing cyber security threat, Microsoft has more than 3500 security engineers working with cyber security, and invested over 1 billion USD in cybersecurity. Microsoft Threat Intelligence Centre, for example, has streaming data from over 200 cloud services, using machine learning behavioural analysis and forensic technology to create a real-time picture of cyber-attacks and cyber threats to our customers. If the system detects threats, our Cyber Defense Operation Centre is immediately alerted. If the attack persists, we do not only work with the customer to solve the issue, but we also use legal proxies to take down the domain and eradicate the attacker together with our Digital Crime Unit! Tech companies like us have the first responsibility to keep people safe. So onthe 17th of April 2018, Microsoft and 33 other companies signed the Cybersecurity Tech Accord that was strongly promoted by Microsoft. Microsoft, Facebook, and 32 other companies signed last month the Cybersecurity Tech Accord committing us to work together and protect customers around the world.
At Microsoft, we can thus proudly say we are the first line in ensuring digital data protection!
Microsoft is one of the biggest cloud providers
with data centres available in 140 countries and
in 50 regions worldwide ! Cyber security and privacy is thus fundamental
for our company.
Microsoft has been a Premium sponsor of WIL for many years, as part of its strategy to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Do you feel supported as a woman?
Microsoft is probably one of the most inclusive companies that we have in the Europe, and diversity certainly is one of the features that makes Microsoft so unique. To give you an example, I only have female managers! Microsoft is also a very special workplace because one of the company’s mission is to lift its talents and I believe this is the reason why the partnership between WIL and Microsoft is such a profitable one.
In addition, I lead philanthropies work were we have a number of programmes in Microsoft philanthropies that are specifically targetingyoung girls to encourage and inspire them to pursue a career in Computer Science and STEM. It is also meant to tackle the loss of interest that we see girls have after the age of 12. These programmes focus on promoting role models, as we have found out that role models double young girls’ chances of being interested in technology and STEM. In addition, Microsoft periodically holds workshops on the use of technology for young female immigrant’s as readiness to explore careers in Norway.
Microsoft is probably one of the most inclusive companies that we have in Europe, and diversity certainly is one of the features that make Microsoft so unique. To give you an example, I only have female managers!
We at WIL have a tradition, to conclude the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. We have picked the following one for you:
Which living person do you most admire?
If I may, I would like to respond to this question with two answers.
The women I look up to the most are my daily heroes, the professional and hardworking female colleges and managers that work closely with me here at Microsoft, who inspire me every day to grow and learn!
The other figure that has greatly inspired me is Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become the United States Secretary of State (she served from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton). There is a quote of Albright that I find very witty but also very true: "there is a place in hell for women who don't help other women".
Graduated lawyer from the University of Oslo with some management courses from the Norwegian Business School and the Norwegian Defense University College. Experienced manager (17 years) and board member (Amcham, SmartCity Bærum and the Norwegian Centre for Information Security).
After graduation she worked 16 years in the police as a prosecutor and manager, 2+ years as the director of the Norwegian Business and Industrial Security Council, and joined Microsoft 3+ years ago as a director for corporate affairs.
Kristine has two daughters ages 11 and 16, and is passionate about sports and politics.
Osborne Clarke is a leading international legal practice and proud sponsor of three participants of the 4th edition of our Women Talent Pool Programme (WTP). WIL had the pleasure to talk to one of them, Claire Temple, Associate Director, Osborne Clarke UK! If you are curious to know more about Claire, the effects of new technology in the world of Law and if she envisions the future of society rather as Star Trek or as Mad Max, read the interview below!
Growing up, did you already know you wanted to become a lawyer? If yes, why? If not, what made you become one?
I was pretty much set on being a lawyer from the age of 14 – which could either be seen as a lack of imagination or a someone who was pretty focused, let's say the latter!
Those that know me will agree that I've always enjoyed speaking up, asking questions and solving problems, even as a child I'd be the one in the playground that was always having a go at dealing with friends’ problems, albeit the problems of a seven year old are a bit different to those of global tech company! I worked out that by being a lawyer, I would have the opportunity to use those skills and try to help people and companies in a similar way.
Later on, I saw an explanation that a lawyer is like a social engineer: they take the rules and laws of society and they shape and work with them to help people achieve the best they can or to alleviate burdens and pressures they might be under. It really caught my imagination in terms of what I wanted to do!
Do you think technology will change the world of lawyers?
