Women & Career

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  • 23 Aug 2011 23:06 | Deleted user

    Back to PWI Magazine - Summer 2011

    Corporate governance: the “KMO Adviesraad“ project
    An interview of Danielle Binnemans, Managing Partner at Experts@Business by Alessandra Zocca

    Ms.Danielle Binnemans, Managing Partner at Experts@Business, - was interviewed by Alessandra Zocca (PWI).

    Ms.Danielle Binnemans, Managing Partner at Experts@Business, an independent resourcing specialist within Interim Management and Business Coaching, lead partner of the UNIZO corporate governance project KMO Adviesraad.

    PWI - What is the UNIZO “KMO Adviesraad” corporate governance project and what is your role within?

    Ms. Binnemans – UNIZO turned to my company - Experts@Business - for support in their new corporate governance project (called KMO Adviesraad) addressed to small/medium enterprises (SMEs not quoted in the Stock Exchange).
    UNIZO is the largest Flemish organisation for self-employed SMEs entrepreneurs, with over 82,000 members as well as 423 local branches (one in every municipality) mostly located in the northern and Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (region of Flanders and Brussels).This project is sponsored by Baron Buysse, the main author of the Belgian Code for Corporate Governance (Code Buysse) and the Flemish government.
    There is a similar project for companies quoted in the Stock Exchange, run by the VOKA organization, the Flanders' Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    The aim of the UNIZO corporate governance project for SME’s is to link experts to small/medium businesses in order to help them grow, reinforce their governance structure and ultimately their business and financial performance. The SMEs participating in this project engage for at least 2 years in establishing 4 annual board meetings with the assistance of 3 independent board members – in the role of advisory board - supporting the owner or the management team with their expertise.
    The Flemish government sustains these companies also by reimbursing half of the independent advisors’ honorary payment.

    What is the impact of this UNIZO initiative in Belgium?

    Ms. Binnemans – About 80% of the Belgian economic landscape is composed of small and medium sized enterprises, therefore the potential benefits coming out this UNIZO initiative will be key for the strategic growth of those SMEs who are participating, and the preparation of their potential future quotation in the Stock Exchange.

    What was the role of Experts@Business in this project, Danielle?

    Ms. Binnemans - With our company we have been in charge, since last March, of the following:
    •    Screening the candidates to the advisor role (1250 candidates!)
    •    Building a platform to facilitate the following matching process (advisors/SME) according to the competency needs of the SMEs
    •    Finally of matching SME’s and advisors.

    Two months ago the campaign started in each of the Flemish provinces to inform the SMEs about this project, so companies could apply to UNIZO, who visited them and transmitted to Experts@Business the relevant competency needs: this assured that we could optimally match these companies with the advisors who are expert in the areas where the companies are lacking expertise. After the approval by the company for the proposed independent advisors, the new board meetings can start under the overall supervision of the relevant UNIZO coordinator.

    How was the take-up of the UNIZO offer to become an independent board member and advisor for Belgian SMEs?

    Ms. Binnemans – The response to the UNIZO offer was good, as mentioned, 1250 candidates. What surprised me, Alessandra, is that the women who applied were only 15% of the candidates. The selection criteria were professional competencies and capabilities, becoming board advisors was a tremendous opportunity to improve and develop corporate governance skills and expertise.

    Agreed, a missed opportunity for women. Are there few women in the profession of interim executive?

    Ms. Binnemans – Yes, there are fewer women in the interim executive field, but if women chose this profession, they are the best.
    Women generally prefer more stable work, even if it is at a level lower than their capabilities and aspirations. Let me make an example: give a job description to both a man and a woman, guess what will be their reaction … The man will focus on the 90% of the skills he already has and will believe he will learn the lacking 10%. The woman will forget that she has solid competencies in the 90% of the job requirements and she will highlight the 10% she lacks.
    Women are often reticent to promote themselves. Women tend to be unsure, they lack self-confidence and are too humble, even in the functions where they are the majority. For example HR is a function/expertise area chosen by many women, because this domain requires “feeling” and women have an inclination for it, but unfortunately the top level positions are still filled with men.

    What else, in your opinion, prevents professional women from reaching the top positions?  What could help?

    Ms. Binnemans – A lot of women do not want the top, they make themselves content with middle management jobs, and if they reach the executive level, they do not strive to go higher, because they fear they will be no longer able to cope with their family. But - on the contrary - the fact that women are earning more money allows to acquire external help at home. We lose a lot of women in companies at this specific point.
    This is sad, because at the university there are clear statistics that shows girls are cleverer, they get better grades than boys, but they risk becoming frustrated during their working life.

