Women & Career

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  • 10 May 2015 19:22 | Armelle Loghmanian

    Back to PWI Magazine- Q1 2015 edition

    Solving a Social Challenge can Become a Business

    By Beverley Sinton

    Colleen LaRose

    Founder and CEO Pink Link Pages

    Colleen thank you for agreeing to this interview; I am really interested to know more about Pink Link Pages(1).  Can you tell us more about it?  What gave you the idea to start the Pink Link Pages?

    Pink Link Pages is still in the pilot stage…but the vision is to create regional directories of women-owned and women run businesses…(women run being women who are CEO’s or sit on corporate boards).. 

    Now you may be asking, “why do we need this?”  Well, in doing some research about women-owned businesses in the US, I learned that only about 15% of corporate board seats are held by women and only about 3% of fortune 500 companies have women CEO's!  Further, I learned about women-owned businesses that women own 29% of all businesses and yet generate only 4% of all business revenues in the country.  I also learned that women in most other countries around the world fair even worse than this in their business endeavors. 

    What I found most frustrating was that I knew from other research that I had done that women buy 80-85% of all goods and services! 

    So I started telling women I knew (and some I did not, like women I met in line at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office)…this alarming statistic of how little women-owned businesses generate in revenues…and then I asked them the simple question, “would you go out of your way to buy from a woman-owned business.”  Their answer came back a resounding YES!  100% of the women I talked with said that they would go out of their way to buy from a woman-owned business! 

    FANTASTIC, Right?  Well, no….  because the next thing they said to me was this…”so how do I find out who the women-owned businesses are?” 

    That was the “AHA” moment….  That was when I knew that someone needed to solve this problem and let the world know who the women-owned businesses are. 

    So, I created a website, www.pinklinkpages.com and started to float the idea of buying preferentially from women-owned businesses on LinkedIn as a testing ground. But I quickly learned that this was something that needed to be done as an American (or US) regional endeavor, not as one big directory for the whole world. 

    I also discovered a few of these types of directories of women-owned businesses in other parts of the US…but none of them are what you would call, “highly successful”…so I have been studying the situation to learn how to more effectively market this idea. 

    I also decided to add women-run businesses in the directories to include women in the corporate world in CEO positions or who serve on corporate boards because women leadership in business at all levels needs to be supported and increased and there are very few women in these high levels in the corporate world.

    So you see, this is a “work in progress”…and while not ready for “prime time” yet, we are definitely moving forward and working out the kinks to develop a quality product.

    The vision is that these directories will actually be franchise opportunities for women all over the world…and not only support local women’s businesses, but at the same time create women-owned business opportunities!

    How do you choose which businessescan advertise in Pink Link Pages?  Why did you choose the color Pink?

    ”Women-owned businesses…and women-run businesses” is the criteria. We are not so strict as to require only “certified women-owned businesses”…but we do ask for a photo of the owner to help us identify her gender.  We also ask for proof (a business license for example) that a woman owns the business.  There can be some grey lines here…but I say, “I don’t ask to look up anyone’s skirt” so, if someone defines themselves as a woman, that is the criteria we go by.  However, we have weeded out the occasional man’s business who is just looking for exposure through our directory. 

    Interestingly, while most men and women have been supportive of this initiative, some men have scorned it (and surprisingly even some women) who see it as “discriminating.”  To those people I can only say that I see this as supportive for a portion of the population that has in fact been discriminated against for years.  It is not illegal to have clubs or initiatives that support certain populations.  Discrimination would be not allowing other populations to do the same thing for their population if they wanted to.  No one is stopping anyone from doing it for others who may want to. 

    As for the color “Pink”…well, that is pretty universally recognized as the color that represents the female gender (as blue does for boys)…but as we further develop this initiative, the name may be changing as well (although we will likely remain true in honoring the color pink in the publication.

    Do people have to register before they can use the Pink Link pages?  Do you have an idea if any men use the Pages?  If men do use Pink Link, do you know how many?

    The website details how a woman can post their business in the directory and provides the rules for doing so…although, as I explained, we are really just in the pilot stages right now…so we are not actively engaging women to post their businesses unless they really want to. 

    I do know that there have been male visitors to the site who have contacted some of the women business owners to purchase goods or services offered.  We certainly welcome men to buy from the women-owned businesses for sure!

    However, as with all online media, there are also occasionally men seeking companionship and using “unusual sources” for finding potential mates.  These things happen on lots of websites where people are interacting, such as LinkedIn and Facebook.  People can be as socially inappropriate online as much as they can in person.  What I recommend to women in the directory is to be polite to these men and to simply refer men making such advances and inquiries to websites that would be more appropriate to fulfill their needs and interests such as eharmony.com or match.com.  

    Do the women who use the Pink Link Pages have any sort of contact with each other? (The contact could be through social media or actual meetings) 

    Yes, as for social media, I have established three groups on LinkedIn as part of this Pink Link Pages pilot.  One is strictly for the women who have posted a business in the directory called “Pink Link pages, ideas and interactions”.  Another group is open to anyone, male or female, who would like to discuss women’s issues and /or the directory.  That group is called “Pink Link pages public forum”.  The third group is called “women-owned business Pink Link Pages shameless self-promotion” and is only for women.  It is a group for all women who own businesses so they can practice and learn how to promote their businesses without having to be “modest” in front of men as is the custom still for many women. The dynamics of women change dramatically when they are in the presence of men.  This is why “girl-only” schools help young women to be bold, take more interest in the sciences etc. It is just a fact of nature that women will yield to men and will be more submissive when men are present. Please understand, I am not suggesting that there is anything inherently wrong with that…the sexual tensions between men and women are what makes the world go around as they say…But, what I am suggesting is that by providing women only forums for women to learn how to be more outspoken, it provides them an opportunity to find a stronger voice and helps them to become more financially self-sustaining.  If you do research on women, it is clear that women are definitely more impoverished than men worldwide…and learning to become more outspoken and confident helps women become more financially and politically empowered in the world. There is also a twitter feed @pinklinkpages

    As part of the experimenting of this pilot, we also held a “meet-up” for local women for about two years. The local women came together to discuss how best to promote and distribute the product….  They also shared other ideas for what they felt women needed.  It was very informative and has helped to shape the way this initiative will be rolled out.

    Has it been easy to establish the Pink Link Pages or have you had some problems along the way.  If you had problems can you tell us how you solved them?  Can you give us an idea about your plans for the future?

    There have been lots and lots of problems…LOL!  Let’s see…Well, for starters, the poor state of the economy has certainly not helped. Additionally, Pink Link Pages was threatened with a lawsuit over the name of the directory and turned down for a trademark. We have also had people copy the website we created almost exactly, and try to do it on their own…We have had hackers try to destroy the website, had people crucify the idea on social media due to their feelings that it is discriminatory, etc…

    There have been more problems than we have time to discuss!  Here is the thing about problems…you deal with them one at a time.  Step by step, you learn from what goes wrong.  As they say, if it does not kill you, it makes you stronger.  I have learned a lot. I also became sort of “zen” about the whole initiative…in that if it is meant to be, it will happen. Yes, you put all of your money and effort, and hopes and dreams into it, but there is also a degree of providence as to whether it all comes to fruition

    And, as for people who try to create what I have and am creating, Good luck!  LOL!  I know what the problems are, I have already been there and I know what they have yet to face in trying to do this.  But, ultimately, I am on a mission to improve the lot of women in the world.  So if someone else does do this successfully before I get it done, I will still have won.  For me, it is not about the money.  It is about the mission.  But, I also know that it will have to become about the money to be successful, and work so that other women who own the franchises will be successful on doing so.  

    As for plans for the future, Pink Link Pages is part of a larger initiative called FemmeSpeak!  The mission of FemmeSpeak! is to empower all women, not just women business owners and women business leaders.  FemmeSpeak! is envisioned to be a forum for local women to gather around, to support one another, to share resources, to provide an outlet for women to express themselves, Think of it as a regional women’s club where the club members create their own magazine and provide content for their own local website (with help and guidance from the FemmeSpeak! National office)…  A sorority of sorts…but inclusive of all women in the region…not just a select few.  Pink link Pages will be a revenue generating product of that club. 

    The club will be able to be run by a woman entrepreneur as a for-profit company or may be run as a non-profit with an executive director.  But only one license will be offered to each region and regional boundaries will be determined by the FemmeSpeak! National office.  This is a big, cumbersome project with lots of moving parts.  It has taken a long time to work out a lot of the details, overcome many obstacles, and construct a working model, but there has been a lot of interest globally, and we expect to have a working model available by the end of 2016.  My goal is to have 20 FemmeSpeak! regions established by 2020….

    Colleen I was wondering if you have any other ideas for encouraging women business owners? 

    Yes, I would recommend that women think hard upfront about the business they are creating and how to make it scalable. The reason women-owned businesses are so small and create such low levels of revenue is because women typically are thinking about what needs to be done to support themselves and their families first…but they are not thinking BIG.  So, for example, women may go to craft fairs or flea markets to sell their creations…or they may be a little more sophisticated and sell online or even have a “main street” business.   But women need to think about how to turn their hobby business into big business. We need to get women to understand the difference between local business and traded business clusters (those businesses that have global markets and are exposed to competition from other regions).

    That will be a the real tipping point for women-owned businesses…helping them to recognize that they can play in the big leagues…they can get access to large sums of capital to grow their businesses, and they can run large, international corporations just as well as any man can.  Some of this is about providing education, some of it is about providing confidence, some of it is about connecting women to resources and networking opportunities, and a lot of it is about encouraging supporting and even collaborating.

    I am excited to get FemmeSpeak! and Pink Link Pages going to provide this system of support for women world-wide. Women can be just as financially successful as men, but women need some education and a lot of confidence building. Men learned long ago that strong networking is what takes them to the top of their profession. Women simply need to learn that lesson…that we are all stronger when we support one another.

    Do you have any other aims (professional or private) that you would like to share with us?

    Yes, I am also the founder, President and CEO of the North East Regional Employment and Training Association (www.nereta.org) which is an organization in the northeastern US that supports workforce development efforts.  I am a strong advocate of getting economic development entities to work collaboratively with workforce development entities (such as education and training providers) to proactively plan for and thereby create the pools of talent needed locally to attract and expand business in the region and provide good quality jobs for the citizens of that region.

    I guess you could say that both my work with Pink Link Pages/FemmeSpeak! and NERETA is about working toward a world that values and utilizes the highest potential of all citizens.


    Short Biography

    Colleen LaRose has 20 years’ experience in workforce development and economic development public policy at the local, state and federal levels. In 2012, she founded the North East Regional Employment and Training Association (nereta.org) to encourage government, business, economic development and education to collaborate more effectively on workforce development issues. Through NERETA, Colleen provides professional development webinars, conference presentations, articles, and consultation services. Her graduate work was in public relations and higher education administration at Rowan University. 

    She is also a strong advocate of women and is establishing a global initiative for women called FemmeSpeak! whose mission is to support and empower women on a region by region basis and includes advocating support for women-owned and women-run businesses through the online directory www.pinklinkpages.com.

    Contacts Details:

    Colleen LaRose

    E colleen@femmespeak.com

    E colleen@nereta.org

    P + 1 908 995 7718

    Fund me at gofundme.com/up387k




    Back to PWI Magazine - Q1 2015 edition

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of  Nereta, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 26 Apr 2015 15:06 | Armelle Loghmanian

    Praxair Joins the “Race for the Cure” against Breast Cancer

    By Beverley Sinton

    Karin Verbruggen

    Internal Communications Benelux

    Karin, thank you for agreeing to talk to us.  You work at Praxair, which I believe supplies gases for industrial use.

