Women & Career

  • 16 Jan 2013 11:49 | Armelle Loghmanian

     The serendipity of transferable skills 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

     Annemieke Dubois  

    Owner and Managing Director at Berkeley International Belgium

       Geneviève Heintz 

    Owner and Managing Director at Berkeley International Belgium

    I was reading on the web one of those articles, very popular nowadays, about work-life balance and I was remarking how much emphasis is given to the conflict between career and family compared to the conflict between career and having no time for a private life, when I bumped into an article advertising Berkeley International opening in Belgium. What a coincidence, I said to myself, let me explore it! 
    Annemieke and Geneviève, how important is - in your opinion - a happy and serene private life to supporting a very demanding career?

    It is absolutely true that companies very often put the emphasis on supporting the balance between careers and families, more than on single employees’ work-life balance. 
    Having said this, it’s clear that people don’t need to have a family first before starting to think about having a right work-life balance. Having time to relax, to get in contact with like-minded people and to take care of body and mind (culturally and physically) is of utmost importance. Being happy enhances creativity, enhances performance and stimulates a positive mindset. Having a busy life, without taking the time to think over how to get it balanced – brings an unbalance at some point in time – implying a not 100% satisfied life. 

    As we are talking about this subject, let us make a couple of points about the status of life-family balance: society is becoming more aware of the importance of a work-life balance, for instance, parental leave or temporary career interruptions, which are even promoted on the radio nowadays. These are initiatives coming from governmental organisations. 

    Companies are trying to adapt to these needs, there are cases of child care organised and provided by the company, flexible working hours, work at home policies; However they don’t always like to include the flexible working hours and work at home policies – since they still like to keep control and believe that a manager needs to be close to their team and vice-versa. The fear still exists at employee level, that career opportunities might be limited in case they make use of the possibilities above. Nevertheless improvement is ongoing.

    Considering that working people have limited time for their private life, based on your knowledge does it take a considerable amount of time nowadays to find a life partner, to create a couple/ family?

    It doesn’t take a considerable amount of time; it does however require a considerable amount of opportunities

    Everything depends on the age, the past experiences, the time you have for spending in “personal interactions”. It’s clear that for a student it’s much easier to find a partner, since they have the time to have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Once you are working and professionally busy, time is often the limiting factor in addition to expectations that might increase because of unsatisfactory past experiences. 

    You also have to consider that even if you meet a lot of people, this is not a guarantee of “chemistry”: the concept is that it is more probable that you find the chemistry factor in people with whom you share common interests, values and life styles.

    Although surrounded by social media and various meeting opportunities, although free from old cultural barriers, why do people struggle to find the right partner in their private life? What is different from the past??

    Society became over time more and more demanding. It goes quickly, emails are often handled the same day and answers are expected the same day. Yes, society is demanding: there is a kind of natural pressure to be present on all types of social media: LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter/... all this requires a tremendous amount of time and effort… time you could otherwise spend in having a drink with your friends and having “real contacts, meaning face-to-face contacts”. 

    Alessandra, chemistry can only be felt in a face-to-face contact, which includes “what" you say (content), “how” you say it and your “body language”; and specifically: 
    • The “content” counts for 7% 
    • The “way you say things” for the 38% 
    • The body language for the 55% 

    The virtual contact allows you to get in touch with a lot of people, true, but it becomes extremely complicated to know who the “like-minded” people” are, because virtual interactions are about “what you say” only: this means virtual contacts represent only 7% of the full message. There is a huge difference between virtual and face-to-face contacts, don’t you think? 

    Additionally having too many superficial or virtual contacts means that you know very many people but not very well. Then you wake up one day and realise that despite knowing a lot of people, having a very broad and large network, you have still never found your unique “soul mate”.

    ”Like-minded people”? It reminds me the Goethe’s novel “Elective Affinities” … Why in such an “open” society is it so difficult to get in contact with “like-minded” people?

    Like-minded people are the ones that welcome the same way of viewing things: they share the same basics, the same vision of life and the future and they have “enough” to share, they subscribe to the same education orientation in case of children. These factors are fundamental for a couple relationship, the two individuals need to be on the same level, on the same page. 

    One major barrier to finding like-minded people, is that often people think they know themselves well and they think they know what they like, which is not always the case …Our customers have at least one year of time to question themselves and to ensure they realise what they really appreciate and long for.

    Isn’t belonging to the same social level a positive factor for a good match?

    It’s easier. Is it the only way possible? No, absolutely not, excellent relationships can exist between different social levels, but the probability is higher if people have a comparable life style. Belonging to different social levels requires partners to have an open mind and to feel complementary.

    Is the professional network not good for potential private encounters?

    It is very difficult and risky to mix both the private and the professional spheres, but it happens. Professionally wise people don’t want to risk being vulnerable – opening your heart can make you vulnerable –. Above all if you are professionally successful and something goes wrong in your personal relationship with somebody in your professional circle, this could harm you.

    Going back to social media: some people have long correspondences before meeting; don’t you think that writing/chatting is a good way to know each other?

    For sure, it’s a nice way to “break the ice”… this is often why and how dating sites are perceived: very easy and accessible to all. However, long correspondences can create huge expectations and disappointment once they meet. So a good start, but as stated the face to face contact is key.

    What are the main factors that encourage people to use (or discourage them from using) introduction services nowadays? Discouraging factors: why are some people skeptical or ashamed about introduction services?

    Some people get encouraged by the fact that introduction services help find the like-minded people and enlarge your horizons in a natural way. Instead of turning around in your own world of contacts, you will be introduced to interesting people, sharing the same values, background and life vision, but from new geographical or social places, for example a lawyer can be introduced to an artist; a Belgian to a French person … 
    On the other side, a discouraging factor is that some people still believe that encountering a partner has to come naturally, by chance. Another discouraging factor is that asking for professional support might be perceived or felt by some individuals as being “imperfect”, not social enough, not having an optimal social life. Should companies feel imperfect because they take advantage of head hunting and consulting services?

    Have you envisaged differences in their background and in their approach to introduction services between the ladies and gentlemen who are your customers?

    No, not significant differences in their background. Ladies and gentlemen all come to see us with very similar stories: they worked too hard, invested a lot of time in building a career and their professional network, often forgetting their private life… and realizing that suddenly they would like to have a family and a soul mate they could spend their life with. Some other customers – who have been married and for one or another reason are now get separated - suddenly realize that their social network reduced drastically over time … leaving them pretty lonely. 

    On the contrary we noticed a difference between ladies and gentlemen in the decision making process to resort to introduction services: ladies tend to have previously discussed or shared this idea with their friends, while gentlemen keep this intention to themselves. 

    There is, instead, a significant cultural difference in approaching introduction services amongst geographical areas, for example in the USA people consider an introduction service agency as simply as a personal trainer or a personal buyer, not like here in Europe, but the mentality is changing.

    Based on your experience and expertise which characteristics do professional/ business ladies look for in a potential life partner? And men, what do they look for?

    Ladies look for a “sparring partner” and a “soul mate”, someone intellectually challenging they can discuss with, they can share their point of view with without requesting they agree. The sparring partner represents the intellectual side; the soul mate personifies the heart component. 
    They want to share their happy moments: travelling, enjoying an evening at the restaurant, relaxing with a good glass of wine. What they are looking for is a man that has some interest in what they do, with whom they can communicate about different topics, with whom they can share their wealth… it’s no fun to have means when you can’t share. 

    Men and women have very similar demands: what are they looking for in a partner? Friendship, humour, communication, passion, sexual intimacy, affection, loyalty and respect, someone who supports them and is open-minded, and – last but not least - building a future together with plans/projects.

    In Berkeley International experience are the majority of your customers male or female? What are the target profiles of your customers?

    At the moment we have quite equal numbers of male and female applicants, but women often decide to apply earlier. We constantly monitor the balance of applicants to ensure a good mix. 
    Target profiles are broad: going from entrepreneurs, to lawyers and doctors, politicians, successful professionals. What they have in common is that they are financially independent, and leading a satisfactory life… just missing this one piece of their puzzle that could make their fulfillment complete.

    What is your company mission? Which are the values or other factors that make your services different from those of your competitors? How do you ensure that your company retains its impeccable reputation?

    Berkeley International stands for respect, discretion and openness. In our business we strive for high ethical values, with a professional empathic attitude. 
    Our mission is helping people to accomplish their highest level of happiness, supporting them in their search for a soul mate and life-long partner. This is what we aim for every day, we do this through our honest way of working: during the intake we investigate and don’t accept customers who are not in line with our values, we professionally follow-up, we reply quickly, we are there when our customers need us and we proactively manage each case individually, we make sure that each client feels at ease at all times. 
    We tell the potential customer whether we can help them or not, we do not sell illusions, we do not engage in unreasonable requests and we do not accept customers in troubled situations: reputation is all in our business sector.

    How do you ensure you accept as customers only people meeting your target profile characteristics? I guess this is a fundamental pillar for the prestige of your company.

    We initially run a 2 hour interview, not an informal chat, really diving in deep in a predefined format. Then we have follow-up interviews and coaching sessions during the whole process. 
    We seriously dig into a person’s motivation, background, passions and values… if we feel that their values are not in line with ours or that their motivation is looking for a wealthy man/woman to simplify their life or they are seeking only a short-term relationships… then we will not offer our services.

    I am intrigued, why did you choose to open an office in Brussels? How many people are working in the Brussels office? 
    Are you planning offices in all the European capitals?

    The opening of the Belgian office is a natural consequence of the fact that we have here a number of European institutions and corporations with people from different foreign countries (i.e. the European Parliament, the European Commission, NATO, lobby groups, multinational head-quarters etc.). 

    Previously the requests for introduction services from the customers in Belgium were forwarded to the Berkeley International office in London, but due to the increased demand we opened up the Brussels office, where we can also manage the customer expectation of a close presence by our staff, both morally and physically. Currently we - Annemieke & Geneviève - plus one admin support are working in the Brussels office. 
    The Belgian Office covers also the Netherlands and Luxemburg. Offices already exist in London (HQ), Monaco, Nice, Manchester, NY and Melbourne. The office in Paris opened one month ago. A new office will soon open in Italy (Milano) and further European cities are currently under consideration. 

    It is hard to believe, Alessandra, but apparently the economic crisis has increased the demand for match-making services: people feel more fragile in this insecure environment and they perceive more deeply the importance of feelings and love, and not only money.

    You both have a HR background, which skills and techniques could you transfer from recruiting interviews to introduction services interviews?

    Actually, we think that selecting and coaching people for a life-time partnership is a natural extension of the activity of recruiting and coaching employees in a company. In the company the task is to find the right match between employer and employee for working together, in this case the effort is to find a match for living together. 

    Many of the HR and head hunting skills are applicable to the introduction services sector. For example interviewing skills are critical to be sure that you can get to the heart of the matter… and to get a good understanding of the person sitting in front of you. This means starting with a motivational interview, capturing the real motivation of the customer, listening and watching the person provides so much valuable information. Also a psychology background, emotional intelligence, passion and matching skills are important to do this profession. Coaching skills are critical as well: supporting a person if she/he falls in love with a man/woman, but not vice-versa, demands a lot of empathy, listening and ability to encourage in order to help the person overcome their disappointment and try again. 

    On the other hand this work requires us to also be detached and not get emotionally involved in our cases, this guarantees we are objective and not conditioned in any step we take.

    I imagine you have received a lot of training in how to approach the business of introduction services. Which are the necessary prerequisites, skills and qualities to do your job? I guess your network plays an important role …

    For this job you need business skills: understanding how business works, marketing & sales and finance. Being also entrepreneurs it requires an additional skill set: just to make it happen, passion and drive, willingness to become the best and search for excellence. And of course the HR skills: interviewing, writing profiles and coaching. Next to that some practical skills are required such as handling CRM systems, tracking reports and complete administration activities. 