Absolutely, technology has profoundly changed the way lawyers work already and will continue to do so. We are already using some relatively advanced technologies in the workplace, that are able to do a lot of the basic tasks we used junior lawyers and paralegals for, such as basic research, document drafting, document review and data analysis. And these technologies are developing really quickly.
Some think that these technologies, such as AI, could take away some of our jobs but in reality, it will enable us to be more strategic in our thinking and in application of our knowledge. This is going to result in a much more interesting proposition for our clients in terms of the services and value we can add.
Some think that these technologies, such as AI,
could take away some of our jobs but in reality,
it will enable us to be more strategic in our thinking
and in application of our knowledge.
As a lawyer you have been working on the regulation of self-driving cars, drones etc. which are incredible opportunities but at the same time they are also challenging from an ethical and practical standpoint. Do you believe the future of society is heading towards a Mad Max or Star Trek scenario?
First things first, I've not really watched either, but on the basis that I think Star Trek is the more positive of the two, and I'd call myself an optimist, I'd say (hope) Star Trek! We're seeing technology developer faster than regulation, and that's led to some problems with previously unanticipated technologies making it to market with very little regulation and causing some issues. But, I think more and more people are actually realizing that there are moral imperatives and ethical issues that must be taken into consideration when designing these new technologies, leading them to almost self-regulate around them. Everyone around their own business is also a consumer – we are all consumers of Instagram, Facebook and Uber… and that is making us think about acceptable application of the technology and technology for good.
This isn't going to ever entirely stop misuse of technology, or situations where things get out of control, but I think that where this does happen, society will call these matters to account and it will be in the minority.
London is Europe's top tech hub; do you think that after the UK’s final departure from the EU it would still be possible for the country to attract investments specifically in the tech sector?
Brexit will definitely impact the UK, but there is still certainly a place for London in the tech environment as a global player. Not only do we have some incredible tech companies and passionate tech minds that hopefully won't be leaving us on Brexit, but we also have a low tech but nevertheless crucial advantage of having English as our main language. It's a first or second language for so many of the major tech countries all over the world, that I hope we can be seen as a bridge into Europe and therefore a sensible place to still invest in tech.
However, it is really important that the UK is proactive in order to remain an attractive place for tech companies to do business and to invest, and the Government needs to take steps to make this the case.
Brexit will definitely impact the UK,
but there is still certainly a place for London in the tech
environment as a global player.
How is it to work in a Legal 500 law firm such as Osborne Clark that, not only supports the WTP Programme, but is also deeply committed in promoting women in the workplace?
Osborne Clarke is definitely a great place for women to work. For example, I have seen my co-workers very much supported during parental leave with coaching, keep in touch days and return to work mentoring. And I see a lot of senior Osborne Clarke lawyers, both men and women, speaking up for women in more junior positions – sponsoring them for more senior and challenging roles.
Osborne Clarke has also really supported me in setting up two female initiatives: Women In Regulatory Law (#WRLaw), a series of networking events with regulators, in-house and private practice lawyers looking at issues in and around regulatory and compliance strategy, initiatives and projects; and the project Women in Tech*, a conversational series where we interview women who are digital and tech experts before an audience.
We are introducing a new tradition at WIL, whereby we ask each one of the interviewees a question from Proust’s Questionnaire:
What is your most marked characteristic and why do you think it has helped you in your career?
It is most definitely, optimism. I am not saying that I am consistently one hundred per cent an optimist, but it's something that seems to come relatively naturally to me and it's helped me make the best of situations.
There are times during your career when you may doubt yourself, I certainly have and anticipate that will always be part of me in some way, shape or form. But in those times, I think my inner-optimism has helped alleviate that doubt by helping me to see the positives that can come from a challenging or difficult situation. I also find that others are more drawn to optimism, which helps build relationships and strong teams, and that generally, an optimistic outlook makes both my life and that of my colleagues and clients more fun!
Being optimistic can seem contrary to being a lawyer, on the assumption that sometimes we have to deliver hard and difficult advice, but there is always an opportunity for a client, even from the most challenging of situations, and optimism helps me find it.
* Please see here for more information on the initiatives.
Claire is an Associate Director in the Commercial and Regulatory Disputes team. She specialises in advising clients on regulatory risk, compliance and litigation issues and helps lead Osborne Clarke’s product regulation service line, which is recognised in the Legal 500.
Claire has a particular specialism helping clients who deal with products and consumers. Claire works with them to help bring both digital and physical products to market, advising on labelling, packaging, regulatory approvals and engaging with regulators and consumers. She also has significant expertise in coordinating and delivering business critical international regulatory and compliance advice and is used to handling complex multi-jurisdictional projects.