    Please could you tell us why Praxair has chosen to support the fight against Breast Cancer? 

    It is an unfortunate fact, but we have to face it, many of us, if not all, have been, or are still confronted with Breast Cancer in our families, amongst friends, in the community. In our case, about 3 years ago, one of our colleagues got diagnosed with the disease and got successfully treated. We then decided to start participating in the Race for the Cure.  The first year, 40 employees from the site she works in, participated to support her when she walked for the cure after intensive therapy.
    3 years later it has become a yearly event, and we’ve made it a joint effort throughout the Benelux.

    I understand that over 200 runners from Praxair took part in the ‘Race for the Cure’ in Antwerp last autumn.  I read that there were about 2,000 participants overall, so Praxair had a very important involvement. 

    How did Praxair encourage so many people to take part? Were they all employees?

    Actually, it was the second year in a row we reached over 200 participants, thus being the 2nd largest group of participants from one company/organization. The overall amount of participants last September was close to 6000 though.

    In our case, employees can join with their families, Praxair pays the entrance fee for every employee and their family members that participate in the event, and two years ago our Management gave us a challenge to work towards: if we would reach over 100 participants, they would double the entrance fee, and make an extra money contribution to the organizing committee. Needless to say we made a big effort to motivate as many employees as possible, which paid off: that year we were 252 participants, all either running or walking for the Cure. Since many of us agreed it was a day to remember, and because it is such a great cause to support, we repeated the effort last year, and as mentioned, again we reached over 200 participants.

    Apart from ‘Race for the Cure’ has Praxair done anything else around the issue of Breast Cancer?  Do you work with one particular Breast Cancer charity?

    Where Breast Cancer is concerned, Race for the Cure is the only event we participate in for the Benelux. This way we support Think Pink, an organization that permanently campaigns to make people aware of the fight against Breast cancer in Belgium.

    The reason we chose Race for the Cure, is because it’s an opportunity for people to participate in an event together with their families and colleagues, thus making it a joint effort that benefits a good cause.

    During 2014, Praxair across Europe copied the initiative and each country Praxair operates in in Europe organized 1 event to support the research for Breast Cancer.  As such, we’ve more than tripled our contribution. 

    Are there similar numbers of men and women from Praxair involved in the Breast Cancer campaign?  Does the campaign extend to employees families?

    I have no facts and figures whereas the participation of men and women are concerned, the campaign extends to employees, their families, children, boy/girlfriends…

    Last year, at the start of the event it became clear how large an impact breast cancer has on our community, as 230 balloons were released into the sky, representing the number of women in Belgium who, onlysadly enough, in September 2014, lost the fight.    against breast cancer in that one month.  

    Not only the focus on this impact is the goal of the event, also the many people in pink T-shirts, the fellow sufferers, visualize the number of victims, whether female or male, young or old. The visibility of these victims gives those who still suffer the courage to go on, makes those who beat the disease proud, and gives comfort to the families and friends of the ones that lost the fight. From the more than 200 participants for Praxair last autumn, three women were fellow sufferers, and together with their colleagues, families and friends they joined in to show their support, and make others feel they are not alone in their ordeal.

    Is Praxair involved in the Breast Cancer campaign globally, or is this a local initiative organized by the company in Belgium?

    This is a local initiative, initially organized by our Antwerp office, which after three years has become a Benelux initiative, as also colleagues from other sites in Belgium, and even in the Netherlands have joined in the past two years.

    Will Praxair in Antwerp continue to support Breast Cancer, or do you choose a different charity each year? 

    Plans are already being made to again participate in the Race for the Cure in September 2015. In the past two years we managed to be the 2nd largest group of participants, only to be preceded by the group of fellow sufferers in pink T-shirts. We hope one day to come in first with our group – not because we absolutely want to win – no, only because that would – hopefully - mean that the number of victims is getting smaller every year, thanks to the funding at this type of events, and the research it is spent on.

    I see Praxair globally are involved in several ‘Giving Back projects in different counties.  It is admirable that Praxair encourages charitable work – does the company benefit from these projects?  How do you feel you benefit as an individual?

    I think everyone benefits from charitable work, not only the beneficiaries and the companies that provide funding, but also every individual that participates. It gives a positive outlook to the company, increases community awareness with its employees, and improves the quality of life of the beneficiaries. Helping the disabled, bringing smiles to children’s faces, planting trees, donating food and books, each contribution is worth the effort. Seeing the happy faces after an event, feeling the gratitude, even if your contribution wasn’t that big, increases motivation, builds self-esteem and social awareness.

    In the case of Race for the Cure, I can only speak for myself, but I know many of my colleagues agree:
    Hats off for the people in pink T-shirts who fought the fight, and have the courage to show it to the world, all with a big smile, and a big heart for their fellow sufferers. Each year, it is an honor to be part of this race, and to be able to cheer for them as they are running and walking for the cure…

    Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

    Community Engagement may not be as well known yet in Europe, as it is in the US, I think it’s a great way to make people aware of the fact that there are many people out there that are less fortunate than us, and that our help can improve the quality of life of others, sometimes even with a minimum of effort.   

    Apart from charity work, I’m a member of an amateur theater company, and a choir, where I act or sing. At home, I like to spend my time on my other passion, quilting. Not only in traditional patchwork, but also in Art Quilting. When I have some time left, I help out where I can – at events both in my private & professional life. 

    During my 31 years with Praxair, I’ve had many opportunities to keep my career interesting: starting off as a receptionist, moving through customer services and marketing support & communications, I’ve landed now in my most favorite job, as an Internal Communications Specialist.

    Here I can use my strengths and fully exercise them, working with and for people that make a difference to me, to themselves, to their colleagues and to the communities they live in. 


    Short Biography

     Karin Verbruggen – Internal Communications Benelux

                  Praxair NV, Olen - Belgium

    Born in 1962, married, mother of 2 children, living in Mol, Belgium.

    Graduated in 1981 as a 4-lingual Secretary (Dutch-French-German-English). 

    After an internship  as General Admin in the Nuclear industry, I ,started in May 1984 as an intern at the reception desk of Matheson NV in Oevel, Belgium (which over the years became Praxair NV), where I got a part time contract as of August that year. Since then I worked as an Order Entry Clerk, then moved up to Marketing Support and Marketing Communications for Specialty Gases and Electronics. Somewhere in between I also had the opportunity to teach In-house computer applications to my Belgian colleagues. After three years as a Customer Service Specialist for the Export countries, and moving to and from the Oevel facility and the Praxair Olen offices, my last challenge was to combine a job in General Services as coordinator for the 4 facilities in Belgium – a result of my experience in Administrative work – and in Internal Communications Benelux, where my knowledge of 4 languages and my experience in Marketing Communications provided the necessary background for this new challenge. Since the end of last year I’m able to focus solely on Internal Communications, in coordination with my German colleagues.

    Finding my way in the many ways to communicate, keeping up with new writing skills in three languages, supporting all kinds of Community Engagement projects, and getting communication to the next level is my challenge in this new opportunity.

    Contacts Details


    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Praxair nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.


  • 06 Feb 2015 10:46 | Armelle Loghmanian

     Intelligence and heart together are the drive to success

    By Alessandra Zocca


    Patrizia Rinaldis

    President of the Rimini Hotel Association and Vice-President of Rimini Chamber of Commerce

    Can you tell us how your involvement in hotels started?

    I got involved in the hotel sector through my husband; who owned a hotel (only as an investment); before renting it out again – he had the idea to ask me whether I was interested in managing it. I was about 24 years old and had no experience in hotels but I decide to make the leap.
    Then I understood I wanted to go further, beyond my hotel management competencies background to learn the leadership mechanisms and enter in the “button room (control room)”. So I gained a master in tourism management and I created a group of young hotel owners/managers in order to exchange expertise and grow together.
    When I was thirty and expecting my son I understood it was time for me to enter in the official hotel network and so in 1991 I joined the Hotel Association of Rimini Coast (please see the map below for the location). I wanted to learn more and more, I was eager to explore the underneath mechanisms and to build my relationship net. I wanted to change the things. This led me to become for nine years Vice-President of the Rimini Hotel Association.

     Rimini (Emilia Romagna)
    Patrizia, you have been President (and re-elected, congratulations!) of the Rimini (1) Coast  Hotel Association (2) for several years. Is this a full-time role?
    What is the key to your success? What are your winning qualities and strengths?

    Alessandra, I guarantee this is for me a “full-time” job.
    I have implemented a lot of changes and re-organisations during my presidency and I believe that the elements of my success can definitely include these main factors:
    • Believing that things can get changed
    • Quick response to issues
    • An open minded aptitude
    • Credibility
    • Willingness to learn continuously
    • Self-assurance in my capability to provide positive contribution to the Association
    • Team-work

    What type of contribution can a woman in a presidential position bring that is different or better than a man?

    Actually I do not think it’s a matter of differences between men and women, nor a matter of competition. What I believe makes the difference is the intelligence of the person in the position. This is why instinctively I am not in favour of women quotas in boards, gender is not the point.
    I make an example: when I was around 25 years old I attended classes for female entrepreneurs in tourism where I could clearly understand that it has no sense discoursing on female or male entrepreneurship, it is simply a matter of being an entrepreneur or not being! Yes, I kept taking the opportunity to attend the existing business classes for women, but always believing that business competencies are not related to gender. I though acknowledge that women and men have differences in the way they feel (for ex. women tend to not forget a quarrel, while men after a dispute go together for a beer …).

    Now, after a long career in tourism and in the Chamber of Commerce, I look back and I realise that I have been the first woman appointed as Vice-President in a board historically composed only by men. Additionally I am the first woman appointed as President in this hotel association, one of the biggest ones in Italy. I am on my third mandate now and I intend to candidate for a fourth one …

    Even though I achieved all this, I must confess that in order to break the glass ceiling I had to demonstrate to be the most competent, the most prepared and the most capable. I needed to pay attention to my appearance (how I was dressed) and to watch my behaviour. And you know what Alessandra? My greatest humiliation was that – despite my success - the President used to greet all my colleagues formally, while he used to give me a little kiss or flick …as you do to a little girl. Now I laugh at it, but at the time I felt not treated like my male colleagues and this was not helping me to strength my credibility.
    Another gender discriminating factor I had to face was the habit of men to make remarks about my “character”, this happens only to women, it’s a major stereotype; for example my President used to suggest me to be “nicer, sweeter”, have you ever heard this suggestion to a man? No, there is no stereotype that a man in a board should be “nice or sweet”.

    Finally, what I noticed career-wide is that women tend to renounce to their opportunities in favour of a greater good, they are too generous towards men, they renounce too much in my opinion. They should have the courage to dare. Women are sometimes their own worst enemy.

    Was work-life balance an issue for you?

    Work-life balance has never been an issue for me as far as it is a matter of organisation, I plan the day or days forward first thing in the morning.

    What would be the three main recommendations you would give a young woman who would like to pursue a career like yours?

    Sure, I am happy if I can be of help with my advices! Actually I have more than three suggestions:
    • Never be afraid of taking risks
    • Take charge of responsibilities
    • Be courageous (courage makes people free)
    • Learn to make choices and to make timely decisions 
    • Define clear priorities
    • There are no gender limitations, only skill and quality limits due to the single individual
    • Be humble and recognize your own limits, but try to overcome them
    • Be conscious of your talents and of the things you like doing. 

     Rimini (Emilia Romagna)
    How do you envisage the future of tourism and hotels worldwide and in Europe in the next ten/twenty years? Which are the main trends and development streams? What do you wish to see?

    I strongly believe in tourism, because it is a real primary paramount asset beyond the holidays and travels of the single individuals.
    I believe that tourism has opened the world, the barriers to the emerging countries. The world looks at Europe for tourism, I mean that the emerging countries are the great potential but Europe has the history.