    Having an extended and high profile network is a key prerequisite, like in Head Hunting, of utmost importance… something that needs to be taken care of, a precious resource.

    What gave you the idea to start this business? Did you know each other before?

    We have known each other for approximately 10 years; we met for the first time in a client-provider situation: Geneviève as the client and Annemieke as the provider. We both moved afterwards to international careers and later, when we both returned to the Belgian market, we met again as colleagues in the headhunters business. 

    We read an article about Berkley International in “Sabato” the week-end magazine of the Belgian newspaper De Tijd/ L’Echo, where we learned that there was an increasing demand for an introduction service introduction by customers in Belgium to the Berkeley office in London (HQ). 

    We envisaged the business opportunity of launching ourselves in this similar business, counting on our transferrable skills. We knew that we share the same values, such as respect, honesty and openness and we both have the willingness to do something “good” for others.

    Helping people to find a job or help them to find a soul mate is extremely similar to each other! 
    Head hunting is about matching people and organizations, people and their teams;, people and their boss by taking into account their skills and values. While now the matching is about individuals taking into account their background/values and life vision. Pretty close to each other.

    Short Biographies

    Annemieke Dubois
    Worked for 15 years in Executive Search for especially Pharma, Medical Devices and Biotech companies. Main responsibilities were Business Unit Head – People Management - Human Resources on a national and international level.
    2012: Launch Berkeley International Belgium with Genevieve
    Married, 1 child (5 years old)

    Geneviève Heintz
    Obtained a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences (University of Ghent, a MBA (University of Antwerp + HEC Montréal) and a Master in HR (Vlerick Leuven/Ghent Management school)
    Worked for 15 years in a pharmaceutical company as Business Unit Head – People Management – Change Management and HR Management; and as freelancer in executive search and coaching.
    2012: Launch Berkeley International Belgium with Annemieke
    Married, 2 children (14 & 12 years old)

    Contact Details
     Annemieke Dubois 
    Owner and Managing Director at Berkeley International Belgium 

    Avenue Louise 367, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
    Tel: +32 (0)2 642 00 92
     Geneviève Heintz 
    Owner and Managing Director at Berkeley International Belgium

    Avenue Louise 367, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
    Tel: +32 (0)2 642 00 92

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berkeley International, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 05 Oct 2012 22:37 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “Helene Feuillat tells us a little about her life in Kolkata, India"

    Interview by Beverley Sinton

    Helene Feuillat, President, Kolkata International Women’s Club
    Managing Partner, Samskara TransMission
    Owner, Back 2 Business Coaching

    PWI – How long have you lived in India now? What are the lessons you have learned so far?  What is the biggest difference you and your family have found between living in Belgium and living in India?

    We moved to India just a little over a year now. The country is absolutely fascinating. I had travelled extensively in India as a tourist many years ago, but living here is completely different. We have learned many things, one of them is patience! The notion of time is completely different here… I needed to “deprogramme” myself from my way of functioning…no way I can go “quickly” and get this or that done. Everything takes a certain time (and always longer than you expect!) . Administration is also quite heavy and again, going through procedures requires a lot of patience; but on the other hand, people are relaxed and don’t understand why we should get upset! Also, living in Kolkata in particular, gives me a better understanding of happiness, joy, of basic needs and how privileged we are. Although many here hardly have a roof above their heads, smiles are on most faces. The people are very welcoming and joyful. 

    PWI - Do foreign residents experience the reality of India, or do they live a ‘protected life’ remote from the Indian community around them?
    Expats definitely live a different life, but it is one of the many realities of India. India is a country of contrasts where you face the poorest and the wealthiest at the same time. In Kolkata, there are no condominiums with only foreigners, so that facilitates the contact with the local population. At the KIWC, we also have a great mix of foreigners and local women. Bengalis are very open and I encountered no problem with meeting Indians. Many of my friends are from Kolkata. This is important to get a real feel of the city. They have so many stories to tell, it is absolutely fascinating. As everyone speaks English, there is no language barrier. Bengalis are also known to be fond of culture; the famous writer Tagore is from Kolkata, and there are plenty of cultural and social events in town.
    PWI – What sort of work and educational opportunities are there for women in India? Are there religious or cultural barriers blocking women’s progress in the workplace? Do you see a big difference between the way you are treated as a European woman working in India, and the way Indian women are treated?
    Although there are exceptions (the previous Indian President was a women, as well as the President of the Congress, and some business women as well), there is a huge gender gap. First regarding education, mainly in the rural areas. Poor girls often do not get access to education. They either have to work or take care of their home and smaller children while the parents go to work. There are so many people in this country that everyone has to fight for a seat at university, competition is just so tough and it is starting from the first year of school (5 years). Once graduated, getting a job is also very hard. Gender discrimination is a reality and with equal competences, girls will not get the same positions that are offered to boys . The lack of childcare also means that it is very difficult for mothers to continue to work, unless they can count on their family. Shared family homes are still the way most people live, but it is not always accepted that a woman continues to work after marriage. Many of my friends had arranged marriages and live with their in-laws (arranged marriage does not mean “forced” though! ). Most of them work and have children, but they are all highly educated and have been travelling abroad, so they tend to be more open. Personally, I haven’t felt a difference of treatment here because I was a woman, but an Irish friend of mine told me the other day that at the hospital (where she had to stay a couple of days), the doctors would refuse to speak to her and would only address her husband! You mention religion; Kolkata is quite tolerant compared to other regions in India, but I do think that there is religious discrimination as well. Furthermore, although the cast system has been abolished many years ago, it is still present and segregation is a reality.

    PWI – Helene, I know you have recently become the President of the Kolkata International Women’s Club. Can you tell us more about the club and its membership?  I believe one of the aims is to foster friendship and understanding between yourselves and the local community, could you please tell us more.
    The KIWC has two main missions: one is indeed to foster friendship and understanding between the foreigners and the local community, and also to help each-other when needed, knowing that Kolkata is not always an easy experience. We also support a number of local charities that help women and children. For some charities, we would provide milk, tea, sugar, for others, it would be the sponsorship of girls education. We also help a home for elderly women, many of them have been abandoned by their family and have nowhere to go. The projects are chosen yearly and we visit each project at least 2 times a year. It is necessary to check what has been achieved with the money we donated. Unfortunately there is a lot of corruption, even in the NGO business. So we do our best to support small organizations where we feel we really make a difference and where we can check what is done with our funding. If any PWI member is interested in contributing to our charities, please let me know! Providing lunch for school girls costs about 0,15 cents/person and sponsoring the complete education of a girl is about 400 euro/year. Any donation is welcome and will be spent wisely.

    PWI – Is there a large group of foreign women in Kolkata? From a personal, cultural and/or professional view point would you recommend a similar life experience to other women?
    Kolkata is not a very trendy expat location so the foreign community is definitely smaller than Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore. But the advantage of this is that everyone knows each other, there is a lot of solidarity. I met the most wonderful people here, and in such a short time, I can say I made true friends from many different countries. Moving abroad is a fantastic experience that I would strongly recommend to anyone! From a professional perspective, I am lucky to have a job that I can do anywhere. Besides, I kept my business in Belgium and I commute every 3 months. In this respect, I feel privileged. I did meet women who had to put their career on hold and that can lead to frustrations. I also met women who found a job here quite easily…Everything is possible, it really depends on what you want!

    PWI -   
    I understand you are continuing to coach people in Brussels, via Skype and occasional visits to Brussels. Have you found this ‘long distance coaching’ easy to adapt to?  
    Coaching via skype is actually very easy, but it takes a good internet connection from both sides. That’s the most tricky thing. As I am coming to Belgium regularly, I see my clients so we do have face to face sessions as well. In countries like the US and Australia, skype or phone coaching is really considered as normal. I have followed an 18 months training course where the sessions were held either via skype or with a conference call system and it worked very well. I also come to Belgium for training sessions, it is a perfect way to remain in the business and also to get to see my friends and family, and enjoy everything Brussels has to offer!

    PWI -  
    How is coaching different in India from here? Do you need different approaches? In India are you mainly coaching ex-pats or do you also coach Indian people?    

    Coaching in India is actually mainly coaching students to get into universities. Life coaching would more be considered as counseling. Life coaching is not so much present here in Kolkata but it is developing in cities like Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore. I have a few coaching clients, mainly expats, a few locals. I give training sessions to expats and also to teachers and students. I love giving training here, people are very eager to learn and very open to personal development. This might be a cultural difference: yoga, meditation, questioning yourself etc. is something that is starting early. My children have yoga classes included in their school curriculum and they had an introduction to meditation. Having a spiritual master is also something very common here, that makes personal development fascinating. And no one is shy to admit it!

    PWI – How have your husband and your children coped with life in India? What is the most surprising thing(s) you and your family have found out about living and working in India?
    We have adapted very well, I am so proud of my children! They did not speak a word of English and have picked up the language very quickly. Here in Calcutta, there is no real international school and there aren’t many expat kids their age (11 & 14). They made a lot a Indian friends and speak some Hindi, share meals with their friends (this does frightens me a bit though!). They had to get used to the climate and be careful about hygiene. They were quite shocked by the pollution and the lack of environmental awareness; on the other hand, they realize how privileged they are. The contrasts of India have enriched us all so much, I think it is an experience we will never forget. I honestly think that if you can adapt here, you can live anywhere! Being away has also tightened the family strings, we spend much more time together and that is really wonderful.

    Short Biography

    See my LinkedIn profile: in.linkedin.com/in/back2businesscoaching

    Hélène Feuillat
    Phone India: +91-967 447 8623
    Phone Belgium: +32-475 93 25 32

    Disclaimer -  
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Samskara, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 05 Jul 2012 01:24 | Armelle Loghmanian

     The Female Board Pool branches out to Belgium
    Armelle Loghmanian and Claudia Ritter

    Armelle Loghmanian: Claudia, PWI partners with your company, Cleverland, to launch the “Female Board Pool” in Belgium. It is an exciting venture. Basically the initiative is to build a searchable database with profiles of board-ready and board experienced women. We want to counter the often heard argument in male-dominated business environments that they do not find qualified women to fill the board seats that are available to them. PWI’s members and magazine readers already heard about the initiative through us; but what is the story behind it? How did it all start for you?

     Claudia Ritter
    Managing Director of Cleverland'
    Director of Female Board Pool Belgium

    Claudia Ritter: First of all, yes, it is an exciting and a timely initiative. We are building a database at a moment when many European countries are introducing, or have recently introduced, legislation promoting access of women to boardrooms. No wonder that the European Commission strongly supports the idea, and is even considering legislating to increase the representation of women on corporate boards. In Belgium, new legislation requires companies to have 30% of women on their board seats by 2018. Currently, we are at barely 13%. But to fill board seats by 2018 and reach the target, we need a pool and a pipeline of female executive talent. That’s where our initiative bridges the gap!

    As to how it all started for me: the Female Board Pool was originally set up by Europe’s top-listed University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Their Centre for Corporate Governance is dedicated to diversity leadership, focusing a significant part of their education and research on gender equality. But they are also extremely successful with the hands-on consultancy work they do for Swiss companies in the public and private sector, advising them on how to best compose boards with a diversified membership: different ages, genders, different professional backgrounds too. As research shows: diversified boards are more effective. They serve a company better because there is no “group think”, which often leads to bad decision-making.