Claire also advises clients when things go wrong – such as dealing with regulatory and compliance issues, crisis management, handling and coordinating regulatory crises, product recalls and product liability matters, managing customer relations and claims and investigating and defending regulatory investigations and prosecutions.
Claire most often works with clients in the Digital Business, Retail, Transport and Automotive and Life Sciences sectors. Claire has a particular interest in cybercrime, drones, telematics, driverless cars, digital and consumer products (including food and drink) and services.
Lenovo is one of the biggest market leaders in the IT sector and WIL had a pleasure to talk to Kirsten Perzi, Mid-Market Leader at Lenovo and also our alumna of our Women Talent Pool programme. If you are curious to learn what it takes to become a Market Leader and what sets Lenovo apart from its competitors, read our interview with Kirsten!
Could you tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the Mid-Market Leader (DACH) at Lenovo?
My responsibilities are to win as many new customers for Lenovo as possible. To achieve this, it is important to always have the big picture in mind, which means that I must balance the day to day business on one hand and the planning for the future on the other hand.
When taking the time to plan and develop, I have to take into account internal and external factors and ensure that we are working efficiently for our growth within the market circumstances, so that we are able to develop and become the choice of the customer.
To sum it up, to become a successful Market Leader, you need analytical skills, creativity, process knowledge, the will to question yourself on what you are doing and how you do it almost every day.
“Most importantly, your team must be motivated, given guidelines, rules and expectations and you must provide a vision of what you want to achieve”.
You have participated in the 3rd edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool Programme, which has recently ended. What are your takeaways and which advice would you give to the participants of the 4th edition? [there will be 8 Lenovo participants to the 4th edition]
What I liked beyond the personal meetings were the Webinars which were a great opportunity to learn new things – sometimes things you thought you would not need to learn (“Stories that get you hired”).
“Something I have as a takeaway is that I can step out of my comfort zone and don’t have to wait for someone to ask me to”.
Coming back to your position as Mid-Market Leader, is technology creating more opportunities for the modern Marketers?
This for us has a huge impact as we are now able to talk more customers in more or less the same time and as a result we do sell more. As well, the marketing team implemented the Lead Nurturing Process, where potentially interested customers are digitally developed over time. This is something you had to do manually or on your own previously. However, today you are supported by technology which is really helping us to be more effective.
In this ever-challenging PC industry, what sets Lenovo apart from its competitors and which strategies does Lenovo adopt to gain competitive advantage?
I have been working in companies where every three to six months you have another strategy. This is not the case at Lenovo, as the strategy here is long term orientated and of course it is adapted over time. In practice, this means that business today is our core and we are already working on the business opportunities of tomorrow through a strategic long-term vision. In addition of PC and smart devices which is our core business, we expand now our activities in data center and mobile business following the acquisition a few years ago of IBM X86 servers and Motorola as well as more futuristic areas like augmented reality, virtual reality or artificial intelligence.
Within our culture called” the Lenovo Way” which defines common values, business practices and way of working, we value diversity and respect the differences of nationalities, profile, background, and gender! Thanks to our origin, we consider diversity as the DNA of the company with a specific focus on customer and innovation combined with a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. For instance there are of many different nationalities in the senior management as a further demonstration of uniqueness, unusual for a company like Lenovo, and shows the strong belief that diversity and in particular gender diversity is a big differentiator – like the company’s slogan, ‘different is better’.
Technology is one of the most developed areas nowadays. However, still a small percentage of women consider technology and engineering for future employment. In this interview, our WTP Alumni Dr. Elena Mammi, Electrical Engineer and Researcher at Fondazione Ugo Bordoni, tells us more about her background and makes a case why the tech industry needs more woman and what should be done to achieve it.
You received a Masters degree in Electronic Engineering at the University of Roma Tre, where you later continued your PhD studies. Where did your interest in technology come from, and what led you down that academic path?
My interest in technology comes from my interest in scientific subjects. The curiosity for new technologies is a direct consequence.
I inherited the passion for scientific subjects from my father, who was an exceptional professor in Mathematics. He was able to make me appreciate Mathematics through play.
Then I did the research thesis in Finland and I realised that I wanted to continue on that path. The PHD program required me to develop new ideas using methods of study acquired during the degree Therefore I understood that I was interested in imagining new scenarios, experimenting and continuing to study.