    Going back to you, I read that football is one of your passions, am I correct? What are your major interests?

    I was the first female referee in my region, Emilia Romagna. Actually football is not one of my interests, I detest it … It was a challenge for me (18 years old), when the football school was finally opened to women. I told to myself “if men can do it, then I can also learn and become a referee”.
    Unfortunately my worst enemies on the playground were the players (children)’s mothers, who used to attack me verbally and shouted to me to go away and make “tagliatelle” … they could not accept a woman in that role, maybe envy?

    My true interests include reading, travelling, theatre, of course depending on my free time.

    Patrizia, what are your professional or personal dreams that have not yet come true?

    My dream is to get more and more involved in social roles, I would love to be engaged as a town mayor, as per the Latin proverb “it’s better to be first in Gaul than second in Rome

    Patrizia Rinaldis

    Humanitarian mission in Cambodia 
    “Una goccia per il mondo”
    What legacy would you like to leave in the tourism sector and as an individual?

    I dream to make all barriers collapse between associations in tourism and economics in order to focus on the economic growth and prosperity for everybody. I want to create a development framework that brings together all the economic potentials of the territory, including hotels and tourism of course.

    As an individual I would like to be remembered in the future for my personal contributions in the humanitarian sector (4), for what I have done for the others, for my human inner qualities.
    It’s time to give the correct weight and value to human life and to what matters in life and in the world.


    (1) Rimini

    (2) Associazione Albergatori di Rimini

    (3) Una Goccia per il Mondo (A drop for the world)


    Short Biography

    Patrizia Rinaldis was elected as President of the Rimini Hotel Association (AIA) in 2006. Previously – since 1994 - she was a member of the same board and CEO of AIA Services.

    She is also Vice-President of Rimini Chamber of Commerce, Board Member (at regional and national level) of the UERA Federalberghi (hotel federation) and guest professor at the University of Rimini.

    Patrizia started her career in the hotel industry in 1987, she was then a teacher at the Hotel School of Rimini and in 1992 she founded the association of Young Hotel Owners/GM (named “Turisminsieme”).
    At 18 years-old Patrizia took the challenge to become the first woman football referee in her region.
    After the high-school she gained a degree in management and tourism marketing.
    Born in Milan in 1961, married and mother of a son, Patrizia lives and works in Rimini.

    Contacts Details

    Patrizia Rinaldi

    Presidenza e Direzione Associazione Albergatori Rimini (AIA)
    Via Ruggero Baldini, 14 - 47921 Rimini
    Tel. 0541 58216 - Fax 0541 58229


    Disclaimer -    
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of AIA, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 05 Oct 2014 10:27 | Armelle Loghmanian

      "I think that admitting to your need for love and affection, and your vulnerability, is a sign of strength, and that asking for professional help is smart."

    By Karianne Dewitte and Alessandra Zocca


    Karianne Dewitte

    Relationship Counselor, Counseling Services

    Karianne, after several years’ experience working in change and project management in law enforcement, one and a half years’ ago you reinvented your career: you became a relationship counselor. How did your professional transformation process take place? What inspired you to make this change?

    First of all, thank you for inviting me to the PWI Magazine, I feel honored to share my story with you.

    My transformation process began with a visualization of the future. I imagined myself working in law enforcement for the next 30 years and I knew I had to do something different. I thought that in order to be successful and happy, you have to do something you are good at, and that you like too. This exercise left me knowing what I did not want to do, but I did not have a clear picture of what I did want. So I hired a job coach to help me clarify my true mission in life.

    I have found my mission in helping singles find long-term partners and couples improve their relationship. I can advise them from my own experience. My knowledge of 15 years of dating and relationships has taught me that it may be very difficult to have true love in your life. I believe that several other people could be your soul-mate, but if – once you have found one of them – you think you will stay with him or her for the rest of your life, because you make each other feel really happy, that is what I call “true love”. I learned that it can take hard work and require new skills to have a happy and successful private life.

    My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, which makes me a natural born counselor. As an INFJ, I am a great listener and I can easily empathize with people around me. I also have the gift to see what is going on inside of people and to inspire them to see the world with new eyes. In my opinion, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is an important tool in helping clients build their own long-term relationships.

    What lessons have you learned from, and thanks to, this transformation process?

    Having undergone two major transformations myself – in my professional and in my personal life – I know from first-hand experience that changing yourself is always painful but it is very rewarding too. I have also witnessed this in friends and clients.

    For example, as I did for myself, I think that people might reflect and review their concept of romantic interest and with this regard I suggest you watch the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” (1). It depicts how some women take a risk, repeatedly waiting in vain for men who are not interested in them, and lack a happy private life as long as they do not change their relationship patterns.

    My change processes have also taught me not to give up, even if nothing changes in your personal life over a week’s or even a year’s time. The ‘21 days formula’ – the idea that you quit a habit in 21 days, and then you will be healed – is a myth, no scientific research backs this up. Yet, some people believe it and feel frustrated when three weeks have passed and their old habit has not disappeared. In order to support my clients, I developed a simple, yet workable model – which I call the ‘Red, Blue, Yellow Model’ which helps you understand how people recover from breakups and other painful relationship events (e.g. cheating).

    Another lesson I have learned is that you cannot change what happens outside, without systematically working on your inside, for example attracting quality people instead of persons who hurt you. For this purpose, I decided to invent my own dating method which helped me find my soul-mate within eleven months of applying it. My approach and principles turned out to work for friends too, and now I use them to support my clients.

    In order to succeed in your new profession what skills have you added to your natural talent for counseling? How did you acquire them?

    My training in social science, philosophy and neuropsychology allows me to draw from a rich academic background to help clients transform their private life. Social science lets me understand how people relate to each other. Philosophy gives me ideas about how our beliefs affect our experience. I learned from neuropsychology how our brain plays tricks on us, especially when we are in love.

    Another set of skills I acquired from taking specialist courses in coaching and relationship communication.

    I also learned a lot from volunteering as a crisis counselor, while I was working as a project manager. In addition, my management position involved guiding people towards change, which offered me the opportunity to experience first-hand how complex and challenging change processes are.

    The greatest difference between corporate and individual transformation is that the former is an obligation, whilst the latter is a choice. The fact that you can decide for yourself to change - or even just to know that you have several options - is very powerful. As a crisis counselor, I have supported hundreds of people in their struggle to combat their feeling of a painful life: I helped them to become more aware of the power they have over their own life. This practice has taught me the importance of making clients feel safe, valued and empowered.

    Finally, some skills like relationship counseling, I have taught myself through a lot of observation, reading, learning and self-reflection. I would like to highlight that I have had to struggle beyond my search for my life partner and the building of my personal relationship. In fact, my childhood was challenged by poverty, violence and illness. My mother was very loving though and I greatly admire her courage to change her love life at the age of 50. She inspires me to help other women transform at any age. Now, she feels very happy and is blessed with a grandson.

    What advice would you have for women and relationships today?

    Many women find it difficult to speak about their personal life, desires and struggles – for some business women love is not even a subject for discussion. Yet, in my opinion, talking about it with a professional and neutral third party is key to identifying and breaking through your relationship patterns. Also, many women dislike the idea that the searching for a partner/personal relationship has to do with the concept of a “market”. A great book about this concept, which I often recommend to my clients, is “Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating” by Paul Oyer (2). Written from an economics professor’s point of view, it can change the way you feel about love. It is great fun to read too. I especially loved the epilogue which sums up the book’s ideas and reveals the outcome of the author’s personal story concerning his quest for a satisfactory private life.

    At some point, when I was looking to improve my private life, I felt that the market concept sounded very rational and I was convinced that love is all about the heart. Now, I invite singles to think about the following question: «Where has your heart gotten you, while it was playing the CEO of your private Iife?» I believe that it takes some rationality in order to allow yourself to fully express your feelings and let your heart decide calmly with whom you want to have a long-term relationship. The method I created, named the D.A.T.E. method, is based on exactly this idea:

    • D - I help my clients to first Define whom they want to be with. Based on the crystal clear picture of their ideal relationship,
    • A - I challenge them to Act in order to find their potential partners.
    • T - Third, I support them to Triumph over the challenges in their love life. Often these are bad relationship patterns which need to be replaced by healthier ways of relating.
    • E - Finally, I encourage them to think about how they want to Experience their love life within a year. This powerful exercise helps them to stay active in the dating market, and not get discouraged when it takes time to find a good long-term relationship.
    When I work with couples to improve their relationship, one of the things I often advise them is to show appreciation. I think that the longer you stay together, the more you are at risk of taking each other for granted. An easy tool that can improve your relationship right away, is what I call ‘The Appreciation Exercise’.
    For example, just before going to sleep, you describe two things which you really liked about your partner that day. Preferably, your appreciative feedback is very specific and can cover actions or looks. For example, one partner could say: “I appreciate that you were wearing that blue shirt today – you look great in it!” The other partner could say: “I appreciate that you gave me so many hugs today.” The latter example is not coincidence by the way. Hugging can improve your relationship too. It boosts the production of the hormone oxytocin, which in turn helps people bond with each other.

    What type of clients do you serve with your counseling?

    My clients are smart singles and couples whom I serve either in English, French or Dutch, anywhere in the world (through Skype or in my private practice near Brussels). I believe that most people are smart in their own way, but not everyone is willing to stand back and reflect upon their private life and learn to relate better with their (potential) partners. This is the essence of how I support clients who no longer wish to have an (partially) unsatisfactory private life, like having “relationships” with emotionally or physically unavailable partners or letting problems in your relationship grow. I think that life is too short not to have true love in your life.

    Secondly, my clients are really committed to their goal of having a stable and loving relationship. In my opinion, being committed implies being willing to act. This sounds self-evident, but I have heard professionally successful women – and also men - say that they would really like to find someone but that love should happen by itself (they would not say this about finding the perfect car or shoes…).

    The latter is related to the idea that if you look for love, then you will not find it. I do not know who invented this saying, but it is false. You might say that your friend has a wonderful private life without having looked for it. The bad news is that the former is anecdotal evidence and the chances are that your friend has a mindset, and a body language, which attract quality partners. The good news is that you can work on your skills and build a happier personal life too.

    You mentioned that the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is a key tool for you: what more could you say about that?

    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a wonderful tool to understand and improve your relationships with people, not just on a personal level but also on a professional level. The MBTI is based on four main questions concerning interaction with yourself and your environment, which result in 16 personality types.

    As a relationship counselor, I employ this tool to help my clients know themselves better and I teach them how to recognize other people’s personalities. As such, the MBTI can help them to better grasp why, for example, they fight so much in their romantic relationships, attract people they do not want to attract or find it so hard to let go of lovers who treat them badly. The MBTI can also be used to identify the kind of partner who, in the long term, might give them energy rather than deplete it.

    Finally, this great tool helps me to see the relationship situation from my client’s personal viewpoint, so that I can adapt my counseling service to fit their specific needs. Every client has unique challenges, but some personality types have very similar challenges. For example, if someone has a tendency towards what the MBTI calls ‘judging the world’ and they usually follow their heart rather than their mind (what the MBTI calls a ‘feeling’ tendency), then it is likely that they are too picky and want to control the exact course of their dates. These personality types could add some skills and mindsets to their repertoire in order to improve their private life.

    What do you see as the main challenge for you in helping people to create a better personal life for themselves?