    St. Gallen University created a database, the “Female Board Pool” as they termed it, with profiles of women eligible for boards five years ago. The feedback they received was so positive that they decided to branch out to other countries. They wanted to trigger a Pan-European movement. The Female Board Pool Luxembourg was launched on 8 March 2011, the International Women’s Day, by a dear colleague of mine: Rita Knott, Director of “La Maison du Coaching, Mentoring et Consulting”. That is where I first met Professor Hilb from St. Gallen University, who had imagined it all. He asked me whether my company, being specialized in diversity leadership solutions, would like to bring the Board pool to Belgium. Professor Hilb is a fascinating man, vibrant, energetic, and highly innovative. He had been an entrepreneur for forty years before entering the academia. Not to be a right honourable lecturer, but rather to customize curricula to the needs of the real world, and vice versa: to give the real world academic structure. I liked his approach, I loved his genuine commitment to equality. So I said “yes” to his proposal. Prof. Hilb will be the keynote speaker at our conference in September, by the way.

    Armelle: You were mentioning a Pan-European movement just now…

    Claudia: Yes, indeed. Following the launch of the Female Board Pool in Belgium, it will spread to other European countries in 2013 and 2014: to France, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and even Russia. All “champions”, as we call them, of the Board Pool for these countries will attend our conference in September too. We already represent an international network, albeit still small, but growing steadily…

    Armelle Loghmanian
    Managing Director Diphonet
    President PWI
    Armelle: For PWI, it seemed to be a natural and timely decision to bring our experience and expertise to the Board Pool. In June 2011, the new board and executive team had decided to launch several programmes over the next two years designed to better serve our members in their career. The first one, “Mentoring”, began in October 2011. The second programme planned was “Women on Board” (WOB) alongside with the young generation. At the same time, however, I was gathering best practices from within our own EPWN network. I wanted to check for myself how to get the ball rolling and set up a top notch programme for our members. I felt inspired by a great initiative started in 2008 by our sister network in Milan, PWA: the “Ready-for-board women” project led by Monica Pesce. It is an absolute success story as they are now bringing  women to top companies' board in Italy. 

    And then you came along with your Female Board Pool proposal, and you convinced me right away. Mind you, people may wonder: another "Women on Board" initiative? Could you nail down the difference with similar already existing  initiatives here in Belgium?

    Claudia: There are two complementary initiatives in Belgium I know of. First, “Women on Board”, you just mentioned them and, second, the “European Business Schools/Women on Board initiative”, of which St. Gallen University’s Female Board Pool is a partner. There are three main differences:
    • First, we operate with a searchable database, we can retrieve profiles by entering a simple set of keywords. By the way, the back end of the database is managed by St. Gallen University, meaning that we use one common template. This allows for easy exchanges between different countries, whilst at the same time respecting varying legislation relating to confidentiality. It is probably useful for me to mention that we restrict the use of women’s profiles to the purpose of the Board Pool, and transmit CVs to companies interested in their qualifications only with their prior consent. And there’s another thing: the Female Board Pool Database does not serve a commercial purpose.
    • Second, we target a truly international audience: women from different nationalities living in Belgium. 
    • And, third, we work with women from all educational and professional backgrounds. We do target female university or technical college professors, as they can provide specific expertise in a broad range of sectors. A biotech SME may seek a woman researcher in biotechnology for their board rather than one with a background in business administration… But we do not focus exclusively on women with an academic background either. Many women in senior management positions in SMEs and family-owned businesses did not go to university, but they have a wealth of experience to share. In short: we want to be diverse and inclusive. Mind you, we are nevertheless going for top quality with regard to both contents and professional ethics. A selection committee will ensure that according to a transparent set of criteria. Inclusion does not mean dilution…

    Armelle: Fully agree!  And you've perfectly outline the purpose of our joint initiative in your manifesto entitled “Seven reasons to support the Female Board Pool”. The aim of being “inclusive”, as you said, appealed to me right away. Sometimes company governance  focuses too much on financial aspects. Board members do not under all circumstances need to be financial experts or have earned a Masters degree in Business Administration to be able to provide valuable experience and insights. They need to be familiar with finances, of course, but their specific expertise can reside elsewhere. A company’s value does not only show in its numbers, but also in its behaviour: Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainability, technology choices, people management… are keys for success too. All boards should reflect this diversity of responsibilities. Research proves that if women were to participate more in corporate governance, we would see measurable benefits for the economy, for innovation, and for society as a whole.

    Another point that resonates for me is the fact that the initiative is not restricted to women’s access to board seats of listed companies but also, for example, of SMEs. I am a strong believer in the need for smaller companies, including family-owned businesses, to have a board, and of course a well-balanced one. So do NGOs and associations, or public bodies such as state-owned hospitals.
    Claudia, you champion the Female Board Pool Belgium with selected partners, and you have created a Strategic Committee. Who are they?

    Claudia: My company partners with St. Gallen University/Centre for Corporate Governance, with PWI, and with the Astia Foundation, an American Organisation operating worldwide to promote women-led highly innovative and high-growth start-ups. They are in process of strengthening their European branch, that’s the reason why they sought collaboration with us.

    And then, there is the Strategic Committee which reflects the cultural diversity of this country, and in particular of Brussels. We are ten senior executive women representing seven different nationalities, or cultures, operating across Europe, in the United States, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Paula Baptista is Portuguese, and a business consultant in sales and marketing, as well as in the retail industry. Maria Fogelstrom is Swedish, and has twenty years of experience in public affairs, lobbying and strategic communications. Marie-Laure Delanghe and yourself are both French: she is a seasoned PR and media relations professional; you have a profile in engineering, technology, strategic marketing and management  and work between three continents. Françine Messinne is a Belgian francophone lawyer operating internationally too. Monique Coppieters is a Flemish entrepreneur directing an SME in Wallonia, who is highly successful in Asia. Anne Randerson, an American, and myself, of German and Dutch nationality, specialize in diversity leadership and cross-cultural business communications. Brooke Peterson, an American as well, offers marketing solutions to SMEs expanding internationally. Her company is headquartered in Brussels, but has an office in Boston as well. And then there’s Sharon Vosnek and Ida Beerhalter from the Astia Foundation. Sharon, a US American, is Astia’s CEO. Ida, a German, is member of their Board of Trustees. Both have significant expertise in finances and business administration with listed companies as well as with SMEs or family-owned businesses.

    Together we, the ten women on the Strategic Committee, combine knowledge and experience in both the public and the private sector in finances, legal affairs, engineering, cross-cultural business communications, global leadership, press and media relations, and new technologies. And what’s more: we share similar values too. This is crucial given the fact that we operate for the Female Board Pool as volunteers. As I indicated earlier on, this is a non-commercial initiative.

    Armelle: What I find interesting too, is that the launch conference is not a one-shot. We do not just want a database. We want a network.

    Claudia: Yes, indeed, we want to create an inclusive community of committed women and men providing the support women need to access governing bodies. We plan to organize a number of events per year, involving Board Pool members, supporters and so-called “connectors”. We are in process of creating a group of ambassadors - mentors from companies and other bodies, such as employers’ organisations or Chambers of Commerce, sponsors, thought-leaders - who help us drive forward our mission. We start off modestly, but ultimately, we want to create a powerful transnational network mobilizing female talent across Europe!

    Looking forward to seeing you at the Female Board Pool launch seminar on September 24th from 12:00 to 21:00.

    In the meantime, follow us on Linkedin . You will find more information about this initiative on the PWI web site here and on Cleverland website here.

    Short Biography
    Claudia Ritter is managing director of Cleverland, a consultancy headquartered in Brussels which specializes in diversity leadership solutions and cross-cultural business communications.
    A significant part of her activities is dedicated to high-level women managers, to women entrepreneurs, and to high potentials. Being cross-cultural through her upbringing, education and professional background, Claudia operates across Europe, in India and the US in both the public and the private sector.
    She has earned a Masters of Arts and a postgraduate Masters in Science of Leadership, and is a Certificated Co-active Coach (credentials: International Coaches Federation).

    Armelle Loghmanian bio here

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

  • 24 Jun 2012 00:13 | Deleted user

     “The most important lesson I have learned is to be fearless"
    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Jessica DeJesus, Programme Security Officer at NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) and Major, United States Marine Corps Reserve Exercise Support Operations Officer at Headquarters Marine Corps C4 (Command, Control, Communications, Computers).

    PWI – Jessica, I was interested in your profile because of the variety of positions you have covered and for the interesting mix of military, communication, project management and security skills. Would you like to tell me more about your current job?

    I’m the Programme Security Officer for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency.  Our agency is in charge of the acquisition of unmanned surveillance aircraft for NATO.  As the Agency security officer, I am in charge of the information, industrial, and personal security. 
    My main tasks are to develop security instructions between the contractor and the nations who are participating in the program, ensure our staff members and participating industries have the proper security clearances, and ensure that our participating industries adhere to NATO security standards.

    PWI – How has your career evolved and in which countries? Which has been your favourite country to live in and why? By the way, where are you from?
    I spent half of my childhood in a small town called Guayama in the island of Puerto Rico. I spent my high school years in Rochester, NY where my parents and my immediate family live.  I grew up in a bilingual and bicultural home because we’re very Latino and very American at the same time. I have two mother tongues: Spanish and English.  

    Jessica’s first platoon in Okinawa (Japan) in 2003.

    My first post overseas was Okinawa, Japan in 2003, which I have very fond memories because it was my first duty as a Platoon Commander, I was 24 years old and in charge of 50 Marines.  We got to travel to Thailand and Australia to do multi-national training exercises.  I had great colleagues who I still keep in touch with.  One of my favorite experiences.  

    Since then, I’ve worked at Quantico, Virginia in 2004, then I did a combat tour in Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. After my deployment, I returned to the US but shortly thereafter I went to Seoul, South Korea for 6 months and then left active duty military service in August 2006 to pursue my master’s degree in Brussels.  I continued my military service as a reserve officer where I have done shorter duties throughout the world to include Senegal, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Hawaii, and Dominican Republic. After I finished my Master’s in Business Administration from Boston University, I returned to military duty for a year to work in Stuttgart Germany in 2008. 
    I can’t pick favorites since all the experiences have given me so much!  I did enjoy my time in Okinawa very much.  I loved my job and the Marines I served with.  I also have fond memories of Senegal as we did a humanitarian mission there and found it very rewarding.  Now I have been in Brussels for 5 years and I am very happy with my life here. It’s very hard to choose!

    PWI - Do you think having such a wide variety of jobs has helped your career?  In what way? If a young woman asked your advice would you recommend to her that she have a wide variety of jobs, or would you advise her to specialise?
    In the military sometimes we get stuck doing jobs out of our specialty because of the “needs” of the Marine Corps.  I think it is a positive to go out of your comfort zone because when you see the big picture everything is interconnected.  
    My specialty in the military was telecommunications but by doing jobs as an executive officer and an analyst I got to see how our projects support the bigger picture.  Now I am working in security which is also expanding my knowledge base. Given my experiences, I believe that expanding is the best choice, it gives more options and it also expands your network. 
    I currently have two jobs: my civilian job at NATO but I also serve 45-60 days a year in the Marine Corps Reserve. This is quite challenging because I still have to adhere to the Marine Corps training standards which means I have to keep current with my military job although I do not perform it every day as I used to. 

     Group of Marines Jessica was in charge of in Accra (Ghana) for a training exercise in 2010

    PWI – What are the most important lessons you have learned in your professional life? What have you learned from the different cultures you have encountered?  What has been the biggest surprise you have had from all your encounters with these cultures?
    The most important lesson I have learned is to be fearless.  The worst thing that someone can tell you is no, so don’t be afraid to make questions. To be diplomatic, to learn how to pick your battles. 
    When I was younger, I was not very good at this.  Now that I am older, I don’t let my emotions take over so quickly and give myself time to put forth a sound argument. 
    What I have learned from working with different cultures is that we are not as different as we think we are.  It is amazing how many similarities I have seen between my colleagues from other countries and cultures. It’s essential to come in with an open mind.  That has been the biggest surprise. 