What do you enjoy most about your current job as a Researcher?
The possibility to do research is a privilege, but at the same time it is a very complex job. A researcher has the opportunity to work on stuff that not exist yet. Every researcher can choose between basic research and applied research, but in both of case the researcher has to bring out new ideas, new algorithms and new solutions. This is the part of my job that I love more.
“The part of my job that I love more is to bring out new ideas, new algorithms and new solutions.”
You have been working in the field for over 7 years. How has Internet access changed and evolved in that time?
Internet continuously evolves. The network that provides Internet develops and changes the way in which the users enjoy access to the Internet. We moved from simple chat to social networks, from the use of browsers to the use of applications, and from the use of Internet at home to the use of Internet everywhere.
In these years, the use of Internet has become more simple and engaging. It has become integral part of our lives. Through the use of mobile devices, we are always connected. Ten years ago in Italy, there was a boom of the subscriptions on Facebook. This type of social network changed the communication and the participation at community.
Everyone wants to be always connected and wants to have an always adequate Quality of Experience; for this reason those who works on network have more and more work to do. Then with the 5G network, the network of networks, access to the Internet will change again, the quality of services will improve, new services will arise and our lives will change another time.
Why does Tech Industry need more women and how could the industry be more inclusive for them?
Women use technology as much as men, so they are excellent users. Technology industry is driven by the market, so it is motivated to create technology instruments for female users.
However the aspect in which we should not fall behind is the design and creation of technology by women who bring a different point of view and this would lead to new ideas and therefore potentially to expanding the market. Then in my opinion, the technology industry should be hunting for women who work in the design and in management roles.
“We need to start bringing girls closer to the science in the family and at school, and the change at Tech Industry level will come as consequence.”
However, there are still few women with a science degree and even fewer women who have the chance to make a career in a world of men. Until there is a reverse trend, the technology industry will continue to have a male imprinting and continue to attract few women.
We need to start bringing girls closer to the science in the family and at school, and the change at Tech Industry level will come as a consequence. Certainly, politics should support mothers to reintegrate into work, which is a complicate step in the technology industry.
What are the factors influencing girls career choices in STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and what do you think could be done differently? Who was your role model when you were a child and what were your favourite toys you played with?
I believe that the hinders in itself comes from families. It is essential for children to approach the numbers through games. If the mathematics subject is not approached in the right way, it will become very difficult. When I was a child, I played with the “Lego”, and with the mathematical riddles.
Recently, I read about a study that show that playing with constructions helps children in the learning of scientific subjects when they grow up. As a child, I wanted to became a scientific and even now I like to play at the “little chemist” with my nephews.
The family should propose to girls not only dolls, pots and pans, but also scientific based games; then the girls will choose naturally what is better for them.
Of course I also had fantastic teachers in physics and mathematics, who have continued the work started by my family. School is very important, we have to believe and invest in the education system.
As an active Alumni of our Women Talent Pool programme, you have recently participated in WIL’s local event in Rome. What is your take on what it takes to be a good leader in your industry and how does the participation in women’s network help you with that?
In my field, there are a lot of well skilled engineers. Then it is not enough to be well skilled to be a good leader, it is also necessary that others see you as a competent person with a lot of charisma, self-control, and with a long-term vision.
“I really enjoyed the programme because it has given to me the instruments to work on myself and on my career.”
Sometimes to have a label is enough to be a boss, but to be a leader you need to be recognised as such by others. In a male world, it is not natural to see a woman as a leader, because the leaders are historically men. So the characteristics of a leader are usually the characteristics of a man.
A women’s network allows both to meet women who are leaders in their field and also to compare themselves with other women who try to become good leaders. This comparison helps to improve.
In my opinion, a woman does not become a leader by copying male leaders, but using qualities of her female vision. For these reasons, I really enjoyed the Talent programme because it has given to me the instruments to work on myself and on my career.
Who is the face behind managing and protecting intellectual property rights of Orange? Meet Debbie Marks, General Counsel for Global Brand Affairs at Orange and participant in the 3rd edition of our Women Talent Pool programme, who has worked in this company for more than fifteen years.
What makes the Orange group so attractive? Why does Debbie prefer working as an in-house lawyer? What would she be if not a lawyer? Find the answers in our interview!
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I studied law at University and Law School in London and I started my career with a City Law firm, specialising in intellectual property and commercial litigation, where I worked mainly for brand and patent owners, and advertising and marketing clients.
As I always saw my future as an in-house counsel, I joined Orange when the opportunity arose, which was not long after France Télécom acquired Orange.