    My strong recommendation is that successful women – who made a brilliant career – take the time to talk to these female students and prove to them that it’s possible to combine family and career. Girls have many, many questions and doubts about their professional future; I am sure that young women wonder when it is better to have their children, I can tell them my experience and advice “the sooner the better” in order to avoid taking a break in the middle of their way up. 
    A “mentoring program” for female students is essential, also  a survey about their issues regarding their future career. Indeed, when I ask successful women what helped them in their career, nine out ten of them state they had a good mentor, who believed in them and encouraged them to take challenges.
    Marcia De Wachter (Director of the National Bank of Belgium), Ingrid Lieten (Vice-Minister-President of the Flemish Government), Astrid De Lathauwer (Executive Vice President Human Resources of the Belgacom Group) and Saskia Van Uffelen (CEO Bull Belux), like other top women I know, already provide help to less senior women and, I think this is the way forward.

    Do you think that women’s promotion is too much controlled due to the male dominance in the screening/promotion committees?

    Ms. Binnemans – No, I do not think so, if women want to get to the top and they are competent and confident, they can achieve it. Sure, it’s a man’s world, we cannot force things, but it’s coming, it is just a matter of time, look at how many more women ministers we have nowadays!

    In your opinion, what are the drivers that inspire women to climb the hierarchy?

    Ms. Binnemans – Passion is the number one! Being passionate in their job, striving to grow and develop: these are necessary qualities to succeed. As a woman you need to be as good as your male colleagues, if not even better. I do not think that women fight for the prestige of being on the top, in my opinion, prestige is a consequence of impeccable competencies.

    Do you think that women would need gender specific “leadership program” to support their career to the board?

    Ms. Binnemans – No, no difference in training between women and men. And in Belgium they have the same education and training opportunities.

    Which is your reaction to “pink quotae”?

    Ms. Binnemans – I am really not in for quotas. Women want to succeed for their merit, they hate the label “quotas board member”! 
    On the other side, it might be a faster way … but, in order to respect the law, the potential risk will be to take on board women not fully competent or with not enough experience, which will turn quotas into a negative measure in the long run.

    What I would suggest, though, is the following: if in a recruitment or a promotion process it turns out that the two  best candidates are a man and a woman, and the % of women in the company is lower, then the woman should be chosen. This principle of the best candidate is respected and, at the same time, is brought in more gender balance.

     Short Biography
    Danielle Binnemans is, Managing Partner and founder (in 2009) of  Experts@Business, an independent resourcing specialist within Interim Management and Business Coaching offering Expertise and Experience in a wide range of sectors and specialisms for long term and short term assignments through a smart network of Partners and Executives with strong track records.Danielle Binnemans is  lead partner of the UNIZO corporate governance project KMO Adviesraad.
    In her career Danielle has fulfilled Senior Management Positions in different sectors.  Managing Partner at PMAadvice bvba, provider of Executive Interim Management from 2005 - 2009. Administrator/ Managing Partner at Antilope Group nv, a Printing industrie from 1986 to 1998.. Sales Manager at  Amersham International ltd., a pharmaceutical company from 1986 - 1984. Sales Manager at Etap nv from 1984 - 1982.
    Danielle granted a Master in Applied Economics at UFSIA (Universitaire Faculteiten Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen) and a Master in Economics at the Antwerp University.
    Pegasuslaan 5
    1831 Diegem
    M: +32 (0)477 35 64 64


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

    Back to PWI Magazine - Summer 2011

  • 05 Apr 2011 02:27 | Deleted user

    Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011

    The Woman's Voice: Her Magical Combination of Femininity and Strength
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Ms.Marie Terese Letorney, International Voice Specialist, Founder/Director of ASK YOUR VOICE

    Marie Terese Letorney, International Voice Specialist, Founder/Director of ASK YOUR VOICE led a special «Master Class» for PWI assisting women to explore the beauty, power and importance of their ‘female voice’ in the work environment and involving the participants in specific scenarios.

    PWI – Marie Terese, enhancing people’s voice potential is your mission. How would you describe the importance of the human voice, what does the voice tell about a person?

    Ms. Letorney – “From the moment we are born, we arrive bellowing into the world with the very essence of our sound announcing, “Here I am”!  Your voice is the communication tool of your soul and your spirit. Your voice is your vibration, your identity, your brand. This is my mantra to my clients and to whom ever I meet either individually or speaking before groups. The human voice is unlimited with its capabilities. It is a kaleidoscope with a rich harmonic content of sounds, enabling one to express a variety of emotions.  When I chose my logo, I chose the colors of the rainbow, because it truly resembles the voice which can communicate every nuance of color.  The voice expresses all of one’s emotions. One’s voice needs to grasp and stimulate the ear; whether to lead in leadership, to motivate a partner in business, to inspire as a teacher would to their student, to soothe as a mother comforting her child, to seduce as a lover would to their lover or to encourage as a friend to a friend.”
    Most importantly, the human voice is our vital instrument for communication, especially in today’s global world of diversity.  To be able to speak with confidence and ease is an essential skill for today’s diverse business world whether in negotiations, presentations, conference calls, interviews or tele-presence”. 