    PWI – What inspired you to take up a military career? I have always been fascinated by people that put their life at risk for their ideals and for the benefit and the security of other people.
    After the first year of college, I wasn’t feeling very challenged with my university studies and decided to join the Marine Corps at the age of 18.  Once I became a Marine, a lot of things came into perspective, I took more challenging courses at the university, and I set goals for what I wanted in life.  I became inspired to become an officer when I saw the lack of Latinos and women in the leadership positions.  I believe I had what it took to lead young men and women from all races and walks of life and that in a way they can see themselves in me.  
    When I became an officer, it amazed me to know that the life of men and women who had voluntarily chosen to serve our country was in my charge and how awesome of a responsibility that is.  As a military officer, we are not politicians. It is a challenge sometimes when people criticize what we do without knowing about the oath we take and how we serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. 

    PWI –Based on your experience have you noticed differences between female and male leadership? Do women contribute with extra or different qualities/skills in the military profession?
    In my opinion, leadership is very personality driven. To be honest, I don’t see much of a difference in the Marine Corps between men and women.  I think instead of men vs women I see it as people.  I worked as the executive officer for a woman who is a two star general.  She just had a different personality than her male predecessor but I felt the difference was not gender related but their individual personalities.   I have also been very fortunate to have great relationships with other female Marines.  We always support each other and maintain a good network. 
    I also think the current wars have been a defining moment for women in the military.  It has proven that women can do as much as men and that every job in the field matters in order to get the mission accomplished. 

    PWI -  
    Military life must affect family life – do you think the families of male and female soldiers are affected in the same way?  How can military women balance their profession with their family/children? 
    I am single with no children, but from seeing my friends and their experiences it can be difficult from both sides.  From my experience, I see that men have it a little easier as they can more easily find a spouse who is willing to stay home with the children and move frequently.  As a single woman, it is difficult to meet a man who understands the responsibilities of being a Marine.  I was married for three years to a civilian engineer and it was challenging for him to understand my duties. We started our divorce proceedings when I was in Iraq.  It was a difficult experience.  Every situation is unique.  I have seen many of my female colleagues make it work with children and marriage as well.  

    PWI - 
    Beside your job, I see you have a lot of interests. For ex. you are the Vice President of Membership for the Brussels Toastmasters club, why does this interest and what does your role consist of?

    I believe that my life not only revolves around my job and I like to have activities beyond my work.  
    I enjoy Toastmasters because I learn new things every time I go to a meeting.  Being the VP of membership also allows me to interact with people who want to join the club and inform them about what we have to offer.  
    I also write a blog, Adventures of a Puertorican Girl in Brussels (www.puertoriquenainbrussels.com) about my experiences living in Brussels and my travels throughout.  I love to run and I have been participating in marathons and other races throughout Europe.  I recently ran the Madrid Marathon. Finally, I enjoy baking and make cupcakes and cakes for my friends and acquaintances (www.truelovecupcakesbrussels.com).  Just as in my professional life, my personal life is very diverse as well.

    PWI – Anything else, Jessica, that you would like to tell me about you?
    Many people see my lifestyle and they say how “lucky” I am.  My lifestyle has not been luck but making decisions, some of them risky to have what I want in life. I have made both good and bad choices, but even with the bad, I have learned from my experiences and even at times they have opened the door to bigger things.  So I just tell people that “I’m not lucky but resourceful”.

    Short Biography
    Jessica DeJesus was born in Rochester, NY but was raised in Guayama, Puerto Rico until the age of 14.  
    She graduated from East High School in Rochester, NY and earned her Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Albany in 2000. 
    She joined the US Marine Corps Reserve in 1997 and accepted her commission to Second Lieutenant on active duty January 2001.  She graduated from the Marine Corps Communication and Information Systems Officer Course in 2002 and has served in various roles in the telecommunications community in Okinawa, Japan, Quantico, Virginia, Baghdad, Iraq, and Seoul, South Korea.  
    She left active duty in 2006 where she continued her military duties as a reserve officer while earning her Masters of Science in Business Administration and Management from Boston University. Her reserve duties brought her to Thailand, Korea, Senegal, Hawaii, and Germany as an Exercise Support Telecommunication Officer. 
    Upon earning her Masters in 2008, she returned to active duty and served in Stuttgart, Germany.  
    Upon completion of her active duty service in 2009, she subsequently began her current civilian role as the Programme Security Officer at NAGSMA and serves as a reserve Major in the US Marine Corps Reserves, supporting military exercises worldwide.   She currently lives in Brussels, Belgium. 

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

  • 14 Mar 2012 15:11 | Deleted user

     “Brand of a Woman"
    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Ann De Jaeger, Partner at Executive Learning Partnership and founder of the “BRAND me” program.

    PWI – Ann, you are running the very successful leadership program "BRAND me" (*).  

    What inspired you to create something for women and what triggered you to launch this type of initiative?

    This program is just one of the many things I do with my company that deals with leadership development. In our programs we also deliver personal feedback tools (e.g. 360° questionnaire) and in this way I came to know that a number of women were unhappy about themselves and about the company they worked in, or they were successful but not happy. 
    I wondered what blocks people, given that they are talented and motivated, and I realized that women can be totally blocked by the fact that they do not know themselves or they do not appreciate themselves. As a consequence they are unhappy about themselves and their work. 
    I also realized that women are the majority of the young employees joining companies, but still the high levels are dominated by men. So I started thinking what women need to do and master in order to succeed and be happy.

    Honestly Alessandra, I could have simply accepted the general dissatisfaction of women as a matter of fact, but I chose to engage myself in “doing something to help”. My talent is designing and running programs with lasting impacts, so I decided to create one for talented women. This is how I was inspired and I came up with the “BRAND me” program.

    Through the “BRAND me” program women learn how to be “authentic”, meaning to know themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses, and how to deal with them.

    As illustrated in this scheme, when women know what they can do and what they can’t, they are very well equipped to make choices and to take the actions in which they can perform.  Women need to know when they can compromise (what/when it is not too important) and when they have to speak up. 
    Authentic people are ready to perform at their best and this is ideal for a company. 
    This is why "BRAND me” is “a journey through choices for talented women", designed to meet the personal and professional development of women.

    PWI – Ann, according to surveys, women tend to be afraid to speak up, they fear to lose their job or to block their career …

    True, Alessandra, but then these women are playing a role, they are not authentic people. Fear is a very bad counselor, which limits contribution. Additionally being in a company where actions are triggered by fear is not a nice/positive place to be and represents a sort of betrayal of oneself. Actually if you are happy with yourself and you know your strengths, there nothing to be afraid of.

    PWI - How can women cope and succeed in a business world governed by male rules? Do you ever feel men are resentful of the fact that more women are on a path to the boardroom?

    We cannot change history, companies started being built in times when most women stayed at home, women started working massively only from the seventies and now they are the majority at the entry level after education completion, but if you look at the top layers of companies, it is still male dominated.

    To answer your question about resentfulness, honestly I think that there are more resentful women than men, and resentful towards other women. Women that have really made it to the top are sometimes what I call “she-men”, totally conformed to the masculine standards that they will make it very difficult for other women to succeed. It is terrible, Alessandra, but it a fact. 
    These are the women that will strongly oppose “quotas”; the rationale behind their attitude might be “I made it with great sacrifice, why should I make it easier for the other ladies? You will have to work very, very hard too and you will have to suffer, just as much I did ...”. That is a spiteful behaviour, these “she-men” are beyond the point of return, unless something happens in their lives like a tragedy or they become ill, or …

    PWI – … they fall in love, maybe? Ha, ha!

    … if these women still have the ability to do that, Alessandra, because to be able to fall in love you have to open up, you have to crack your defenses, otherwise how can you be with somebody else?
    Fortunately there are many stages before reaching the total conformation to the male scheme, when women instinctively – as an act of survival – realize it’s not too late for them to do something about it. 

    So, knowing this, I wondered what I could do positively to help women to succeed in the current male business world and it took me some time to figure out a couple of things:
    • There are a lot of business women that are successful but they are not happy and, if people are not happy, they cannot perform to their full potential. 
    • Talented women hate to become less feminine to succeed in a male business world. They do not want to be associated with the whole female leadership issue; on the contrary they want to be valued for their talent and their competencies.

    What do women need to master in order to succeed and also be happy in a male word? 

    • First of all women need to know themselves thoroughly, and this happens when they are exposed to difficult and stressful situations. Women need to deeply understand what is important to them, what they really value, on what they can or cannot compromise.  Unfortunately many women never ask themselves that question.
    •  Women should make their expectations explicit.  In my experience inside the companies, where we run customized modules of the “BRAND me” program, I had the opportunity to talk to the participants’ bosses, who often have no idea of the expectations of the women who report to them. 
    • •Women should solve the dilemma between career and staying at home and not hang around thinking about it, but make a choice. The home front is just a matter of organization, period. It is much more crucial whom you marry than the decision to have children, for instance. If a woman wants to have a career and in the tough moments she is not supported by her partner - somebody who understands and accepts the consequences of having a career - it will become very difficult for her.
    • Stop perfectionism! Women want to be perfect in everything: the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect house-keeper … They want a perfect career, a perfect look, perfect dresses, a perfect car … forget it, it’s simply not possible! Women should take care of themselves, dress the way they want to be paid and …

    PWI – Sorry to interrupt you, Ann. Would you please clarify what you mean with “dress the way they want to be paid”, it sounds intriguing …

    Well, don’t dress dull, your dress expresses what you think, what you feel. It is important to take good care of our look, because it is a fact that people judge us immediately by our attire, women are the first to do that, so we should check our look first.

    Going back to women’s addiction to perfectionism, I recommend women to drop things that are not so important, for example is it so key that your house is shining clean all the time? Or your car? These worries might make women nervous with additional unnecessary stress. In my opinion, Alessandra, if women want to have a career and be successful, the point is:
    • Know very well upfront the related consequences of having a career
    • Stop nagging about these consequences and stop being perfectionist at all costs
    • Get the support of your family, partner and children
    • Organise, organise and organise!

    PWI –You state that "Women are not men", how does women's leadership differ from men's one, if there is a difference in your opinion? 
    What do you think - generally speaking - women still need to develop (attitude, skills etc.) to show true leadership?

    The first big difference in leadership between men and women is that women have a typically feminine “radar view” opposite to a man’s “laser view”. In a meeting men tend to focus on single issues and numbers, women see what numbers do not reveal; for example in a commercial plan men look at the numbers, while women grab what does not match in it.
    A radar view includes feeling intuitively the situations and people, something which in general men do not have time for. 

    Another difference is that for women the economic profit alone is not enough, they also want a benefit to the society, a wider purpose. For example, if a company has a profitability of 7% and they want to increase it to 9% because of shareholders’ pressure, then women will be happy to find ways towards this target, but they will raise objections to pursuing it, if this implies damaging people or the environment. Women are very sensitive to the environmental issues, and if women stop raising these objections it means that they have given in and conformed to the male culture.

    Another difference is that men see their job as a step to their next role. If you ask women, they do not concentrate on the next step, for them it their current job that is important and they are not willing to sacrifice the present for a promise: their present life has to be worthwhile in itself. 

    Self-promotion is another issue for women, women are so afraid of that; even though they perform much better, they think it is normal and they are confident that the person they work for will automatically reward them for their contribution. In other words, implicitly women think: ”If I perform well, I will get what I really want”, which is not at all true, it is a huge mistake. 
    Let me make another example: if you show a job description of a higher position to a woman and she meets 90% of the requirements, she starts focusing on the 10% she doesn’t meet and doubts whether to apply for it… Given the same opportunity, a man would apply even if he meets only half of the prerequisites! 