    One main challenge is to help my clients change what I call ‘non-effective’ beliefs about love. Those are ideas that do not support you to find and maintain a good long-term relationship. Quite the contrary, these beliefs often work against you, because they show up in your body language. Non-effective beliefs about love are often the result of selectively choosing information from past relationship experience and repeating it for a long time. For instance, you may have been cheated on and think that most men/women are unreliable. Ironically, if you hold such a belief, then you are more likely to attract that type of partner. In this way, your beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Two non-effective beliefs about relationships commonly held amongst single women are that all the good guys are taken, and that it is better to be alone than to be in a relationship just for the sake of being with someone.  I have struggled with such thoughts myself and finally replaced them with beliefs that did support my quest. Now, I have a healthy, happy and satisfying relationship and this year we became the parents of a lovely boy. I feel so much happier than when I was single, even though I had a busy and relatively fulfilling professional and personal life.

    Yet, nobody can tell someone else what to believe; thinking happens inside people. As a relationship counselor, my job is to empower and challenge my clients to think and act in ways that help them have a loving relationship.

    My story is not a fairy tale. It can happen for every person as long as they are committed to finding a good long-term partner. Modern women are often very strong people, we need to work so hard to succeed professionally in a hypercompetitive environment. I think that admitting to your need for love and affection, and your vulnerability, is a sign of strength, and that asking for professional help is smart. You can find everything out by yourself, like I did, but it took me more than a decade – though maybe you are luckier. Alternatively, you can hire a professional if you want to shorten your search process. For this reason, I founded The Love Academy, which offers relationship counseling for smart singles and couples.


    (1)    “He’s Just Not That Into You”

    (2)    “Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating” by Paul Oyer

    Short Biography

    Karianne Dewitte, MSc (Hons.), MA (Hons.), Cert. Phil. (Hons.), is an academically trained relationship counselor and cognitive therapist. She loves helping singles to find a great match and couples to improve their relationship. In our globalized and digitalized world, it is so easy to get a lover, but it can be a daunting task to find someone with whom you can build a lasting relationship. Or you may have a partner, but you do not know how to solve the problems in your relationship to keep your love alive. This is where Karianne comes in. She has the gift of seeing what is going on inside of you and she can inspire you to grow and make your dream of love come true.

    Contacts Details

    Karianne Dewitte
    +32 (0)479 59 46 47

    More information about The Love Academy at:  http://www.loveacademy.eu

    Disclaimer -    
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Love Academy, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement
  • 26 Jun 2014 23:26 | Armelle Loghmanian

     Improving the quality of service to tourists in Brussels

    By Irene Personne


    Huguette Maison - D’Ardenne

    Consultant Hospitality & Tourism

    Huguette, you have grown up in Brussels and have worked in the hospitality industry for over 30 years having held positions as general manager in different 4 and 5 star hotels. How is tourism changing in general and in Brussels?

    Tourism is an ever-expanding business, even in a time of crises. People need to escape from reality - it has become a way of life. However, with globalization, there is an urgent need for the destinations (and hotels) to differentiate themselves and work on quality. If they do not, competition will just become a question of pricing, with very nasty economic consequences. Brussels is no exception.

    Are there places in Brussels that are worth visiting but that are not very well known? What are in your opinion the least known but attractions worth seeing?

    You cannot, of course, miss Grand Place! But take your time and walk around: there are plenty of little streets, with unique shops - gourmet, designers, fashion etc -, cafés and restaurants. I would recommend walking around looking upwards instead of on the ground: there are so many nice buildings and details you do not notice if you just look in front of you.
    I spoke with an American lady yesterday who has lived in Flanders for 9 years: she just discovered the "Galeries Royales St Hubert" and she was so amazed that she could not believe she had never been there.
    Unfortunately, the average length of stay in Brussels is 1.2 days, so tourists only have time to concentrate on the city centre (or have to come back several times). There is so much more to see in Brussels than you can do in two days. We have more than 100 museums in Brussels - some are very small and not very well known, but they are full of poetry, such as the Musée Maurice Carême in Anderlecht, or the Magritte house in Jette. There, you will be welcomed by really passionate people, who will tell you a lot of anecdotes and make you feel the atmosphere of the time. Personally, I also love the Far-East museums in Laeken but, unfortunately, they are closed for the moment. One of the least known but worthwhile attractions might be the Musée de la Chine in Scheut (Anderlecht). It’s about the Chinese culture, folklore, crafts and religions (mainly seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) collected by Belgian missionaries who went to China at the time. The Porte de Hal museum, the MIM (Museum of Musical Instruments) and the CBBD (Comics Museum), are also really worth a visit, even if only for the buildings.
    Last but not least, we have many nice parks and gardens all around. There is always something going on, e.g. the Comic Strip festival in September, the Art Nouveau/Art Deco biennal in October (next one in 2015), the Ommegang in June/July, the Flower Carpet in August… you will find a lot of reasons to visit Brussels on www.visitbrussels.be

    You are currently working on a project to improve the quality of services to tourists in Brussels for ‘Visitbrussels’. How do you define quality in tourism and why is quality so important to you?

    For me, quality is when you get not only what you expect, but when you get something that goes beyond your expectations. If you get what you expect, you will probably be satisfied. But will you tell your family and friends you had a fabulous stay? This will only happen if what you get is better than you expected.

    I am convinced that lack of quality is one of the biggest issues we are facing today. Special deals and bargains have become the rule in the hospitality/tourism industry - competition is all about prices. Unfortunately, this causes a downward spiral of: lower prices => cost cutting => unemployment/low salaries/insecure staff => dissatisfaction => bad service => loss of customers => lower prices to try to catch a bigger piece of the cake.
    I have nothing against bargains. But they cannot apply to services: saving on staff is a short-term strategy.
    Staff is the biggest asset in hospitality, because they provide the personal aspect and the quality. A hotel room is a hotel room: a bed, a TV, a bathroom… Of course, it can be small or big, nice or ugly, clean or dirty… but, at the end, it's service, the staff, that makes the difference. What would “hospitality” mean without staff? For me, this is the main reason why B&Bs are so popular: they provide real hospitality, personalized service and attention. It's not a question of price - by the way, I know quite a lot of B&Bs that are now more expensive than 4-star hotels in Brussels.

    And this brings us to a big problem we have in Brussels: the cost of employment compared to the average hotel prices in Brussels. My intention is not to argue over this problem here but, taking into account the importance of staff in hotels, it needs to be mentioned. Just to give an idea: on one hand, we have (one of) the highest cost of employment in the world, on the other hand, the average price guests are paying in Brussels hotels is much lower than what people are paying in Paris, Geneva, London, Amsterdam, Zürich, Moscow, Rome, Stockholm … and many others.
    Finding the right balance is therefore a real challenge.

    Can you tell us something about how you are improving the quality of tourism in the projects you work on at Visitbrussels?

    First, we have an ongoing Brussels Visitor Satisfaction survey available online (www.visitbrussels.be/qualitydestination). Feedback is the most important element to improve the quality of the destination. We try to listen to our customers as much as possible, and also play a role of mediator in case there are complaints.
    Through the questionnaire I find out why people come, what they expect and especially how satisfied they are with their stay and the services provided (hotels, but also shopping, public transport, cleanliness, accessibility etc). The results of the survey are published monthly on www.visitbrussels.be/satisfaction.
    The main reason for visiting Brussels is the historical and cultural heritage. But more and more people just come to wander around and take in the Brussels atmosphere; architecture, especially the Art Nouveau, is attracting more and more visitors, as well as Antiques and Design.
    Also, an increasing number of people want to know what locals do and like. Brussels Greeters are an interesting option to discover Brussels through the eyes of people who live here. They are not professional guides, but they share their personal experience and favorite places as inhabitants of Brussels. You can book a tour with focus on a specific interest you have – architecture, sports, food etc. - for up to 5 people. It is free of charge, but you have to book quite a long time in advance, because they are doing this on top of their work. So planning ahead is necessary. http://bruxellesgreeters.be/Bienvenue.php

    The other aspect of the project is the Brussels Quality Academy. Through this, we try to raise awareness about the importance of quality information and a welcoming attitude among Brussels professionals in hospitality and tourism. Every week, I organize a session on a special topic. It might be history, architecture, comics, lifestyle, sustainability - we recently had a session on slow food - or more "technical" subjects, such as "how to prepare an exhibition or a fair" or security (for example policing in Brussels). Because of the growing demand for personalization and authenticity, I also explain to the professionals that they need to know not only the basics, but also "hidden secrets" our visitors won't find in tourist guides. Personalization is what is important. It’s what makes people remember the visit. You can show off to your friends that you have seen something they haven’t.

    How do people find the questionnaire and who is your target group to get feedback?

    Indeed getting feedback from visitors is a challenge sometimes. I’m interested in the feedback of all people who visit Brussels for leisure or for business. They will find a link to the questionnaire (www.visitbrussels.be/qualitydestination) on some websites of hotels, restaurants, museums - but flyers are also displayed in different establishments of the city. Every month, we also send emails to people who booked Brussels cards or guided tours. On average we get 2 completed questionnaires per day - we would however need more feedback from the business visitors, these are more difficult to target.
    Even Belgian residents can fill in the questionnaire, because when you live in Brussels you can be "a tourist" in your own city and evaluate restaurants, parking, cleanliness etc. even better.
    Generally the tourists are very happy, but tourists do not always go where the people who live here go… Locals might have a different view. This makes the analysis even more interesting and it's a great help for improvements.
    Every month we offer a weekend for two in Brussels in a 4 or 5 star hotel (including breakfast, VIP treatment, Brussels Card and tourist information) to one of the respondents.

    How do you define a quality destination and how can Brussels become a leading tourist destination?

    As you can see on the above graph, people are generally satisfied. They are willing to come back and recommend. Great!
    However, to become a leading tourist destination, the percentage of "very satisfied" people should be higher than the percentage of "satisfied" people. This is why we need to go "beyond expectations". How?
    In my view, a "quality destination" can only be obtained if ALL actors are working together in synergy. The whole city and all the services offered should contribute to the success, including the people who live here. Tourism is not only hotels, museums, attractions and airport, it’s also taxis, shops, opening hours, cleanliness, signage, parking, attitude of people and how they speak to you.
    It is essential that both the private and the public sectors are on the same line to create the optimal environment and awareness. There must be a common (long- and short term) vision and action plan, that everybody should be aware of. We should work together on the strategy for the benefit of all - it’s important to keep everybody happy.
    As in most cities/countries - Brussels is no exception - the recognition of tourism as a major contributor to the local economy is quite recent (maximum 10 years). There have been improvements lately but, in this changing world, there is still a lot to be done.

    What inspired you to start working in the tourism industry and to become a hotel manager?

    Although my grand-father had always worked as a chef in renowned hotels and restaurants, it was not at all my father’s intention to follow him. But with the EXPO 58, my parents decided to host workers coming from Switzerland to prepare the exhibition, kind of a first B&B. Then, they bought a restaurant in Wemmel, where I grew up with my 2 sisters and my brother. My father was revealed to be a great cook, my mother was a charming hostess and the restaurant was very successful. This is how I learned what “hospitality” and “guest satisfaction” mean.
    The restaurant was a very demanding environment though; our parents had to work every evening, on Saturdays and Sundays, at Christmas and New Year. So when my parents stopped the restaurant, none of the children - including me - wanted to take over this crazy business. I wanted to become either a PR person or a journalist, and so I started studying English & German at ISTI (Institut Supérieur de Traducteurs et Interprètes). However, when the time came to look for a job, the first ad I saw in the newspaper was for the Ramada hotel. I sent my CV and started to work there the week after. This was still “the good time”: 1 application, 1 job.
    At that time, the Hilton Brussels on Boulevard de Waterloo was "the place to be". We loved to go there because it was full of life, there was always something happening there. I was impressed and I said to myself: "one day, I will manage this kind of hotel". This is where the story began.