    PWI – What are the key elements of the human voice?

    Ms. Letorney – “Elements of a voice, what makes a voice distinctive, what makes a voice beautiful?
    I would say the timbre (color), speaking legato (smooth line) and with a tempo sostenuto (to sustain your breath), as well as intensity, inflection and placement of tone. Whereas, what makes a voice distinctive in a negative sense is when the voice is monotone (meaning always talking in the same color, in the same rhythm, in the same pitch whether high or low) or when the voice sounds very high and nasal. Consequently, the voice will lack the variety of color, tempo, expression, etc.”

    PWI – Marie Terese, you will lead a Master Class for PWI on April 30th.
    Could you kindly give us a taste of the topic?

    Ms. Letorney – “My goal and reward as a Voice specialist, is assisting my clients to discover the beauty, the power and the many colors of their voice. I want to give to people what I have learned on the stage, my life experiences with the voice and the ability to adapt for their individual needs. 
    First of all, it must be understood that there is a difference between a male and female voice. Physiologically, the male voice has longer vocal chords which produce a deeper sound as well as a deeper resonance because of their larger physique.  If men don’t support their voice, their sound comes across as mumbling or even monotone. Whereas, the female voice physiologically, has shorter vocal chords which gives her a higher placed sound. Generally, having a smaller physique compared to a man, her resonance is placed higher. Because of this difference, the woman’s voice sounds more expressive.  For example, at a board or conference meeting, if the woman executive does not properly support her voice breathing correctly while raising her voice for intensity or debating an important point in a negotiation, consequently, her voice will go up in pitch and/or her sentences will end-up in sounding like questions instead of statements. Unfortunately, she is usually labeled as insecure, emotional or nervous, but she is not!  Also, from the physical aspect, I advise my female clients, when they are sitting at the conference table, not to cross their legs from the knee while speaking, why? It is because it cuts into their base of proper breath support when sitting. There is also a way in which a woman can make ‘her space’, ‘her presence’ to create her own energy and help facilitate and enhance her speaking. This was discussed and practiced at the Master Class.”

    PWI – Do women and men equally express their voice? How can women promote their femininity and strength in their voice?

    Ms. Letorney – “I often find that the person’s voice does not match their body, and their position of work. They are not using their voice to its optimum potential whether they are women or men. Apart from this, there are still a number of social issues between women and men that can be related to the voice.  In reference to your question of women, it has to do with cultural aspects, different gender qualities, concision, presence and women in leadership. For example, in reference to culture, I found with some of my women clients that sometimes they are a little apprehensive to counteract with their male counterparts.  It does not mean they are weak, they are highly intelligent, educated, experienced and sophisticated, but it can sometimes be a cultural issue depending on the situation.  Furthermore, when I work with my women clients, I discuss that wonderful aspect of ‘nurturing’.”  Ms. Letorney continues to say that studies have highlighted that women do not reach quicker to top management positions, because having the female nurturing quality they generally want to remain and be the best in their current position.  Whereas, their male counterpart is thinking how they can access to a higher position quicker and more competitively. With the combination of the woman’s nurturing aspect and their instinctive nature, studies are finding more and more that when women are employed in top management positions, their companies' profit increased. Women are natural organizers, natural in multi-tasking, and women have a great influence in the world.  “I think a woman should not be afraid to speak-up in her work organization.  When they do speak-up, they must not let their voices ascend which men can often interpret as ‘emotional’.”  She then continues to discuss about concision giving an example of how a man would say simply and directly, ‘The sun is out today’, whereas, a woman will go on saying: ‘Ah, the sun is out today and after work, I will go shopping and then I will do …’ and that women tend to be more expressive with telling their whole story. “Women do not need to do that in business, it’s short and dry. Women need to keep their sentence short and to the point, but using the right, tone, dynamics and inflections.”

    We discussed the importance of presence and Marie Terese suggested that, “women should analyze their male colleagues who have the influence in the meeting by observing how they speak, listen to the men’s tempo.  Usually men are very direct, calm, and to the point.  For example, I once had a client who was upset because she proposed a fabulous idea and then 30 minutes later, her male colleague said the same thing, but the group’s reaction to her male colleague was ‘Oh, that’s a great idea’. I asked her to reflect why they listened to him, not her, and how he said her idea? Women have to speak logically, not emotionally, go to the point and emphasize the right words. Women should speak with more conviction, more presence and know when to accentuate words that are important”.