    Linked to the women’s poor self-promoting is their scarce ability of negotiating for themselves: women are good at negotiating for their team, for their products, but not for themselves.  
    Women lack social capital, they perform, perform, but they forget that the higher you climb, the more you have to make sure you have antennas everywhere in the company to capture the dynamics that affect them. Men have a wider social capital, they tend to know everybody.

    Other very typical feminine traits are the ability to connect with people and the lateral thinking. This is reflected in the female language, e.g. women use metaphors of connection and socialization, while the masculine language includes war and sports terminology: attacking, conquering, winning, etc.
    The huge contradiction here is that women – despite the high importance they give to socializing – are not good at networking! Women tend to have a very narrow but deep network (friends), while men tend to have a very broad but superficial network, nevertheless men have no difficulty to pick the phone up and ask somebody a favour … Women, on the contrary, feel embarrassed to ask. 

    Last but not least is the fact that women do not speak up if they do not have facts or are not 100% sure to have all the competencies. This is also why a lot of men think that women are not visionary, but women are visionary! Just they don’t like to talk about things they are not certain about. Vision is about the future, the uncertainty, so in general women are more uncomfortable with that than the average man, but this does not mean they are not visionary. 

    PWI - How do men usually react to their female colleagues/employees, who attended "BRAND me "? Do they feel the positive benefits? 

    Overall the biggest compliments I received from male colleagues or bosses of women that have attended our program are:
    • “BRAND me” is not about polarisation, meaning it is never women against men. Actually I have even been asked to do a “BRAND me” version for men too.
    • Participants show an increased self-confidence, an ignited force that becomes visible. 
    • The benefits of this program are recognized as long-lasting. This is because I adhered to Aristotle’s three main principles of persuasion in designing our “BRAND me” program, namely: 
      • à Logos à  The argument itself, the head, the content
      • àPathos à The emotional state of the hearer ,feelings, heart
      • à Ethos à   The character of the speaker, credibility, behaviour.
    These three elements are all necessary in a program to provoke change in the people involved and to ensure lasting impact. In fact, if people are only intellectually involved, nothing will change: their heart has to be in. 

    PWI - What is the importance of the project “BRAND me“ for you personally?  What have you learned and how have you grown from running the project? What keeps you motivated to continue running it?

    The first big lesson I learnt is that women attending the “BRAND me” program don’t want to be associated with “female leadership”, but they want to be addressed as “capable managers/leaders”. 

    I have also experienced a lot of confidentiality from the participants, with no fear and no risk that it could be used against any of us, the created bonding is very powerful. I am always amazed by what gets unleashed in this program: power, beauty, generosity, trust, emotions and energy …. Like attending a mental spa that unlocks new light and initiative in the professional life of these women.

    I keep being motivated because I like what I do, I like to run this program, and because I like it, then I do it well.

    PWI – Which are your professional dreams that have not yet come true?

    Well, our leadership interventions and programs are paid by companies for their talented employees, so it is still reserved for a privileged minority.
    One of my dreams is to be in a position to offer these services to people who are important for society: teachers, police, doctors, nurses, civil servants, etc. It would be beneficial to society, if these people - who have a crucial role in creating a better life for citizens – could have this kind of education and become fully empowered. Now I do not know how to make this dream come true yet, I don’t have the solution unfortunately.

    PWI - Since I have met you, I spontaneously felt trust in you; would you like to share with the PWI readership who is Ann, beyond the charming business woman?

    I come from a very modest family background; everything I achieved was gained by my own hard work. I am reliable, ethical and modest – modesty is an imprinting from my family -. 
    I love arts and I am married to an artist, who brought me an enormous consciousness of beauty in music, in cooking, in conversations and in life.  
    I like emotions, I guess I share it with Italians, I can act the business woman but I like emotional people, people who care, laugh, show humour and who are engaged and enjoy every moment of life. 
    Emotions are the opposite of indifference, Alessandra; emotions are the secret behind many things: if you put genuine emotions into what you do, people understand you care. 

    I can work like a slave, as well as be a party animal, these extremes belong to me also on other fields: for example I am passionate about tennis and on the playground I can be your biggest enemy, I want to win, but outside of the game we are friends again and, if you win, I will shake your hand sincerely.

    Short Biography
    Ann De Jaeger holds a master’s in languages from the University of Ghent (Belgium) and was also awarded the Government’s Medal in Theatrical Art and Poetry. She obtained an MBA at the Vlerick School for Management (Belgium) where she started her career as a Programme Manager and Lecturer in Marketing. She was particularly successful with a groundbreaking programme for startup companies, which brought out the entrepreneur in her.
    In 1988 she founded Video Management together with a mix of Belgian investors and renowned professors in management. The company produced and distributed videos featuring world-class management authorities. This allowed Ann to become an expert in popularising difficult management subjects for non-specialists.
    Video Management was sold to Pearson in 2000, where Ann ran the Executive Education unit. She co-produced a wide range of e-programmes with the world’s leading business schools. As such, she became well-versed in the blending of teaching techniques and in the project management of complex executive programmes.
    In 2003 Ann joined Executive Learning Partnership as a Partner. She designs and directs tailor-made programs and has particular expertise in diversity and the effects of social media on the leadership expectations of digital natives.
    Ann De Jaeger
    Executive Learning Partnership
                      STRATEGY & LEARNING ARCHITECTS
    Naamsesteenweg 334
    3001 Leuven, Belgium
    T:   +32 (0)16 24 19 10
    F:   +32 (0)16 24 19 19

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

    Upcoming the “BRAND me” program dates:
    • Fall 2012 - October 16 - 18

  • 29 Feb 2012 11:09 | Deleted user

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Alessandra Perrazzelli, Head of International Regulatory and Antitrust Affairs at Intesa Sanpaolo and the CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo Eurodesk.

    PWI – Ms.Perrazzelli, when was the project Gemma launched and why?  How many people are involved?

    Ms. Perrazzelli - The Gemma project was launched at the end of 2007 when I had already been working in Intesa Sanpaolo for four years. When I moved from my fist assignment in Brussels to the headquarters in Milan, where I work today, knowing that the workforce of my company was composed of 50% men and 50% women, I started wondering where women were assigned in the bank. In fact in the headquarters I used to see many secretaries and a few other ladies, but the rest of this 50% of female employees were not visible to my eyes. 
    Actually this 50% of women at the entry level already achieved middle management jobs, but few of them could reach top management positions or access the board. In order to give you a better understanding of the magnitude of this issue, please take into consideration that Intesa Sanpaolo counts for more than 60.000 employees in Italy and about 100.000 employees worldwide.

    So, being the only woman reporting to the CEO (at that time the role was covered by Corrado Passera, currently Minister of Economic Development, Infrastructures and Transport in Italy), I proposed to him an analysis of the professional situation of women in the bank and an identification of the reasons that hindered women’s career growth to top leading positions. The CEO authorized a small budget and asked me to give a full picture of the professional situation in the company.
    This is how I became the head of the GEMMA project with a consultant and a very small group of team members, who did not report to me, but were assigned to support me by the various function directors of the bank.
    The team performed the analysis by involving 1.700 female employees of the bank (through on-line surveys, focus groups and interviews) on several areas that might create barriers to their career (for instance, equity, motivation, satisfaction, work-life balance, ambitions, self-image, perceived internal/external threats, etc.). The overall project involved around 3.000 employees.

    PWI – I was wondering why is the project called “Gemma”?  Is there any reason this name was chosen? 

    Ms. Perrazzelli - We came up with the name Gemma – which in Italian means “flower bud” - a flower about to bloom, we wanted it to represent more a process than a project. The logo of the project was designed by a 22-year-old young man and I decided to register it as a trade mark based on the idea that in future the bank could start selling specific services and products to women.

    PWI - What are the other objectives of the Gemma project? What do you think the results/benefits will be and how long do you think it will be before you see them?

    Ms. Perrazzelli - In addition to mapping the situation of the female professional growth in the bank, Gemma had the goal to change the culture towards women in regards to gender diversity. 
    Like many banks in Europe, Intesa Sanpaolo is a very conservative and risk adverse company, therefore the presence of women was not necessarily seen as problem, but also not as an added value that could contribute to grow the business.
    First of all Intesa Sanpaolo is an Italian bank and reflects very much the reality of our society where women have a special praise and a social value, if they are mothers and wives, this is the primary scope that Italian men give to women. Therefore, the issues of the female colleagues who have to revert to part-time jobs or reduce their work availability after pregnancy, has always been seen as a “natural” problem that did not need to be specifically addressed, nobody saw it as a loss of talents. 
    In a way it was normal to consider that women, when they hit their thirties, they want to become mothers and then they lose interest in their job. This is how things went basically and nobody in the bank thought to invest in women’s talent to allow them to grow professionally and to access more top jobs. 

    This situation became an issue when the bank started to hire a lot more women than men simply because women came out of university with better grades and they performed better in the selection process.
    When the bank finally had a younger CEO, he changed the average age of his first and second reporting levels and then things started to change a bit. Now the Intesa Sanpaolo Group aims at having 30% women in roles of responsibility within the Business Plan period (2013) through sustainable career paths and work-life balance measures.

    PWI - I have read that one of the objectives of the Gemma project is "to foster women's skills, ways of thinking and leadership styles". How would you define women's skills, ways of thinking and leadership styles? And how do they differ from those of men?

    Ms. Perrazzelli - I believe that there are differences and the problem is that this difference is not appreciated and not given freedom. I think that women are capable and when they are able to grow, they express a different type of leadership compared to men. Let me provide you with some examples of management traits embedded in the female leadership: women have the ability to work through consensus, to work in teams, to be on average more attentive and encouraging to their co-workers, they assign to their team objectives that allow them to grow. Women are not confrontational, they want to explain things, to double check on quality, they do not act like soldiers, they are much more careful about the sustainability of what they do. 

    Yes, there is a big difference between men and women in everything they do, we are not alike at all and I am glad about this, because this diversity is one of the basic principles of biology that allowed mankind to survive so far, so we should keep this difference and make it an advantage. 

    Coming back to leadership, I strongly believe that the cooperation between the leadership of men and women will be the leadership for the 21st century.

    PWI - Could you provide me with some examples of concrete actions already in place (and being implemented) to achieve Gemma goals?

    I would like to highlight two actions, which are very different, but they can show how broad the scope of Gemma has become.
    The first action regards a large group of women, the women that are on maternity leave: in our bank we have about 1.800 kids per year! This figure is related only to the female colleagues, we do not know yet the average yearly number of babies from the male colleague’s side, but getting the full picture will be part of future actions.  
    Before Gemma the policy for the maternity leave period stated that women had to give back to the company their cell phone and their pc, their access to their e-mail address and to the e-learning was blocked, basically like cutting off their contract within the company. Some women accepted it passively, some others – above all the ones covering good positions or interested in pursuing their career afterwards – felt excluded from their working environment. In order to allow women to stay in touch with their work during their maternity leave (upon their request), we implemented the “Per Mano (by hand)” initiative: not only could women keep the mentioned tools, but additionally they are assigned a tutor that they can regularly meet in order to keep themselves in the loop and stay in contact with their boss and colleagues. This action had a strong positive impact on women’s satisfaction with their job, but also on the mentality of male bosses, who normally thought that a female team member could be considered “out of career” starting from the maternity period.