    You were one of the first female general managers in hotels, how did your career develop? Did you encounter any specific challenges in your career?

    Indeed, I was among the first female GMs, at least in 4 and 5-star international hotels. In the 80ies/early 90ies, only 2-star sometimes even 3-star hotels were "accessible" to women. Most of the time, when I was in an international meeting, the "men" where asking me at which hotel I worked as Sales Manager. Sales was OK for a woman, but not general management. I have probably come across all the typical misogynistic clichés. Unfortunately, in that respect, hospitality is not different from other industries. Even today you can still count the number of female general managers in 4 and 5-star hotels in Brussels on one hand.

    I started my career at the Ramada in Brussels, where I gradually moved up to be the assistant of the general manager. Luckily for me, the general manager changed quite often: which gave me the opportunity to fill-in the gaps, to do their hand-overs and replace them frequently. I learned a lot during that period. However, it would have been difficult for me to take over this particular hotel, after all those years: I needed to gain more experience elsewhere - and preferably outside of Brussels. The new owner of the hotel offered to train me at the headquarters of the group, located in Paris, which I accepted. There I worked in different departments and in other hotels of the group for specific missions, e.g. in Strasbourg and for the opening of the Crowne Plaza in Lyon. After a few months, they offered me the HR director position at headquarters. But I do not like headquarters at all, I prefer hotels. There was an opportunity to become the GM of the Ibis hotel in Paris Roissy, they agreed to offer me the position.
    After that I have been a GM for the same group in different cities such as Liège, Lyon, and Paris and later on for Hilton, in Rotterdam, Brussels and Evian-les-bains.

    Then I decided time had come for me to come back to Brussels and to work for myself - away from the "big ones". Since 2008 I have been working as a consultant in the hospitality and tourism business in Brussels, with one specific goal: to increase awareness of the importance of quality in hospitality and tourism, in order to improve its impact on the economy.

    Did the position of general manager of a hotel change over the last few years?

    Yes, unfortunately, at least in big hotel chains. Standardization, centralization, clustering, forecasting, reporting, restructuring… all this leaves little room to a general manager today for creativity, initiatives, time for his/her employees … and guests. Hospitality has become a business like every other business; run by finance people and shareholders who do not know - or have forgotten - the meaning of "hospitality".
    But history repeats itself and, luckily, we see again an increasing number of private investors creating small original hotels (call them "boutique" or not): although profit remains the ultimate objective of course, service and personalization are their ambition.

    You have worked in different hotels in and outside Belgium, what can you tell us about working abroad?

    The willingness to relocate is essential in hospitality, at least if you want to move forward professionally. This might be the reason why there are fewer women in that job. It remains quite difficult, if you are married, to ask your husband to quit his job because you want to travel. The opposite is more commonly accepted.

    Also, being a hotel manager means you are available 24 hours/day - 7 days a week: hotels are full of surprises, anything can happen any time. Therefore it's practically impossible to have a "normal family life". Many hotel managers, and certainly if they relocate, are divorced or single. Usually, at least in (American) hotel chains, you have to move every 3-4 years. Meaning you have to also start a new social life every time.

    Of course, you can also run a hotel without moving abroad. But, to my view, this leads to routine and to a lack of vision.

    What is the situation of women in the tourism industry? How are they represented compared to men?

    I think Tourism is very similar to the hotel industry in that sense. There are some women who are at the head of tourist offices, but I’m not sure the proportion is different from other industries. Just to show: the Board of the tourist office in Brussels has no women members. There are just 2 women who are "allowed" to attend the executive committee: one secretary and one legal advisor.

    However, there has been a positive development recently: following the departure from Brussels of Mr Frederic De Deken, the Brussels Hotel Association (BHA) is given a new Chairman, or rather a Chairwoman, in the person of Mrs Sophie Blondel, General Manager of the Stanhope Hotel.

    Is there something specific that women can bring to the tourism industry? Can they bring more benefits or something different?

    A soul maybe? And a more human approach? We cannot generalize, of course, but I think women are more attentive in general, more focused on details too - this would greatly benefit the hotel industry at the moment. Especially with the desire for more personalization that we see from tourists today.

    There are more and more women travelling for business, do you see that reflected in the hotels in Brussels, are hotels adapting their services?

    We do not have statistics about gender in hotels, except as far as employees are concerned. To my knowledge, there are also no statistics on women vs men travelling in Europe. What I can say is that the number of respondents to our satisfaction survey is 50/50 every year.

    I also do not think a lot of hotels have a different approach for women, and staff are for sure not trained in that sense.
    In the eighties, Ramada created a "woman friendly" program. This program disappeared quite quickly - it was much too "segregational" and "too American" in my view.
    Anyway, I am not sure women are looking for special treatment. No matter if your guest is a woman, a man, gay, a family, elderly, or disabled. The rule should simply be: "put yourself in your guest's shoes"…

    Short Biography

    BIO Huguette Maison-D’Ardenne
    After several years working in hotels and in different roles at corporate headquarters in operations, finance, sales and HR, Huguette Maison-D'Ardenne spent 20 years as General Manager with international hotel chains such as Accor, Ramada, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Hilton - in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

    Many times during her career, she took up the challenges she was given to rethink, reorganize and rebuild the businesses she was responsible for. Today she uses this experience and know-how as a consultant at the service of other companies, in Tourism and Hospitality. Among other projects she launched a program at the Brussels Tourist Office to improve the quality of Brussels as a tourist destination.

    Contact Details

    www.visitbrussels.be/satisfaction -

    Disclaimer -    
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Visitbrussels, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 26 Feb 2014 22:04 | Armelle Loghmanian

     Becoming a Journalist 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Hanna McLean

    Freelance Journalist for Maastricht University Magazine

    Former Community Manager at the EJC Online Journalism Community

    Hanna, being myself a member of the EJC Online Journalism Community (1), it’s a real pleasure to interview you regarding your former role of Community Manager.
    Would you illustrate to our readership the concept of this community?

    The idea behind the European Journalism Centre’s (EJC) Community establishment was that it would be a place for all kinds of journalists from around the world to come together, network with each other and share information. Over the years the community has grown from a small community for journalists to a bigger one that also includes media professionals from other sectors such as PR and marketing, radio, television, etc.

    What did you specifically like about your former role as Community Manager at the EJC Online Journalism Community? What was your main aim?

    I enjoyed being a community/social media manager because it gives you a chance to connect with other people who you may not have connected with in other circumstances. The job allowed me to find out what makes different people tick - what they are interested in. The fact that our community members come from all over the world made the job all the more exciting because it allowed me to see things through a variety of different perspectives and cultural viewpoints.

    When I started working with the EJC Community my main aim was initially to form deeper connections with the current members and to help facilitate interesting conversations among the various groups that had been formed. As time went by, though, I realized that the members wanted something more, so I sent around a survey asking for specific changes that everyone wanted to see. I discovered that many members wanted to see more job listings, educational material/tutorials, and networking opportunities. With these three things in mind, my colleagues and I decided to revamp the community altogether and create a newer, simplified platform. This however, was still a work in progress and has not been completed yet. We hope to have the new community launched sometimes in the near future. For now, we have created our JournaJobs platform ( http://journajobs.eu/about/ ), which is an international job listing website, built for the professional journalist, which provides daily job listings from around the world.

    What have you learned from the community members? What impresses you most about the spirit of the members?

    The community members have taught me many things, but most of all I have learned there are countless different ways to look at things. The world is a big place and where you grew up and the culture that you are accustomed to, plays a huge role in how you approach different situations. Talking to people from Afghanistan, Poland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and more has given me the chance to explore the world through the convenience of social media. It’s an amazing thing because several years ago, this would not have been possible.

    What impresses me most about the spirit of the community members is their enthusiasm and curiosity. They are constantly reaching out to one another in order to learn about new developments in media/journalism, or to just chat about what life is like in their home countries. Their drive to learn from and help each other was something that really stood out to me and left an impression.

    The EJC Online Journalism Community is part of the European Journalism Centre (EJC): what is it about and what are the main activities?

    The EJC is a non-profit independent, international foundation that is dedicated to the highest standards in journalism. We provide training to both journalists and media professionals alike. Some of our main goals include:
    • Promoting high quality journalism through professional training, particularly through a European context,
    • Providing a forum for discussion debate, and exchanges of views and experience for journalists, editors, media executives and other media professionals,
    • Supporting high standards of journalism in developing countries through training and networking,
    • Promoting ongoing journalistic capacity building that answers the needs of media professionals and the media industry.

    What percentage of the Community members are women? What is the situation for women in the journalism arena? Are there fewer women journalists? Are women simply not interested in journalism or are there real barriers to their career? Are women less “opinionated”? Why?

    I am not sure of the exact percentage of women that the community currently has, but I think the overall ratio of men to women is pretty even. At the moment I think the situation for women in the arena of journalism is an exciting, but also a challenging one because of everything that is going on in the world today.

    I cannot say whether or not there are fewer women journalists in the field, but I think it is a bit more of a challenge for women journalists sometimes, especially for those who are reporting from warzones and other regions in crisis because these areas can sometimes be seen as ‘no place for a woman’. I don’t think that women journalists are any less interested in topics or that they are less opinionated than men, it’s quite the opposite actually, but I do think that women journalists have to fight a bit harder to get the story that they want.

    What actions has the European Journalism Centre (EJC) put in place to promote female journalists?

    In order to help promote journalists in general and female journalists the EJC has pioneered several projects including:
    • Data Driven Journalism project (2), which is one of the leading initiatives for training, resources and networking in the area of data journalism,
    • Emergency Journalism (3), which brings together relevant news and resources for media professionals reporting in volatile situations,
    • Journalism Grants (4), which is a grant program that aims to advance creative reporting approaches, thus enabling a better coverage of international development issues.
    • The EJC Community also has a ‘Women in Media’ group that looks at the role women play in the media (5).

    Hanna, you are also an independent journalist for a university magazine. What inspired you to follow this profession? What do you like about writing? When did you realise you wanted to be a journalist? Are you following in the footsteps of any family members?

    Since I was a little girl I have always known that I wanted to be a writer. Whether that was writing a novel or becoming a journalist, it didn’t matter to me so long as I could put my passion to use. I am the first of my family members to actually pursue writing as a career and have found that I am able to communicate much more eloquently through the written word. I love how you can convey a message in so many different ways just by changing the order of the words or by playing with synonyms and adjectives.
    Writing allows me to speak in a way that talking out loud doesn’t. Staring a blank Word document is both the most electrifying and the most frightening thing for me. The words can take me anywhere and it’s always exhilarating to see where I end up.

    What is your professional dream for your future?

    My professional dream for the future is to write and publish a novel. I am currently playing with some ideas for a piece of fiction for young adults that I have in mind. However I haven’t gotten the courage up yet to actually start: it’s one of my new year’s resolutions for 2014 actually – to just sit down, stop thinking, and write.

    If you could interview anyone in the world right now, who would you choose and why?

    If I could interview anyone in the world, right now I would have to choose news/photo journalist Ann Curry (6) because she is such an inspiration to me. Her stories are always so diverse and her ability to connect with people that she just met on such a deep level astounds me.
    She is truly an example of a successful, strong, woman journalist who knows what she is doing and who isn’t afraid to go out and get what she wants regardless of what others think of her. I hope to someday be as brave and as successful as she is.

    Short Biography

    Hanna McLean works as a freelance journalist for Maastricht University Magazine.
    She also worked as the social media manager/community manager for the European Journalism Centre from 2011 – 2013.