How would you describe your work as an in-house counsel and how is it different from working as a private lawyer?
Both in-house counsel and private practice lawyers focus on giving sensible, commercial legal advice. However, as an in-house lawyer, your advice and decisions are rarely based just on legal considerations, but are based on a combination of legal expertise and business and commercial judgment.
As an in-house lawyer, in order to be able to advise the business effectively, you need to learn as much as you can about the business in which you work, not just in terms of its commercial and operational activity, but also any industry-specific concepts and language. For example, for my role, it is important to understand the work of other experts in the brand, marketing, M&A, finance and tax departments.
‘As an in-house lawyer, in order to be able to advise the business effectively, you need to learn as much as you can about the business in which you work – both its commercial and operational activity, and industry-specific concepts and language.’
Also, as an in-house lawyer, you are part of the business and not just an advisor to the business, which, I believe, makes you more personally invested in its continued success.
As General Counsel for Global Brand Affairs for one of the leading multinational telecommunications corporations, what are the specific issues you have to deal with and the challenges you have to address?
My role involves the legal protection and licensing of the Orange brand. We have an extensive global trademark and domain name portfolio, so managing, protecting and defending those intellectual property rights represents a significant part of our work. As Orange expands into new business areas and new territories, our department needs to make sure that it has all the necessary rights in place. We are responsible for the legal framework for international brand licensing activity and support the Global Brand team with re-branding projects. In the last two years, we have had Orange brand launches in Egypt, Belgium, Morocco, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and last year, Orange Bank was launched in France.
I think that the biggest challenge that we face in brand protection is the huge expansion in the use of social media and apps in recent years, which brings exciting opportunities for brands to communicate and engage with their customers, but also carries risks for organisations and brands, in the form of new and different types of brand infringements, such as Twitter handles, App infringements and increased phishing and cyber-attacks.
You have joined Orange more than 15 years ago, while many people were and are still knocking on the company’s door. What makes it so attractive and how does it foster motivation and purpose and among its workforce?
I think that Orange’s appeal lies in the fact that the telecommunications sector is such a fast-moving industry and Orange has been in the forefront of many of these developments, as well as extending into new business activities, such as healthcare, mobile banking, cloud services and cybersecurity.
Orange also supports employee development and mobility, allowing people, including myself, to find and take on new challenges, while staying within the Group. For me, this has meant that I am also now a member of the UK Management Team, I have taken responsibility for UK corporate legal affairs and I am the UK Compliance Officer (op.ed. In 2014, Debbie received an Award for Compliance Officer of the Year. )
'Orange has been at the forefront of many of these developments and has extended into new business activities, such as healthcare, mobile banking, cloud services and cybersecurity.'
You have participated in our 3rd edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool Programme, which has recently ended. What are your takeaways and in what way it has benefited you?
I have really enjoyed being part of the programme, and meeting women from different companies and industries, as well as participants from Orange who work in different lines of businesses and different countries, whom I had not met before.
For me, a key takeaway is the importance of continuing to build and develop professional networks and relationships – when you are busy with work, it is easy to miss opportunities to do this. Another takeaway is how valuable it is to have the benefit of mentoring and support, not just in the early stages of a career, but at every stage.
'It is extremely valuable to have the opportunity of mentoring and support, not just in the early stages of a career, but at every stage.'
As a part of the programme, I attended the EU Breakfast Debate with Michel Barnier, EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit. Events like this one are hugely beneficial because they provide a valuable forum for discussions of issues, like Brexit, which has business, political and personal implications for many of us.
If not a lawyer, what would you be?
(Laughter) That is not an easy question to answer, having been a lawyer for so long. As I have always loved reading, I would probably have enjoyed working in the publishing industry.
“The participation in WIL’s leadership programme helped me to better understand myself and to progress in my career.“ Marie-Hélène Briens Ware is definitely the kind of emerging leader who walks the talk: one of the most active alumni of our network, she has reached a leading position as Director of Program Office for the Enterprise Line of Business, at Orange, only a few years after participating to the 1st edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme (WTP).
In this interview, read about what Marie-Hélène has learned over 15 years in Telecommunication sector and what her thoughts are on the challenges this sector is facing today!
Throughout your career, you worked in various positions in R&D and sales and you are currently the Director of Programme Office for the Enterprise Line of Business. Could you please describe briefly your current position and what you like about it?