    The second action, called “Women at the helm”, aims to define measures to increase the number of candidates for the boards of the companies controlled by Intesa Sanpaolo. This action is related to the women quotas resolution, which allowed putting women’s merit and talent in the spotlight in Italy and also in our bank. I know that there are plenty of women in Italy and in our bank capable of doing an excellent job on boards, definitely better than men sitting there. I do not buy, for even a second, the excuse that there are not enough women ready for the board.
    With this action a pool of women with potential to be on the board was identified and invited to attend a specific two-day course about how a board functions, meaning roles, responsibilities and rules. This action is meant to support these women to sit with more ease on the board of the companies controlled by Intesa Sanpaolo. You might question why women should get this training and men don’t … yes, definitely men should too.
    A second benefit of this action was to create awareness in the male bosses that there were a hundred women, capable and very professional, ready for those board positions.

    Let me mention also two more actions from the Gemma project: 
                 • A portal called “gemm@Community”, accessible from the company’s intranet, a virtual place to meet and exchange ideas, which counts15.000 members, 80% women and 20% men
                • “Gemma’s road show” tours around Italy to reach women in the whole country in order to present the Gemma project, to get their input and to provide some role modeling, meaning making more women known, and talking about how they achieved their position.  A little bit as you do with your interviews by making visible examples of female role models in the business arena …

    All these initiatives were very effective in changing the company culture and fostering women’s career. 

    PWI - Has Gemma been welcomed by the personnel and management? Have you found resistance to the actions in place?

    Ms. Perrazzelli - Actually, the project not welcomed at all at the beginning, for the first six months nothing happened … After that we managed to start implementing small actions and then the other main actions.
    The most recent action coming from this project is BusinessGemma, an insurance product focused on addressing the financial risks female entrepreneurs and professionals have in their work and private lives.

    PWI - What was your motivation to lead the Gemma initiative?

    Ms. Perrazzelli – My motivation was and is to “give back”, to leave a legacy in favour of a sustainable growth with a different type of leadership, which includes diversity. I am a fortunate person, I had many opportunities in my professional and in my personal life, therefore I want to “give back” to other women, to the young around me and ultimately to my children. 

    PWI - Are you aware of similar initiatives - like Gemma - in Italy? Are you in contact with them?

    Ms. Perrazzelli – Yes, there are and I am happy to talk to you about my parallel experience in Valore D.
    Valore D is an association founded two and half years ago by twelve Italian companies, including Intesa SanPaolo, with the aim of bringing more women to top positions in their member companies. A successful campaign was promoted to involve more and more companies and now Valore D includes around 60 companies (http://www.valored.it/it/associazione/379/gli-associati/page) and is the first association of big companies to foster women’s leadership in Italy.

    I have been the president of Valore D for a year and a half now and during my presidency we grew considerably and we promoted a number of actions that are currently changing the culture in the associated companies. These actions vary from seminars for skill building, to role modeling (interviews with and meetings with top female managers), to intra-company mentoring, to benchmarking about flexibility measures to support women balancing work and family, to initiatives that create innovation at all social levels; all actions we believe are necessary to develop women.

     Short Biography
    Alessandra Perrazzelli is the Head of International Regulatory and Antitrust Affairs at Intesa Sanpaolo and the CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo Eurodesk, reporting directly to the CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo. Intesa Sanpaolo is one of the largest Italian and European banking groups. Based in New York, Brussels and Milan for the last 25 years, Ms Perrazzelli works with the European Institutions on the application of EU banking and financial services law to the internal market. Ms Perrazzelli is also in charge of the Antitrust Compliance at Group level. As the head of Intesa Sanpaolo Eurodesk, a company of the Group, she assists corporate clients to access EU funding in the fields of research, SMEs, education and infrastructures. In 2007, Ms Perrazzelli was put in charge of the Project Gemma, aimed at promoting programs and activities to enhance women’s carriers and talents within the Bank and to develop new banking products to tailor women in the banking and financial services market.

    Previously, Ms Perrazzelli was a partner in the Brussels-based firm O’Connor and Company, where she was responsible for the telecom, postal and public utilities practices. She began practising law in a top Wall Street law firm in New York, mainly in the fields of merger and acquisitions and banking law. She practised in the telecoms, energy, postal and banking sectors. In telecoms, her work focused on the liberalisation of the European market and she advised major mobile and fixed telecoms operators in relation to EC and national telecoms, competition law and regulation. She won a number of postal and telecoms competition cases that influenced European postal and telecoms liberalisation. In these sectors, Ms Perrazzelli has filed landmark complaints and notifications before the European courts, the European Commission and national courts, and competition/regulatory authorities in many European countries.  

    Ms Perrazzelli received her Law Degree Cum Laude at the University of Genoa and an LLM degree at the New York University School of Law, in the field of Corporate Law. She is admitted to the Bar in Italy and in the New York State. She is an IBA and ABA member. 
    Ms Perrazzelli is a regular speaker at international conferences and has published several articles on the application of competition law to the network industries and on financial regulation. She has been mentioned among the top 100 women lawyers in competition law by the Global Competition Review in 2009 and 2004. In 2007, she won the “Premio Bellisario” in the Communication Sector, for her activity promoting Italian interests at EU and International level. Since July 2010, Ms Perrazzelli is the president of Valore D, an association of companies aimed at fostering and empowering women in companies and organizations.

    Ms Perrazzelli is fluent in English and French in addition to her native Italian. Ms Perrazzelli plays the piano and likes to sing, plays several sports, and loves to spend time at the seaside in her native Liguria. She is the proud mother of Samuele and Margherita.
    Alessandra Perrazzelli
    Head of International Regulatory and Antitrust Affairs
    Staff to the Managing Director and CEO
    Square de Meeus 35
    1000 Bruxelles
    +32 2 64 000 80

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

  • 29 Feb 2012 08:08 | Deleted user

    I changed my mind about Quotas …
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Christel Verschaeren, Director, Global Organization Change Management & Europe Integration CIO Organisation and Co-Chair Europe Women Council 

    PWI – Christel, first of all congratulations for winning the AXA WO_MEN@ WORK AWARD 2011! (*) 
    How does this brilliant achievement inspire you to continue pursuing gender balance in the business arena?

    This AXA WO_MEN@ WORK AWARD 2011 has been really a unique experience, I was impressed by the press coverage and by the attention I suddenly received on the social media (Facebook, LinkedIn). But, actually gender balance is not something recent in my professional life.  
    In fact I have been active on this topic for over ten years. I am still passionate about it “by definition”, because my personal history is linked to it and its part of who I am. 
    Winning this award gives me even more motivation to continue and to keep looking for initiatives and opportunities that can help women (which is very rewarding) - but also companies. Companies need indeed to take-up the agenda of diversity management and put in place concrete diversity policies. Thanks to the visibility I gained through this award I hope I will have the possibility to help more companies by sharing the experience and the lessons learned by IBM in managing diversity.
    Alessandra, I would like to highlight that this award is not only personal recognition for me and recognition for IBM, but also a reward tothe team of volunteers who worked actively with me on this topic. We are a network of about 200, mostly women and some men who are voluntarily involved - on the top of their normal job - in the European and Country Women Leadership Councils and we work in cooperation with the HR Diversity leaders in Europe. 

    PWI – What triggered you to start fostering gender equality and women's support? 

    It all started in 1999: at that time I had just been appointed as a manager and I was a single mother (my daughter was eight years old) when the Country General Manager for Belgium and Luxemburg contacted me and asked me to become his Executive assistant. This is a job that people normally do for a year and it is meant to be the trigger for a career move, it is a job which allows you to see the full scope of the company, a great learning opportunity. The only downside of this position were the long hours required, meaning being in the office in Brussels from seven o’clock in the morning until eight o’ clock in the evening (and I lived in Antwerp). 
    I was perfectly aware of the opportunity I was offered, but it was in conflict with my private life, so I refused it. I thought it would be the end of my career in IBM, nobody ever refused that job before … Instead, a couple of weeks later – to my great surprise - I received a call from the General  Manager, who asked me what type of flexibility I needed to be able to take the job. If he hadn’t made that call, my professional life would have probably been totally different. It was a turning point in my career and I am happy I got the opportunity to discuss the conditions under which I could take the job. I am also glad that all the people who took that job after me could benefit from the same flexibility. 
    I thought through this episode, and I came to the conclusion that I was definitely not the only woman that had to say “no” because of family constraints and that was an eye-opening moment which triggered me to start working on gender balance.
    So, in 2002 I started to actively lead the Woman Council for Belgium and Luxemburg and in 2007 I joined the European Women Leadership Council that I co-chair with my colleague from Denmark.  

    Alessandra, for me it’s fundamental to implement concrete actions, it is not enough for me to just contribute to the discussion, therefore I worked on a number of concrete initiatives; let me provide you with a couple of examples:
    • The Blue Talent program for women – It is a talent development program for women in IBM that focuses on motivating, recognising, developing and promoting the talent of female employees with high potential. In a broader scope Blue Talent for women supports IBM’s gender goals to strengthen the pipeline, develop the talent and reduce attrition. 
    The key purpose of Blue Talent is to enable and fast track the development of female employees showing high potential - selected by their line managers - towards more senior positions within IBM. This program details the key milestones that these women have to accomplish to be able to advance in the following 12 to 18 months.

    The Cross-company Mentoring program with Danone Europe, Orange in Switzerland and staring with P&G in the UK. This initiative is complimentary to the IBM internal mentoring program. I am also working to expand that further with other companies.

    Could you please tell us about the most significant milestones and achievements in your career?

    I started in IBM in 1987 - straight from university where I had studied Economics – in a technical role as System Architect and after five years I moved into sales for small and medium businesses, and then I moved into sales management till 1999 when I joined the General manager’s team, as narrated before. I did that job for one and a half years and then I took the leadership of all the business operations for Belgium and Luxemburg.

    In 2003 I participated in a global online forum (over 300 participants) focused on how to improve IBM’s internal processes and I launched the idea to integrate all the back-office functions, which were very fragmented at that time. To my surprise my recommendation rated highest, so IBM decided to implement it and I was asked to lead the implementation: this is how I joined the Chief Information Officer (CIO)’s organization, where I still work. Now, in my official role, I lead all European countries for the CIO office and I am the Global Head of the Change Management practice. Next to this role I co-chair the European Women Leadership Council, as mentioned before.

    I would like to add that there is one significant personal aspect of my life that I am very proud of: my own 20-year old daughter. She found her own direction and she is passionate about her choice. I recognize me in her and this makes me proud of myself: through my behaviour she understood how important it is to be assertive, to be smart and to respect other people. 

    PWI - How have your efforts to support women been welcomed both by male and female colleagues?

    Overall I would say that men had a positive attitude, although in the beginning men wondered what we were doing and why we were so focused on gender equality: we needed to gain men’s trust. Things have improved a lot over time, male managers - men are still the majority – start to recognise that there is a value in combining the best skills of men and women in a team and that this combination makes the team stronger. By experiencing this improvement men started to open up and to feel less threatened that women want to take their jobs. This is the reason why we are very careful of not doing any positive discrimination in favour of women, in order to avoid any inference that women are promoted because of this program.

    Within the female colleagues we still have some that think these programs for women are not needed and they do not see the point of spending time and energy in them.  Very often these employees are women that had already struggled to make a good career and that are not willing to help their female colleagues, or they are women that made their career easily and therefore they do not recognize the issue. 
    In general I would say that we have supportive people and non-supportive ones both on the male and the female side.

    PWI - After all the initiatives taken and the massive communication in the media about gender equality, what in your opinion, remains as the main barriers today for women to reach top positions? How long will it take to come to a real gender balance in companies?

    The main barriers that prevent women to reach the top positions, the areas which need to be worked on, in my opinion are:

    • Companies - Companies should have an active gender policy, truly lived and applied, and not just a “piece of paper” hanging on the office walls or shining in their websites. 