    Contact Details
    Hanna McLean
    Freelance Journalist for Maastricht University Magazine



    (1) EJC Online Journalism Community

    (2) Online data journalism course

    (3) Emergency Journalism

    (4) Grants for Innovations in Development Reporting

    (5) Review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for
    Action in the EU Member States: Women and the Media undefined
    Advancing gender equality in decision-making In media organisations

    (6) Ann Curry 

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of EJC, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 02 Nov 2013 17:46 | Armelle Loghmanian

     "Leadership is the capacity to show the way forward, to inspire others by encouraging them to increase their strengths and to overcome their weaknesses"

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Ana Otero

    Director at a global consulting company
    Madrid, Spain

    Ana, I really enjoyed the way we met: you won an interview in the PWI Magazine at the last PWI event about HR & gender policies.
    You are from Madrid, how did you get in touch with PWI Brussels? Why are you interested in professional women’s networks?

    It was great to meet you all in Brussels. I got an invitation to join your meeting through one of my colleagues in Madrid. I believe one of your members sent it to our HR department and they forwarded it to us. The agenda of your meeting was interesting to both me and my colleague.

    We are not aware of any woman’s network in Spain although in the past I was invited to a women network initiative within my company (launched by the US offices, our company in the US is very active in this kind of activities) and felt it was quite an interesting subject, being in a male environment at work. At the time I was surprised by the initiative and it was not really supported locally in Spain, I guess we were not prepared for it yet (before 2000).

    I am quite interested in this kind of network as I understand relationships are important in life and in business, though I feel that like-minded people work well together and it doesn't matter if they are men or women.
    I do not have many chances to be part of such a diverse network as PWI: it is good to have networks where you meet people who are different to you (your women’s network is an interesting example).
    It is stimulating to find women with diverse nationalities and careers working in a number of industries, with different job positions and from various backgrounds who are willing to share experiences and know-how in facing the difficulties to reach and maintain management positions. More importantly, it is enriching to be able to share the actions or attitudes that make a difference on the way forward to an improved working environment as well as to a better society in general.

    How much do gender issues matter in your company? Do you have equality policies and monitors in place?

    From a formal point of view the company is well structured in that sense. Probably more than 50% of new employees are women. Flexible or reduced working schedules are approved for working mothers. On the other hand, the real fact is that there are probably less than 12% women in management positions, and I would say it is not related directly to the fact of being a mother.

    Our work is based on people’s talent, capacity and dedication. The business model is based on an “up or out” philosophy which allows for creating pyramids with balanced teams and a competitive cost structure for our clients. It is very demanding job for anybody to develop a career in the consulting world.

    The perception of gender issues depends on people and circumstances: each of us perceives things differently because we are all different and the situations we face depend both on what is happening and on how we do react to them. We have very successful women in our organization that have never perceived a gender issue and we have others that feel it is harder to be successful being a woman.

    Despite not having a widespread public debate about gender issues from an institutional point of view, some people are not only aware of it, but they are also doing something about it. However, this is happening only on an individual basis and not within the framework of any internal initiative.

    I believe we can improve the situation by, first of all, increasing consciousness of gender issues and talking about it openly. Then it will be possible to better identify the specific difficulties that women encounter and work to face them together.
    This way, tough and lonely journeys can be avoided for some very talented women. Not being part of a natural male network is definitely not an advantage and it depends on each woman’s personality and attitude to overcome this initial difficulty or to get stuck.

    For many years, I used to be a consultant with one of your competitors and at that time there were few of us – women - in management positions and everyone had to be available to travel and transfer in order to keep our job and to be considered for promotion.
    What is the situation now in these regards in your company and in the consultancy sector?
    How do you manage your work/life balance?

    I believe it depends on the type of consultancy work you do and on the location of your clients. Until a certain stage, you need to be where your clients are on a daily basis, delivering services, and therefore you have to travel if the client is not in your home city. Some consultants ask to serve only local clients but sometimes it is difficult to match the company needs with the consultant preferences in terms of work location (also in terms of type of assignment; you need to be flexible in order to be a consultant).

    We like and promote international projects (as most of our clients are multinational companies) and have many consultants willing to be assigned to them (others prefer not to travel). We need to serve our clients where it is required, of course. Change management is one of the key topics of all the transformation programs we run with clients and it requires dealing with people, wherever they work.

    In the way we are structured, once you reach a commercial responsibility (higher levels in the consultancy career), you are mainly focusing on developing the market you belong to. Therefore you usually sell services in your home area or at a national level. Your involvement with the client does not require your presence on a daily basis; in addition to specific meetings and presentations, it is usually enough to visit them weekly. I would say that, as you advance in your career, travelling somehow diminishes or it does not take so many days in a week.

    This has been my personal experience and, in this regard, I manage my work/life balance quite well; not travelling so much at the moment and having a flexible way of working with my clients and colleagues from different locations when necessary.

    Why did you choose to become a consultant? By what or by whom were you inspired? What do you like best about being a consultant?

    Since I started my studies I was willing to work internationally and experience being involved in different cultures and places: this took me to the consultancy world without me having planned to be a consultant at all. It happened by chance and I had to get familiar with technology which I did not enjoy when I started.

    Now, after 20 years, I am, in my heart, a consultant. I like to be a consultant because this job provides me with the opportunity to experience the reality of different businesses from various points of view (strategic, operational and technological). As a consultant I need to be always learning something new in order to add value to my clients.

    I like this job because it is very diverse and requires having an open mind. It also forces me to put a lot of energy into every project and as I invest more energy, I get it back as I am rewarded with professional satisfaction.

    Have you travelled widely and moved often for your career? How did you find working in other countries?

    I travelled quite a bit, especially in the early years (not so much anymore). I found it a very rewarding experience that I always looked forward to and I enjoyed living and working in different cultural environments.

    I believe we get to know ourselves better when we have the chance to be on our own, out of the environment where we were brought up; with other people, experiencing other ways of thinking and acting and working, where there is other ways of making business. It is really rewarding for me to observe all the different ways of doing things and to recognize at that point what is really the way I do things or the way I look at things, then I am conscious and I can change or evolve towards the ways I like the best.

    What would be your recommendation to a young woman wanting to pursue a career in a big multinational consultancy corporation?

    I would not give special advice to young women; the following is valid for men and women, for everybody. I would advise people not to think so much about their career but to enjoy every project and to focus on taking the best from every experience, even from the hardest ones. I believe that focusing on your career more than on the content of what you are doing is not so rewarding and it might take you in the wrong direction.

    I would only encourage women not to think that they need to change the consultancy career for something else if they want to build a family. I believe that should be compatible, if they like this job, they should stay with it.

    Ana, you are a Director: how would you define “leadership”? How do consultant leaders differ – if indeed they do differ – from the leaders in other industries?
    Do you believe there are different traits in female vs. male leadership?

    I would define leadership as <<the capacity to show the way forward, to inspire others by encouraging them to appreciate and increase their strengths and to overcome their weaknesses>>.

    In this sense I do not find a difference in the leadership concept from one industry to another. In our industry it is important to focus on people, to fully understand the client needs and to manage your time and effort very precisely to reach the established goals.
    I believe the kind of leadership that we might develop depends on our character and our way of understanding people’s interactions, life and society: it does not depend on gender.

    In your opinion, what self-improvements should women make in order to climb up in their organisation or to become more successful in their profession?

    Probably self-confidence is one of the key aspects we all need to improve in order to be more successful from a career point of view (I mean in order to reach higher positions). Sometimes being in a world that has been traditionally dominated by men, women might feel uncomfortable, while some others take it as a challenge and feel very self-confident.

    It is important to get rid of limiting beliefs of having to do it better or prove more only because we are women. These limiting beliefs make many women dismiss the idea of pursuing promotion.

    Ana, you are interested in dance and in philosophy: please tell us more about your passions.

    I believe the main questions in life are around things which are very basic but difficult to answer, for instance: what are we here for? How should we act? What is good or bad?
    I like to get back to those main questions in order to understand the magnitude of the world and therefore take my personal position. I am learning many things from reading philosophy, some of the most important ones include:
    • Listening to others
    • Getting to know myself and my way of interacting with others
    • Understanding others
    My other passion is dance: I like Spanish dance and classical dance (ballet). I practiced it for a long time when I was young and I keep on attending classes on the weekends. It is not only a sporty healthy activity, but it is also a way of expressing yourself, of being very much linked to music and therefore a way of including art as an essential part in my life.

    What can men learn from women in business, profession and life?

    I guess many things. I believe we can all learn a lot from each other (men and women). I have great colleagues in my team both men and women.
    From the women I have in my team I would highlight the capacity to organize, the commitment and the good atmosphere they create around them, dealing both with clients and with colleagues and managing teams. Of course, all qualities depend more on people than on gender, but these are the ones that I recognize better in the women I know (although many men are also good in them, of course).

    Ana, what are the dreams that have not come true yet in your life? Do you have “a dream” you would like to share?

    Every day there is a new little dream to reach like … going for lunch with a valued colleague from the old times, reading and understanding a new philosopher, celebrating a family birthday in special circumstances, working with new people for a new project, swimming in the sea at lunch time during a meeting in a coast location … I believe in small everyday things that make you happy and that build your life.

    When I am older and I retire from consultancy, I would like to work as a coach (for the moment I am doing it from time to time in order to train myself).

    Short Biography

    Ana Otero was born in Spain. She is an economist. Having worked and lived in different countries (Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, the UK) she developed her career in consultancy participating in numerous transformation programs at multinational and big national companies.

    With a growing interest for personal development she became an executive coach in 2012. She is also interested in dance and in philosophy.

    Contact Details

    Ana Otero García-Castrillón

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of her company, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 28 Jul 2013 12:43 | Armelle Loghmanian

    Unleashing potential:
    developing a coaching style in management & leadership

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Beverley Robinson

    Managing Partner at Robinson Henry
    Global Executive Coach and Communications Consultant

    Beverley, after more than 20 years’ experience working in international corporate communications in the ICT industry, a few years ago you made a big change in your career: you founded your own company and you became an executive coach and communication consultant.
    How did this professional transformation process take place? What inspired you to make this change?

    I thoroughly enjoyed my career in corporate communications and over the years I became known as someone who was interested in people and their development.
    My career culminated in heading-up a global multicultural PR team and it was at this point that I realised that I was getting most of my energy and motivation from my team. There were some situations that helped me understand how my interest towards people was growing, for example I noticed that people were coming to me to ask me to be their mentor. Or I found myself working till late on my reports because I had spent the time in the day listening to people and offering support. And, while many of my leadership team colleagues were not enthusiastic when the appraisal time was due, on the contrary I liked to have these feedback sessions with people.
    Supporting the development of others had become a true passion and feedback suggested that I had a natural talent for working in this area. In fact, my bosses wrote about my good interpersonal skills in my appraisals, highlighting that I was someone who was approachable and caring.
    So, in a nutshell, I decided that I wanted to spend as much time as possible doing what I loved best – helping people to fulfill their potential.
    And, as they say, the rest is history. It is now 7 years since I left the corporate world and set up RobinsonHenry.


    Have you also gone for further education/training to develop this natural talent?

    In order to develop my strengths I took an18 month training in global executive coaching and also studied to become a Master NLP practitioner. I gained extra skills in the ability of listening and questioning, I improved my capability for being present, developed more self-awareness and I acquired new tools and techniques to improve my communication skills.
    I now work with clients in the corporate world and beyond, specialising in career coaching, personal communications coaching, in particular public speaking, and confidence building.

    Along with, or previous to, your professional orientation move, what changed in “you” as a person, at an inner level? In your life vision and values?