Orange is a worldwide telecom company and the entity I work for is in charge of supporting B2B activities across the Orange Group. Our enterprise customers are businesses of all sizes, people that work from home, small to medium enterprises or multinational companies. We support all the Orange countries in all activities related to B2B: sales, marketing, customer service… We do this by bringing very specific expertise, and we act like internal consultants. Thanks to our close relationship with all Orange countries, we are the ambassadors of B2B at Orange corporate level.
Within the Enterprise Line of Business, I am in charge of the Program Office, which is a team responsible for various support functions: communications to raise B2B awareness towards major stakeholders, digitalization, knowledge management, etc. The latter is an important part of our work, as we receive a lot of knowledge from Group projects in all different countries, which then needs to be shared and made accessible in a meaningful and efficient way, so that we can capitalize on all our projects.
We also provide support for the governance of B2B in the Group. My role is to make sure that we bring added value to the Group and what I really like about it, is that it is a very transversal role offering a comprehensive view on business. I also like the challenge of advising the members of the executive committee, who turn to us for advice on best B2B strategy for which clear position and recommendations are needed.
With an academic background in Telecommunications and over 15 years of experience at Orange, what do you appreciate the most about this sector and the company?
What I really like about the telecom industry is that it really affects people’s lives. We are part of a revolution that is unfolding and is far from being over; I’m thinking of how 5G is going to be yet another stage of this revolution. The way we work has changed so much: just 15 years ago, there were hardly any mobile phones, emails, video conferencing or knowledge sharing. I find this thrilling and it is also the reason why I have joined this sector in the first place.
In addition, I also appreciate the responsibility that comes with the work we do, such as the technological solutions we push for, or how we handle the personal data of our customers.
'What I really like about the telecom industry is that it really affects people’s lives. We are part of a revolution that is unfolding and is far from being over.'
From a technological point of view, what are some of the biggest challenges that the marketing teams faces today?
At Orange, we have a responsibility towards our customers to offer fast evolving products and services. The behavior of customers has changed in the way they use mobile phones, watch TV or work collaboratively, which means that marketing needs to embrace new technologies and make sense of them for our customers. Cyberdefense is a good case in point: the way and number of times enterprises were hacked a few years ago is very different from how they are hacked today. Therefore, we always need to be up-to-date with the latest solutions, which I think is the biggest challenge for marketing teams!
'Marketing needs to embrace new technologies and make sense of them for our customers.'
Last week, One Planet Summit took place on the anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. How important are climate/green initiatives for company’s marketing strategies and market success?
Just a few years ago, green solutions were not part of the mindset, but I think this is changing really fast and climate initiatives in marketing strategies are growing in importance.
'It has become mandatory to demonstrate to big customers in particular, that Orange cares about the environment and that it complies with certain standards.'
It has indeed become mandatory to demonstrate customers, big ones in particular, that Orange cares about the environment and that it complies with certain standards. It is thus important for us as a Group to take part in making our products and behavior as green as possible.
In 2012, you have participated in the 1st edition of WIL’s WTP Programme and only a few years later, you have reached a leading position. Could you share with us how it has benefited you and what advice would you give to other participants?
When I joined the WTP programme, I was curious but, as an independent thinker, I never thought being a woman could ever hinder my career. However, by discussing and reflecting with other participants, I have come to realize that there was a behavior that was holding me back in my career: the reluctance to put myself forward, and to have to promote myself in certain situations. This was a really good eye-opener and it helped me to better understand myself and also to progress in my career.
'The participation in the WTP programme was a really good eye-opener and it helped me to understand myself and also to progress in my career. '
The WTP programme also gives an opportunity to network with other professional senior-level women and shows how important and beneficial it is to genuinely share experiences and discuss all topics that we do not talk about at our workplace. I strongly encourage new participants to take advantage of this opportunity. It is a safe space to share and learn from others and oneself.
You have attended our recent EU Breakfast Debate with EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. What were your key takeaways from the event? Are you planning on reading the book suggested by the Commissioner - Mary Beard: Women & Power?
I have already bought the book! I am pleased to have been able to listen to the EU Commissioner Vestager at WIL’s recent event. She is an impressive leader who has achieved great results in her fight against illegal State aid.
I believe that she embodies exactly the kind of leadership Europe needs today. EU Commissioners should exercise their power to make sense of Europe as a community of countries that stand firm against policies and political choices that are in not in our common interest, such as the fight against tax loopholes. The work the Commissioner Vestager does is a very good example of why the European Union was created for in the first place : to benefit Europeans.
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