    • Management - The majority of managers are men and often they do not see the peculiar differences between men and women, therefore they do not seek the talent in women. For example, if there is a job opportunity, women often do not stand up, they often tend to hesitate because they are not certain, they do not have 100% of the skills and then they do not apply for it, unless triggered by their superiors. 
    Men, instead, jump on the job opportunity, they take it as a challenge the fact of not having all the skills and they dare more easily to ask for a salary increase. 
    If managers were aware of this behavioural difference, they could adopt the correct approach to encourage talented women to take new job challenges.

    • Women - Women sometimes create their own barriers: I keep saying to women – and I did a lot in mentoring sessions too – that women need to decide what they want to do in their career and what they do not want to do, and be assertive. It should be a conscious decision about themselves and their true aspirations, while I know that women very often make professional decisions based on external factors like their children’s needs, their husbands, their family of origin, etc.  This attitude is shown both by women with a family as well as by single women, because many of them care for the others’ needs and take what is left for them.  Actually it does not mean that all women should aim to reach the board, they might desire to stop working or to do a part-time job, but it should be a conscious decision.
    Only when women clarify their mind and decide what exactly they want to achieve, they can then work on solving potential issues and barriers. 

    I think that we are improving in bringing down these obstacles on the road to C-positions for women, but it might take a decade before we get there.

    PWI – What is your position regarding quotas?

    Well, Alessandra, that’s an interesting subject … Now many boards could be seen as “men’s clubs”, while I believe that incorporating female profiles and qualities would make the board a stronger team. 
    I changed my mind about quotas.  At the beginning I was absolutely against quotas to increase female representation in corporate management bodies, because their implementation might bring the risk of forcing “positive discrimination”. Actually it depends a lot on the implementation pace of quotas, I believe that the deadlines and the percentage for quotas (as per the EU Parliament resolution) of 30% of female representation by 2015 and 40% by 2020 are pretty feasible and it will not be needed to make any positive discrimination to reach these targets.

    PWI - I have often heard that work-life balance is an issue for working mothers, until when? Is it used as an issue by employers, as an excuse for not promoting women? 

    Work-life balance is an issue for both women and men in every organization.  In IBM we have more and more men who started to take the paternity leave, for example. Women might suffer more from it because of the classical responsibility for the family/children, but – based on my experience of raising my daughter as a single mother - personally I think it is a matter of getting organized, accepting that things are not all perfect (for ex. the work of our cleaning lady …) and stopping trying to be perfect in everything we do.

    PWI - Based on your experience, which are the skills and attitudes that most women need to improve?

    As women we have to become more assertive, more conscious of our faults, of how we use our voice and how we appear in meetings (how we “sit and behave”).  Women should consciously decide what they want and speak up for it, gather facts and get credibility for them. 
    Women should not become men, but should “coach men” about the importance of complementarity between male and female qualities, to coach them on emotional intelligence not just claim that men do not understand. 

    PWI - How do you involve men in your process to encourage women's professional development? 

    Sponsorship from executive men is critical to foster women’s professional progress. It is easier when executive men have daughters, who start approaching the business world, they become more sensitive because it becomes more personal, so they start to listen.
    In IBM we able to involve some men in our Women Council to make them part of our initiatives.

      Short Biography
    After having studied Economics Christel started working for IBM as Systems Engineer in the technical area.
    She has worked for IBM for 25 years in different technical positions, as well as commercial & management positions. In 1999 she was asked to become the Assistant of the General Manager of IBM Belgium/Luxembourg, a unique jumpstart position. 
    In 2000 she was promoted to lead the Sales Operations department in Belgium/Luxembourg.
    For the last 7 years she has worked in our internal CIO organization, where she is responsible for the European countries and she manages the CIO projects locally. She is also globally responsible for building change management capabilities in the CIO organization. 
    Gender diversity always has been her passion. Alongside her daily job, she has led the IBM Belgium/Luxembourg Women Leadership Council for the last 3 years, and for 7 years she has been the Co-chair of the IBM’s Women Council in Europe. She also pays a lot of attention to mentoring other women and manages a cross company mentoring program between IBM and other companies.
    She has a daughter of 20 years old who she raised as single mother.
    Christel Verschaeren
    Director Global Change Management  and Europe  Integration- CIO Organization
    Diversity,Co-Chair Europe Women Leadership Council
    Phone: +32 2 339 2281
    e-mail: christel_verschaeren@be.ibm.com
    IBM Belgium sprl/bvba
    Bourgetlaan 42, 1130 Brussel

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

    (*) AXA Wo_Men@Work Award

    The AXA Wo_Men@Work Award is an annual award that honours an executive C-level manager (CEO, COO, CFO, CIO or member of the Executive Board), of a company or organisation established in Belgium. He or she pro-actively promotes gender balance and is personally committed to guaranteeing an equal representation of men and women in the company’s management and top management.

    Our objective is to put the spotlight on the pioneers of professional equality: managers of small, medium and large-sized companies that are personally committed to ensuring a fair gender balance within their management. 
    By electing such an ambassador every year, the objective of the AXA Wo_Men@Work Award is to bring the debate to the national level and create best practices within companies to stimulate the promotion of women in the workplace on management and top management level.

    A number of awards already exist for a personality, a project or a company. However, the AXA Wo_Men@Work Award is unique in that it celebrates and supports a woman or a man at the top of an organisation who, through her or his commitment and actions, actively promotes gender equality in their teams and among their managers.
    In Belgium, women represent only 7% of members on the Boards of Directors of companies listed on the stock exchange and only 6% of those on Management Boards. We are at the bottom of the European ranking. Contrary to the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries, we do not have an action plan relating to gender representation in management positions. We can only conclude that the debate in Belgium is recent and the initiatives are timid and limited in scope. 

  • 29 Feb 2012 08:05 | Deleted user

    When “away” is here …
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Elena Bucciero, Publisher, (A)Way Publishing House

    PWI – Elena, how did you become the publisher of (A)WAY? How long ago? What inspired you?
    It was a decision I made eight years ago after I finished my MBA and Publisher’s course in London.  I was a young mother at the time and, I was looking for a new job. Confident in my professional qualifications and in my previous experience of a few years work for a non-profit magazine in Belgium, I wondered whether I could start my own business. 
    Even though I had a small start-up budget and my revenues were only advertising sales based, I was fortunate to start the publication with a very professional team, who, as everyone knows, is the key to a successful business. 
    (A)WAY is a bimonthly lifestyle magazine in English for international families, it is produced by expats for expats away from home: I was inspired to create the (A)WAYmagazine after noticing that there were a lot of expatriate families in Belgium who were struggling to find information in English, written in a simple way for people like me, whose native language was not English. 

    My initial business idea was to offer interesting and current information to a readership composed of expatriate families, well-educated, willing to explore their new country, curious to familiarise themselves with the local culture, be informed on cultural events and where to visit. I wanted to create a virtual community of like-minded people. My aim was also to “package” all this with a human touch as these people were living far from their home country.  The area I did not wish to deal with was news and politics, as they were not in my field of expertise.

    PWI - Do you feel that your readership and their interests have changed since you started editing (A)WAYmagazine? Which are the most difficult professional challenges? 

    One of the main challenges for the (A)WAY Magazine is keeping its content always innovative, useful and interesting for the expatriate community. It is continuously changing, not only because people are constantly moving in and out of Belgium, but also because it needs to reflect the changes in society. For example, we have observed an increasing number of singles with different interests from families. In other words, it is necessary to be creative at all times and understand your readership. For this reason we organize focus groups every year to get feedback and input from our readership.
    When (A)WAY Magazine was created, there was a lack of information in English for expatriate families. Now with the internet and social media expansion and with a vast quantity of sources the effort is, on the contrary, to help the readership easily find what relevant for them. Internet should# not to be considered an enemy of the paper magazine and, therefore, we have created an on-line version (http://www.awaymagazine.be/magazine/current-issue) and a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/awaymagazinebelgium).
      An e-newsletter to update our readers on ‘not to miss’ community events and the most interesting events in Belgium is also available.
    As for many magazines nowadays, another challenge is to keep the right balance between the content and advertising. We follow a traditional 40 (advertising) to 60 (editorial) percent ratio, including free pages for non-profit organizations to support good causes and give our readers a sense of community. 

    Last but not least, is our attention to nature: the format of the (A)WAY Magazine is ecologically friendly. 
    Its size allows us to utilize the entire sheet used for printing with no paper wasted. This format also makes the (A)WAY Magazine very handy and reader-friendly.

    PWI – Elena, what do you like most about your profession?

    I feel very fortunate to do a job I enjoy. I am the founder and the owner of this publishing house specializing in expatriate media, which involves my editor and a team of around 30 freelance journalists, a graphics studio, a web designer, an agency who sells advertising space and many supporters of the publication. 
    I love the incredible feeling of creating something, even with the added anxiety of delivering something that people might question. I love the creativity and the diversity of my job, the possibility to meet and communicate with people.

    PWI – Have you noticed different competencies between women and men in your type of job?

    I think that there is no gender difference in professionalism and I completely disagree about fixing women quotas in management positions: the people who are most capable should be fairly chosen and appointed.

    PWI - How do you cope with the workload of your profession and your family?

    Combining work with family is not easy for women and also might not be easy for children too, but it is possible. You can have different scenarios, but I honestly think the “children should be interviewed” about how they feel about their mothers working crazy hours… We need to respect them.

    I explained to my children that my life is as important as their life. I have chosen to have my three children in specific periods of my life when I was ready, because having children is very demanding. I have a 22-year-old daughter who is studying medicine in London, a 9 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. I also strongly believe that an unhappy mother cannot bring up a happy child. 

    PWI – What would you recommend, Elena, to a woman that would like to start a business like yours?

    My three main pieces of advice are:
                  • Get support - This is a very demanding business and therefore it is necessary that your spouse and family understand this and are behind you. 
                  • Make a clear business plan – In this sector it is easy to fail: 5 out of 6 magazines usually don’t survive more than one year. It is critical to build a solid business plan for the short, intermediate and long term.
                 • Be aware of the technology evolution – We are facing a revolution in publishing, papers struggle and will need to evolve to fit the needs of readers. Advertisers are not yet totally convinced to use publications which are only online, but the new generation is becoming increasingly used to digital support, which is becoming more and more powerful. 

      Short Biography
    Elena Bucciero, born in Russia, has gained a degree in Russian literature and Russian from the University of Moscow and a degree in French literature and French from the Free University of Brussels. 
    She has completed the MBA from the International Management Institute in Brussels and a Publisher’s course in London. 
    Elena’s areas of expertise are public relations and publishing. Elena founded (A)WAY magazine in 2005. 
    She is married and is the proud mother of three children.
    Elena Bucciero, publisher
    (A)WAY Publishing House, Avenue des Saisons 100-102, b.30, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
    Tel: + 32 (0)477 787 125, Fax: + 32 (0)2 639 39 50

      Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of (A)WAY Publishing House, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 10 Dec 2011 16:51 | Deleted user

    I can "JUMP"
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Isabella Lenarduzzi, Founding & Managing Director JUMP “Empowering Women, Advancing the Economy.”

    PWI – Isabella, you are a member of PWI. What inspired you to join PWI Brussels?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – What I really like about PWI is that you meet very ambitious and highly qualified women coming from various professions (freelances, managers, entrepreneurs), nationalities and languages. It’s not that easy in Brussels to combine together French-speaking women and Dutch-speaking women and have such a mix of backgrounds in the membership.