    I have been interested in self-development throughout my professional life and more often than not there would be a self-help book on my bedside table. Still, I did not anticipate how much this learning would accelerate once I began my training to be a coach.
    I quickly understood that you have to “start at home’” if you want to become a good coach. Coaching is about so much more than methodologies and tools. On-going personal development really is the most important thing and this is now the core to my being.
    At the heart of my change, has been developing the ability be truly present in the moment, to be more mindful and, in simple terms, to slow down!
    This has led to listening with respect to others and letting go of the need to always be right.
    I have also become more aware of my body and have started to pay attention to what my heart and gut tell me as well as my head!

    Which lessons have you learned through, and thanks to, this transformation process?

    When I reflect on my corporate days I realise what an asset my coaching skills would have been to me in developing my team and also when dealing with other stakeholder groups in my day-to-day work.
    When I was approached by a team member of colleague with a problem, I would try to solve it myself without asking for their ideas on how they could go about fixing the problem. At the time I thought that being in a leadership role meant that I was supposed to have all the answers.
    I also realise, that in my rush to find a solution I would not always listen attentively to what was being said or take sufficient time to consider my response.
    In summary, a key learning for me has been to recognise the benefits of applying coaching skills in a business environment.

    What advice would you have for women in management and leadership roles today?

    Put simply – I would recommend acquiring some basic coaching skills to include in your toolkit!

    Incorporating a coaching style is a powerful way to develop your team and ultimately to improve performance. The use of a coaching style has also been shown to have a positive impact on your company culture. This means that people feel more listened to, respected, empowered, valued, more confident and free to come up with new ideas. Moreover, it is important to learn how to coach oneself (and one’s team) and not become dependent on outside coaching.

    I am not suggesting that all managers undertake a professional coach training programme, learning to ask a few good coaching questions and listening carefully to the responses, is enough to make a real difference.
    The biggest challenge faced by most managers and leaders, is resisting the urge to want to tell someone how to solve their problem rather than asking questions to help the person find the answer for herself or himself.

    What type of questions are good coaching questions?
    Open questions – where a yes or no answer is not an option - what, how and who questions are best. They help you to understand the problem and explore options for a solution. For example: ‘How else could you do this?’ ‘What do you think are the reasons for this?’ ‘Who has the necessary know-how to fix the problem?’
    And if you are stuck for a good question then one of the most powerful questions to ask is: “What would be the most useful question for me to ask you now?”
    And if someone says that “I don’t know’” in response to a question then try this immediate reply: “If you did know the answer to the question what would it be?”
    Coaching questions empower and develop people while at the same time building confidence. As a tip it is advisable to use “Why” questions sparingly as they can make people defensive. It is much better to ask what are the reasons behind something not happening rather than why didn't you do this?
    All these examples need to be chosen according to the type of rapport between the coach and the coachee. Coaching is more an art than a science: tools & techniques need to be used with intuition, not only in a “left-brain” mode.

    You mentioned that attentive listening is a key learning for you – what more could you say about that?

    The most important aspect for me in becoming a more active listener was developing the ability to listen without thinking about what I was going to say next. It is just not possible to give someone your full attention if you are thinking about what you want to say next.
    One of my clients, who works as a senior manager in a pharmaceutical company, recently told me that improving her listening skills was the single most important behavioural change she has ever made.

    I would encourage everyone to stop and think about how attentive they are when listening to others.

    Once you have acquired some basic coaching skills when would you use them?

    It may be a surprise when I say that a coaching style is not restricted to sitting down in a room for a coaching session!

    The skills may be used ‘in the moment’ in a wealth of different business situations. For example, with team members in performance review sessions where questions such as ‘What have been your successes since we last met?, What have you learned? And what are your biggest challenges in the coming months?’ are useful.
    Or perhaps by the water cooler when someone is complaining that they are unable to finish a project on time. It could be as simple as asking ‘Who else could you involve?’

    There is an opportunity to apply coaching skills in most meetings, ranging from requests for ‘5 minutes of your time’, team and customer meetings, through to a large annual leadership conference. Coaching questions are particularly helpful in opening up a discussion in a meeting and coming up with new ideas and approaches. For example: ‘What other options do we have?’ ‘How could we do things differently?’ or ‘How could we collaborate?’

    So often large management meetings end up being a stream of presentations – how much better to break into groups led by someone with coaching skills to come up with some new ways of working?

    Are there any exceptions, any times when a manager’s or leader’s coaching skills are not appropriate?

    The most obvious is in a crisis situation, when there is not time to explore with others and a more directional approach is required.
    There may also be occasions when you are not getting results and a person is stuck, or is not open to being coached by you. This is the time to bring in a professional coach. The professional coach will have more experience to draw on and, more tools and techniques at their disposal.

    As we’ve already said developing coaching skills in management is not about being a professional coach. It is useful for everyone to be able to cook but everyone does not need to be a gourmet chef!

    Any final thoughts?

    Although we’ve talked mainly about using coaching skills in relation to colleagues, they are equally as valuable when dealing with customers, members, partners and other stakeholders. Understanding stakeholder needs is fundamental to any organisation and good coaching questions and attentive listening skills enhance your ability to do that.
    As with all coaching it is important to capture the learning that is generated so that it can be invested in the business or organisation as it develops.

    So how do you develop your coaching skills? As a starting point I suggest you ask yourself the following questions to monitor style or even better ask for feedback from colleagues.

    Do you ask open or closed questions? How often do you use coaching questions to explore and discover options in solving problems? How well do you listen to others? How often are you distracted and thinking about the next thing you are going to say?

    To develop your coaching skills I would recommend a professional training course led by experienced coaches. I would be delighted to assist you in finding the course most suited to your needs and I invite you to contact me for an exploratory conversation.

    I hope my story has inspired you to focus on your coaching skills. The sooner you do so the sooner you will start to unleash the full potential of your colleagues and thereby your organisation.

    Short Biography

    Beverley Robinson 
    Managing Partner at Robinson Henry
    Before setting up RobinsonHenry, Beverley spent more than 20 years working as a senior manager for a leading player in the global ICT industry. She has broad international corporate communications experience across all constituencies, including media, investment analysts, government (local and national), opinion formers, customers, shareholders and employees.
    In recent years, she has also developed a professional interest in leadership and executive development, and has complemented her communications skills with comprehensive training and experience in global executive coaching.
    Beverley has worked extensively in the Asia Pacific region, the US and Europe and has an impressive track record in leading international teams. She has particular strengths in career coaching, global leadership development and cross-cultural coaching.
    Her personal qualities include strong interpersonal skills, cross-cultural awareness and a commitment to mentoring and helping individuals at all stages of their careers.
    Beverley is a qualified business coach and a member of the International Coach Federation. She is also a Master Practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

    Contact Details

    Managing Partner
    Robinson Henry

    Mobile: +32 (0)495 582 762
    Office: +32 (0)2 763 25 63


  • 28 Jul 2013 12:42 | Armelle Loghmanian

    Leadership in space

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Simonetta Di Pippo

    Head, European Space Policy Observatory, Italian Space Agency (ASI) Brussels

    President and Co-Founder of Women in Aerospace Europe

    Chair, International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Study Group “Public/Private Human Access to Space”

    Simonetta, I was fascinated when I learned that the asteroid number 21887 was named ‘’Dipippo’’ by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) as an acknowledgement of your commitment to space exploration!
    Please tell us about this incredible achievement and about your passion for space and astrophysics; how did it start?

    Asteroid 21887 “Dipippo” is a main-belt minor planet, which means it is in orbit around the Sun in a region between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It was discovered on October 20th, 1999 by the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.  It revolves around the Sun every 5.14 years, meaning it completes an orbit every 1876.9 days. IAU decided to give my name to the asteroid 21887 in 2008, the same year in which I took up duty as Director of Human Spaceflight at the European Space Agency, making me their first woman Director ever.
    You are right it is fascinating to know that “I am” right now in the Solar System orbiting around the Sun! I feel more a part of it, that’s for sure! If you want to know more, please visit: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=21887;orb=0;cov=0;log=0;cad=0#discovery

    I’ve always been fascinated by scientific discoveries, but I cannot recall a specific moment when my passion for space originated. I can tell you however that the landing of the first two men on the Moon had an impact for sure; I was10 years old, so I was impressed by the abilities of humankind.  From that moment onwards I’ve been working with the aim of keeping that passion alive, and I must say, until now, I have succeeded.

    What are your major responsibilities in your current occupation? Your work is in a very innovative sector, so could you please tell us what are the most important challenges for aerospace these days?

    With my arrival in Brussels about one year ago, the Italian Space Agency established itself for the first time in town. It is a clear recognition of the importance ASI is attaching to the European Institutions located here but also elsewhere. One of the main responsibilities
    I have is to reinforce the relationships between the Italian space community and ASI with other countries, which are active in space, like Belgium, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, and the Countries in Northern Europe.

    I’m also very active in finding potential links and interests for cooperation with other international entities through the network which I have been developing in Brussels. With the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 allocations and the Horizon 2020 program about to start, space activities will get a boost.
    In fact, this is the first time in history the EC will get dedicated budgets not only for the Galileo and Copernicus projects, but also for space technologies. It’s a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty (“Taking Europe in the 21st century”, 1st December 2009) in a way and the positive effects are that the overall European budget will increase, the EC budget will be added to the ESA budget, and the national agencies budgets will be more available also for domestic programs.
    Talking about challenges, I see several of them:
    1. The need to reinforce the industrial sector in Europe, to allow our industries to compete in a global market (and I feel that the EC Communication about the Industrial space policy issued last February will help a lot in keeping our policy on the right track)
    2. The need to increase harmonization of defense and civilian programs, without impacting on the latter
    3. The need to develop sustainable technologies for the future exploration of space, mainly in reinforcing the independent access to space for European countries
    4. The need to educate our future space pioneers in order to merge technical and management skills for the benefit of space activities in general, but also to promote an increase in the number of successful start-ups and SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) which are the backbone of the applications and services in the space industry.


    Simonetta Di Pippo and the Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli

    What about security and safety in space?

    The future of space activities depends on people realizing the importance of space exploration for a sustainable future for humankind.
    The awareness of the general public and the politicians must be encouraged. This would not only be helpful in fields like protection from asteroids, human spaceflight safety, removing space debris from orbit, but also make people aware of how many satellites we use in everyday life and how our health is improving due to it.

    Simonetta, just out of curiosity: has the aerospace industry led to any discoveries in medicine and medical treatment?

    Indeed, it has. Let me give you some important examples. Thanks to repeated experiments on board the International Space Station, it has been demonstrated that in microgravity conditions the virulence of the foodborne pathogen salmonella increases. In particular, it has been verified that 167 genes and 73 proteins including the virulence-associated ones, have been altered in the salmonella circular chromosome during growth in microgravity conditions. Therefore, recently, an experiment was conducted and a genetically modified Salmonella-based anti-pneumococcal vaccine flew in space.
    In fact, by understanding the effect of microgravity culture on the gene expression and immunogenicity of the vaccine strain, the goal is to genetically modify the strain back on Earth to enhance its ability to confer a protective immune response against pneumococcal pneumonia. Applying the same approach to various diseases and relevant pathogens, space and microgravity conditions can become the place in which it is possible to understand how to develop new vaccines for most of the virulent diseases on Earth, saving an incredibly high number of human beings from death and dramatically reducing the economic loss associated with these kinds of diseases.

    Let me describe another example. Thanks to the technological solutions which had to be found for astronauts in space, it is now possible for anybody to measure the pressure of their eye or the body’s temperature via their ears here on Earth.  Only a few examples, but it gives you the feeling of how important the experiments we are doing in space are.

    All in all, it’s more about how non-space companies are able to use the microgravity conditions developed by aerospace companies to create a magnificent laboratory in space.