    PWI - Isabella, how many of your business dreams have you been able to realize?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – Alessandra, my business dreams are always related to my personal dreams. Since I have been twelve years old I wanted to change the world, I wanted to make it a better place for everybody and therefore I became an activist in many associations.
    In university I met a guy, a real entrepreneur, and he asked me to be part of his team in launching a student magazine; he wanted to make money and I wanted to use the magazine to communicate messages dedicated to students to help them in the university environment. In parallel to this magazine I took part in plenty of very different associations (feminism, pacifism, foreign student’s representation, against racism, etc.). For instance, I founded an association called the “LA VOIE DES FEMMES”, to my knowledge the first association in the eighties made by women for other women from the second generation of immigration. I am part of the third generation of Italian immigration.
    At the end of these experiences I discovered that for my personality – which is very impatient and ambitious – a commercial company would help me to be more efficient and to have more impact than a not-for-profit organization.
    When I had a project I didn’t wait for the financial support from the public institutions to start it, I really wanted to make it happen and in the course of developing it I found the money. So I discovered this was entrepreneurship, I was totally unaware because nobody in my family was an entrepreneur; they were all manual workers or civil servants.
    At that time I used to read a lot of books written about women in politics, like Golda Meir, Françoise Giroud, Simone Veil and I was inspired by them. I thought that changing the world was only possible through activism in associations or politics. Being the founder and shareholder of a commercial company made me understand that companies were also another way to change things: every company I funded or I participate in was dedicated to a specific social mission.
    This is how I came to create JUMP five years ago, because I couldn’t find, in Belgium or Europe, a “company” dealing with the professional life of women (for instance, providing training, advice, discussion forums, and networking opportunities) and I wanted to do it.

    To answer your question, Alessandra, yes, I made my business dreams happen, all the time.

    Which are your personal qualities and the values that helped you to become a successful entrepreneur?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – First of all generosity, I think that if you want to receive, you have to give, especially in women’s networks. I respect people, I build relationships with people and they trust me, I do not calculate what I give or they give. Additionally I am full of energy (I can work twenty hours a day or even 36 hours without stopping), I have enthusiasm and I am coherent, meaning I am always myself both at home and at work.

    Isabella, do you still have dreams that have not yet come true?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – Oh, I have plenty of dreams, because there are many things that do not work in society and I want them to work. I really strive for more equality between men and women, meaning that people should develop all their talents according to their own personality and not according to their gender, there are not jobs that suit women and jobs that suit men.
    I realized a few months ago that the mission of JUMP is not only gender equality, because for me pursuing gender equality is a way of changing the world. It became very clear to me that, during this economic crisis, we need to bring women’s values into the market-place to replace the current culture of egoism, avidity of money and self-recognition of the people in power.

    In addition to the different women’s values you have just mentioned, do you think, Isabella, that women have some plusses? If so, which ones?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – It is a difficult question, I do not think that nature has such a big impact even if it surely has one… but thousands of years of culture have!
    I really believe that men and women can develop the same qualities, if they are considered really equal. Because of our history women have developed more caring attitudes, more emotional intelligence and a more collaborative way of working. But you can find women who lack these qualities and men who have a lot of them, so I think it is a consequence of culture. For instance it is said that women are multitasking because they manage concurrently their job and their family, but I am convinced men can multitask as well.

    Let me tell you something: on French television they showed an experiment done in a village where for ten days men were confronted with a woman’s daily life:  the women were sent to Las Vegas while men had to look after the home and the children and still work. Men discovered in few days how difficult it is to manage family and work, and they discovered the beauty of the relationship with their children. And, last but not least, they understood they were in love with their spouse and how valuable these women were.

    Now, what about skills or behaviour that – in your opinion – women should strengthen?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi –  I heard people saying that women need to network more, to do more self-marketing and so on; I can understand that, in a certain way they are right, but it is typically the male way of doing business. Women are less confident than man, that means that most of them hate to do self-marketing, they prefer to be very good professionals, to respect deadlines and so on; they surely understand that they need to market themselves, that it is not sufficient to be a good professional, they have to make it known.
    Companies, on the other side, need to understand that women’s humility is a real value, that humble individuals can be a fantastic managers and leaders, that it is not necessary to have a huge ego. Women are not men; they need to be valued by companies for their capabilities and attitudes. Companies should not to try to make women behave like men; companies need to redefine the qualities of leadership, in order to integrate the social changes and the richness that women can bring. 
    I believe also that women must learn the male rules, to know how things work and identify what they can accept and what are the limits.
    Men could also benefit by integrating some female attitudes and values. The real equality will be in place when women do not have to adapt to the current models, when companies adapt their models to integrate the qualities and capabilities that women can bring.
    Women that adopt male behaviors will end up in being unappreciated both by men and by women: they will not belong in either category.

    Don’t you think that gender is only one of the diversities, like culture or age (for example the over-50’s)?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – I believe that gender is the biggest difference. If we can integrate the gender diversity in the work place, then it will be easier to sort out the discrimination in other areas.
    When I met  Lois P. Frankel, an internationally-recognised executive coach, author of the best-seller “Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office”, she told me that it was much easier for a CEO to welcome to his Board a Black man or a man with a very different cultural background than to accept a woman. The more I work in the field of gender diversity, the more I believe Lois, women are victims of so many stereotypes. I believe that women have been so dominated that we suffer from a lack of self-confidence; we still have a long way to go, we need to love ourselves much more and by doing this we will feel much more solidarity with other women, in fact, some women often lack of cooperation amongst themselves.

    We need to value our femininity and it is so difficult in the corporate world, this is why JUMP is branded with the pink colour. I decided to stick to the pink colour for JUMP, even if some women - who helped me to fund it -decided to quit because pink “is not a business colour”. Pink is considered the symbol of femininity and by choosing pink I wanted to put the message that women can develop, prove their value and keep their femininity in business, and not try to imitate men.

    How can companies support women and bring them on board?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – There was a study done amongst managers who champion gender diversity and they discovered that the male supporters of women in the workplace were usually the fathers of girls.  They worry about the career opportunities and the future of their daughters. This is helping.

    What is your position in relation to quotae?

    Ms. Lenarduzzi – We should not be ashamed about quotas, but about the fact that, if we wouldn’t have the quotas resolution, we would not have more women on board. Unfortunately, equality never progressed without regulation, and specifically regulations with penalties. Humanity is afraid of penalties, so they prefer to follow the law; the change of mentality is then a consequence. Incredible to say, but it is exactly like that, in my opinion.

     Short Biography
    Isabella Lenarduzzi created the European student fairs in various countries of Europe. She also edited two monthly magazines  “Univers-Cité” and “Kampus” aimed at young readers aged 15-25 and distributed the Student Welcome Pack to more than 1 million students all over Europe.
    After having sold these companies to Reed-Elsevier, Isabella established a consultancy and training activity in Italy and worked as deputy director for the Naples Science Museum where she set up Italy’s “Guidance and Careers Resource Centre”.
    She then came back to Brussels and went on to organise a number of economic events including the European Business Summit, CréaWal 2004 and Wallinno 2005.
    In 2005 she created, for the Brussels Chamber of Commerce (BECI), the “Brussels Job Days”, this was a new concept in events, involving on-site job interviews between employers and jobseekers. In 5 years she has organised 30 events which have given jobs to over 5000 people.
    She received several awards, including:
    - Nominee in 1992 as the woman of the year in Belgium
    - Wimadame award (France) called “European female entrepreneur of the year” in 2010
    - “Femme d’Exception” (Woman of exception) in 2011 by the Belgian Minister for Equal Opportunities Joëlle Milquet
    - “Tof de la comm” ‘Award for event communication in June 2011

    Isabella launched JUMP “Empowering Women, Advancing the Economy” in 2006.
    Isabella actually manages 2 companies, one NGO and a team of 12 people.

    Isabella Lenarduzzi
    Avenue Winston Churchill, 18-22
    B-1180 Uccle
    T +32 2 346 32 00
    +32 2 346 38 00

  • 31 Aug 2011 13:52 | Deleted user

    Back to PWI Magazine - Summer 2011

    How to get good financial advice.
    By Melanie Barker, Senior Adviser at Fulcra International Financial Planning

    Ms.Melanie Barker, Senior Adviser at Fulcra International Financial Planning.

    In these somewhat uncertain times it is vital to make the best financial decisions for your future.

    Many of us have  complex financial lives as we have worked in, and have connections to, more than one  country.  We need to make informed financial decisions to take full advantage of the opportunities that this can afford.  By informed, I mean making the most of what is available – for example, tax credits for personal and company pensions, tax efficient savings and investments – but also taking the time to work out what are your financial objectives. 

    Despite the positions that women hold in the corporate world and in running their own businesses, many do not take control and ownership of their extended financial future.   In this expat environment it can seem difficult to know where to turn for good comprehensive professional advice, rather than just the hard sell. 

    With that in mind I have put together a checklist of what to look for in a financial adviser which I hope will help guide you towards quality advice.  With good information you will be able to make better decisions.

    10 things to look for in your Financial Adviser

     1.    Regulated & professionally qualified Both the company and the individual Financial Adviser should be regulated in Belgium.  All investment and savings policies must also be regulated for sale in Belgium. 
    Note: a company can be regulated in Belgium but be selling unregulated products.
    Qualifications are required to legally provide financial advice in Belgium.

     2.    Independent, with appropriate experience Your adviser will be able to look at all possible investment and savings opportunities and should not be contractually linked to any particular bank or insurance company. 
    They should have the necessary local and international knowledge to fully understand your financial planning and investment needs.  This may also require linking to a network of professionals, both national and international, within the tax and accountancy fields.

     3.    Comprehensive financial planning and Investment advice
    Look for companies and advisers that don’t just sell but also offer a strong element of planning and a good overview of your overall financial objectives.  Advice should be in writing and should clearly set our why a specific investment or saving is appropriate for your circumstances.

     4.    Transparency of fees and charges
    The way that your adviser will be remunerated should be clearly explained to you and this should be in writing.  There will also be charges made by the company providing the investment and these should be clearly explained along with any possible exit costs.

     5.    Well established with good administrative support
    Confirm that the company has a track record of providing quality advice.  Alongside this you should be able to expect that the advisers that you work with will be based in Belgium for the long term.  You should expect good administrative support with timely responses to enquiries and access to reports and information.

     6.    Accessible    
    You should expect to be able to contact your adviser whenever you have any questions.  Your adviser should also proactively contact you at least on an annual basis.  Any investments should receive regular reviews and valuations.
     7.    Informative  A Financial Adviser should provide a good flow of information keeping you up to date with the financial markets and general investment issues.  This may be either electronically or by way of seminars.

     8.    Testimonial availability You should be able to look at testimonials from a range of past and current clients.

     9.    Quantifies clients’ risk  
    Your adviser should take time to explain to you the risks that are associated with investing.  You should make your investment choices on the basis of identifying the appropriate level of risk which takes into account your investment horizon – the length of time you plan to save or leave your investment.

     10.    Web Visibility
    A clear website showing the office address, full contact details and with the advisers names listed, preferably with a short biography.  This supports the facts that the company is well established and fully regulated and the advisers are based in Belgium for the long term.  The website should also give clear information about complaints procedures.

    Melanie Barker
    Senior Adviser, Fulcra International Financial Planning
    Phone: +32 2 639 4560

     Short Biography
    Melanie joined Fulcra in early 2010, previously having been the Belgium Co-ordinator for The Open University in Brussels.  A law graduate, she has worked for a UK stock broker, the last to be based in the Stock Exchange building in London, and then specialised in mutual management for the marine insurance industry, based in London and the USA.

    Melanie has successfully completed the Award in Financial Planning (formerly Financial Advisers' International Qualification).  She has lived in Belgium since 1997.

    Back to PWI Magazine - Summer 2011

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