    You are the co-founder of “Women in Aerospace (WIA) Europe”; an organisation dedicated to expanding women's opportunities for leadership and increasing their visibility in the aerospace community.
    How were you inspired to found it? What are the main activities and targets?

    I co-founded Women in Aerospace-Europe, WIA-E, in June 2009 with Claudia Kessler, CEO of HE Space and Chair of the WIA-E Board. I have the honor of being President and leading the association since its inception. We currently have more than 250 individual members, 10 corporate members, three strategic agreements signed with strategic partners (COSPAR, ISU and SGAC, the Space Generation Advisory Council) plus a collaboration agreement with WIA in US.

    Our members have the advantage of being part of our ever-growing network, benefiting from our programs and special member offers, as well as connecting with like-minded professionals through our local communities. Our final goal is to develop a society in which diversity will not be noticed anymore and to advocate the importance of space activities for our society at the same time. Rich with opportunity, our various activities offer something for everyone. We offer mentoring programs, awards, grants, training workshops, networking local groups and much more. In addition to this, both our regional and central events regularly feature speakers and panel discussions on a wide range of topics of interest to our community, and we keep members updated with valuable information such as scholarships and conferences.
    STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are key in shaping a sustainable future and with WIA Europe we are very keen to promote an increase of attention of the younger generation towards a future based on innovation and knowledge.

    Why was I inspired to found it? Well, when I moved from the Italian Space Agency to take up the position of Director of Human Spaceflight at ESA, I felt I had done a lot in my professional career, but always on my own. I had no mentors, no role models to follow. I had to fight to show my abilities and I discovered by myself that sometimes it’s very difficult to be listened to and understood because the system is still male-dominated. It is simply that men and women have a different leadership style and approach and it can happen that men simply do not understand us.

    I like Lynn Cline's statement on the WIA website:
    "WIA was intended initially to provide a forum for networking. WIA was open to men as well as women, recognizing that given the demographics in the aerospace field:
    (1)There was no point in women exclusively networking among themselves,
    (2) Many of us have benefited from male mentors or advocates who have assisted our career development, and
    (3) Discrimination is illegal for such a non-profit group.
    So the thought was that men could be equally devoted to the advancement of women in aerospace and the organization should welcome both genders in that cause".
    How do you find this in practice, do men authentically support women’s advancement? Do you have a positive example to share with our readership? Will you share with us an example of a lack of support or of discrimination?

    I fully support Lynn’s statement, except on one point: I often hear that women need male mentors and advocates to develop their career but I completely disagree.
    I do believe men and women are different in their approach to being leaders, managing teams and safeguarding the company for which they work. Men and women complement each other in the working environment. A man can only mentor a woman in the way he knows, i.e., a man's way. For this reason, I am against it, at least if we use it as a rule.
    I believe we have no need for discrimination, neither negative nor positive; men and women with the same opportunities under the same conditions will naturally result in a balanced representation.

    Currently, however, there is the need to introduce quota (even though I've always been against it) because otherwise the process will take too long and we need to speed it up. When women are more present in selection committees, just to provide an example, we will assist in a natural increase in female representation in various institutions and companies in Europe, simply because we will not be biased anymore and only the best candidates will be hired and promoted, regardless of their gender.

    Which steps would you recommend and what advice would you give to young people attracted by the aerospace industry? What are the potential career areas in aerospace now and in the coming years?
    Are you involved in any initiatives to attract young girls to take up a career in aerospace?

    In the field of aerospace, our professional life is mixed with our personal one. After a while one starts to know people all over the world, to talk over the phone in the middle of the night (or at lunch time in order to have both Japanese and Americans available at the same time), to rush up and work overnight if a problem arises in orbit on the International Space Station, the international laboratory orbiting at 400 km above our heads with 6 astronauts permanently on board. This has been my “normal” life for decades, and especially in my capacity as Director of Human Spaceflight at ESA.
    What should attract young people to space? Inspiration, passion, long-term vision, innovation….and more.

    Would you like to share with us a professional dream you have not yet realised?

    In my professional field, I am used to thinking about long term projects. I know that an idea for a space mission brought up now could possibly become a reality after 20 or even 30 years, and sometimes even more.
    So, no unfulfilled dreams. But there is a mission I would like to see happen, a mission to explore the ocean under the layer of ice on Europa, one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. Finally, another ocean discovered and explored after that time when Christopher Columbus sailed on the uncharted sea in 1492 to reach America. There is the potential we could find other forms of life, close to our own or not. Either way, it would be great.


    I strongly believe in the importance of networking. It provides the possibility to solve any issue at any time if you simply know who to ask and who is able to do what you need doing. Networking is therefore key in the space industry, but I would also say it's key in day-by-day life.
    In various fields there are structures and organisations that we can use to improve our knowledge.  The best and quickest way is to create a network of networks.  In the space industry we already do that.  We tend to have, in each country, the freedom to decide what we want to develop, how, and when. However at the same time we build up the underlying architecture for the future in which each country can find its proper place. I call it "Autonomy for cooperation."

    In trying to balance the female representation in the professional environment, with the aim of diversity not being recognized anymore in our society in general, and trying to advocate space exploration as a tool for the peaceful advancement of humankind at the same time, “Autonomy for cooperation” is imperative, and the build up of the network of networks mandatory. I have been working with this goal in mind for a long time now. I’m sure a recognition will come, soon.

    Short Biography

    Simonetta Di Pippo, was awarded her Master’s degree in Astrophysics and Space Physics from The Sapienza University of Rome in 1984 and joined the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in 1986. Her areas of expertise range from Earth Observation to Automation & Robotics and Science and Human Spaceflight.

    In 2002 she took up duty as Director for L’Osservazione dell’Universo (ASI’s space science and exploration department).
    Director of Human Spaceflight at the European Space Agency (ESA) from 2008 to 2011, she is currently the Head of the European Space Policy Observatory at ASI – Brussels. Starting from June 2009, she is President and co-founder of the international association Women in Aerospace Europe (WIA-E), based in the Netherlands and with the main goal of expanding women’s representation and leadership in the aerospace sector.

    Currently she is also the Chair of the Study “Public/Private Human access to space”, on behalf of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) dealing with the future of commercial passenger space travel.
    In recognition of her accomplishments in space exploration she was knighted by the President of the Italian Republic in 2006 and in 2008 the International Astronomical Union named the asteroid 21887 “Dipippo” after her.

    She is the author of more than 60 publications, more than 700 articles and has been interviewed by various magazines and newspapers. Member and President of scientific committees of international congresses. Member and President of the scientific awards’ jury. She has been lecturing at various Universities, including the George Washington University in Washington D.C. and the LUISS Business School in Rome.
    She is the author of a blog - called Spazio Green - on LaStampa.it, devoted to providing information about the use of satellites and space activities to improve the quality of life on Earth. She is also a member of the editorial board of the New Space Journal.

    Since April 2013, she is a selected member of the ReadyForBoardWomen project devoted to select “ready to be appointed” women in Management Boards of Italian and International companies.

    In May 2013 she received an Honorary Degree in Environmental Studies from St. John International University. She is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on international cooperation in the aerospace sector.

    Contact Details

    Simonetta Di Pippo

    Head, European Space Policy Observatory, Italian Space Agency (ASI) Brussels
    President and Co-Founder of Women in Aerospace Europe
    Chair, International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Study Group “Public/Private Human Access to Space”

    email: simonetta.dipippo@gmail.com
    office Belgium +32 2 743 30 97
    twitter: @sdipippo
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/simonettadipippo

    twitter: @Wia_Europe



    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Brussels, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 06 Apr 2013 23:04 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “DARE !”

    Interview by Maria-Cristina Marolda (*)


    Dominique Savoie

    Sous-ministre of Transport Québec, Canada

    How did you start your career and how have you reached your present level?

    I started my career as a professional in a parapublic organization: it took a few years to reach the first management position and then I progressed within the organization that has undergone several changes till it was incorporated into a Ministry.

    What have been the events/persons that have been favourable to your career progress?

    I had the privilege to have bosses who acted as mentors. With their support I took advantage of great flexibility to face new challenges. They advised me for instance in difficult situations of management. I also believe that by accepting the new positions they offered to me, I was exposed to different environments and so I was allowed to consolidate my self-confidence.

    Based on your own experience and your knowledge is it difficult for women to break the “glass ceiling” in Canada? More difficult in business or in the civil service? What are the main barriers in your opinion?

    Based on my personal experience, I think it is rather easy to grow professionally in Canada, and in particular in the public service of Quebec. The positive discrimination (promote target groups as well as women when skills are equal) were a facilitating factor. In addition, the measures aimed at facilitating work-family balance - which were offered to female employees much more in the public than in in the private sector - have certainly helped me.
    I do not think that the work-family balance is an obstacle to a woman's career, but one should not hesitate to inform her employer of the limitations she does not want to exceed. I always did before accepting a position, and I was able to remind my superior of the original agreement when I had to. But at the same time I always demonstrated flexibility when needed.
    The main remaining barriers are often the lack of networking among women who do not value this type of activities to develop their contacts.
    I also remark that women are more reluctant than men to push themselves forward, to apply for higher positions and therefore refrain from putting themselves on view.

    Are there many women leading the transport industry in Canada?
    Do you know successful cases of women in top positions in the transportation sector or in other industries?

    I have the privilege of having deputy colleagues in other Provinces, such as Ontario and Ottawa at the Federal level.

    The Ministry of Transport Québec supports an Action Plan on gender equality. What has been the impact of this plan on the quality of services offered to the population?

    An adequate representation of the population in the public service is a guarantee that services are tailored to the different needs of citizens.

    What are the main advantages which women have, which allow them to progress in their career? And which are the behaviours/qualities/attitudes that still hinder women’s careers?

    Women have the ability to adapt easily to different working contexts. They like to get a deeper knowledge of “dossiers”, issues.
    They need to gain more self-confidence.

    What would you recommend to a woman who wants to start her career in the transportation industry?

    To trust her capacities; not to be afraid to take chances; to vary work experiences.

    Do you have any "special" message for young women starting their career in the transportation sector?

    A: Dare!

    Short Biography

    Manager for over 20 years in the Quebec public service, Ms Savoie has a strong background in managing operations of network services for the population, in Departments with socio-economic drive.
    She holds a Master degree in Psychology from the University of Montreal and a BA in Psychology from the University of Quebec in Montreal.
    Since 15 August 2011, Ms Savoie is the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Transport of Quebec. In this capacity, Ms Savoie is responsible for the Ministry's operations, budget and programme development. She is in charge of implementing policy orientations in the field of transport following the Ministry's assignment, i.e. "to ensure in the whole territory a sustainable mobility of people and goods through efficient and safe transport systems that contribute to the development of Quebec".

    Contacts :
    Ms. Dominique Savoie
    Sous-ministre of Transport Québec, Canada

    Disclaimer -      
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ministère des Transports Québec (Canada), nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

    (*) Interviewer:
    Maria Cristina Marolda
    Maria Cristina MAROLDA is at present active as Policy Officer in charge of Research and Innovative Transport Systems in the EC Directorate General for Mobility and Transport.
    She graduated in Technology of Architecture at the University of Rome, where she started her professional career. In 1991 she joined the Directorate General for Research at the European Commission.
    She has always been engaged in Gender Equality issues, representing DG RTD services in the "Women & Science" working group, and continued this activity in the policy making environment of the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport.
    She has been appointed as International Member to the TRB Committee on Women's Issues in Transportation for the period 2010-2013.

    Arch. Maria Cristina Marolda - Policy Officer at European Commission DG MOVE Unit C2
    Rue de la Loi 200 - B-1049 Brussels/Belgium
    tel: +32 2 295 83 91
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