    In conclusion, we spoke about Leadership. “With our diverse global world, we need more women to lead and execute leadership roles in both the political and business platforms.  It is for this reason why women must know how to deliver and execute their Voice to its maximum potential. After all, we have the advantage of being born with naturally expressive voices”.

    “Alessandra, it will be a great pleasure to give this Master Class for PWI. This association is a genuine example of what defines an organization of professional international women; a positive collaboration of mutual respect in friendships and working relationships.”

    On April 30th, Ms. Letorney led a Master Class for PWI having women explore the importance of their female voice in their work environment and involving the participants in specific scenarios. Eight countries were represented amongst PWI's fifteen participants.

    Eight countries were represented amongst PWI's fifteen participants on April 30st 2011

    Marie Terese Letorney, International Voice Specialist, Founder/Director of Ask Your Voice.
    With 20 years experience singing on renowned operatic stages and as guest soloist in concert with Europe’s finest orchestras, Ms. Letorney has been recognized internationally by both the public and press with great enthusiasm!  Based on her international experience, classical training, as Founder/Director of Ask Your Voice, and with her unique combination of a Bachelor Degree in Music and Master’s Degree in Management, she has developed an innovative methodology for all languages for the Professional Speaking Voice.


    Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011

  • 05 Apr 2011 00:56 | Deleted user

    Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011

    PWI Member Profile – Sonia Neefs: a career shift at fifty?
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Mrs. Sonia Neefs, Managing Director of “Organization Services”(*)

    PWI – What inspired you to join PWI Brussels?

    Mrs. Neefs – I joined PWI Brussels fifteen years ago because I was impressed by the quality of the speakers and of the organised events. I liked the dynamism of the PWI members. 

    PWI – What is your current profession?

    Mrs. Neefs – I am an event organiser for company incentives, weddings and other unforgettable events. Around twenty years ago, I founded my company “Organization Services”, specialised  in Belgian Folklore and theme events (like medieval weddings, Venice Opera or exotic evenings).
    In 2002, I won the “Award of Ambassador of the City of Brussels” thanks to my initiative "Dégustez Bruxelles" (Taste Brussels – It is a rally by foot, available in four languages, to discover the city through a sort of game/team building). Actually, I started this work when I turned fifty years old …

    PWI – You started a new profession at fifty years old?  Wow, Sonia, it sounds very encouraging, could you please tell us more about your professional story?

    Mrs. Neefs – Yes, I become an entrepreneur at fifty. Life is unpredictable … it all started when my husband lost his prestigious job due to his company restructuring and luckily after fifteen years being at home as a housewife I found  a job in eight days at the Tourist Information Office of Brussels thanks  to my ability to speak four languages.
    You have to know, Alessandra, that when I was a young girl I wanted to become an air hostess, but in the late ‘50s when I completed my language studies, my parents were very skeptical about the hostess profession, so they insisted I had to work in their restaurant. Despite my disappointment, I obeyed – thank God times have changed now! – and I started working for my family business, an experience that allowed me to gain the competencies needed to become the manager of the “Grand Café” in Brussels from 1980 till 1984.
    In addition to my parents, my husband was also trying to direct my life, by pushing me to concentrate on bringing up our children instead of investing energy in my profession, so I decided to go for a part-time managerial position at “Falstaff Café” for seven years.
    Finally in 1990 I started my own business.

    PWI – What triggered you to become an event organiser?

    Mrs. Neefs – I have always liked helping people amuse themselves. When I worked at the Brussels Tourism Office, I was fascinated by a survey whose results claimed that Pieter Bruegel was the most  known Belgian.  Therefore, I began organising “Breuglian Evenings” inspired by his picture.

    The Peasants' Wedding

     The Peasants' Wedding - 1568 - Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca.1525-1569/Flemish)
    Oil on Wood Panel - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

    PWI – And which of your business dreams have not yet come true?

    Mrs. Neefs – I am at the end of my career and would like to find a successor, a young dynamic person to continue the business I created, it is “my baby” and I want to be sure I put it in the right hands. Of course I am willing to help my successor for a while, slowing down my involvement and concentrate  on weddings and trips for few more  of years . 

    PWI – What is your advice to women to be successful in business?

    Mrs. Neefs – For a woman to be successful is  necessary to keep a positive mind  and always continue believing that you can realise your dream, even if some people tell you not to do it. Alessandra, the best recommendation is to follow your intuition, your heart!

    PWI – How do you apply the PWI inspiring principles in your profession/environment? How do you see the introduction of the "quotas"?

    Mrs. Neefs – I give more chances to female artists when I chose partners or free-lancers for the events I organise.
    I believe that the introduction of quotas is significant progress for women. Just think that women in Belgium were not allowed to vote till the beginning of the 20th century …

    (*) http://www.organization-services.com/FR/html/index_fr.htm

    Mrs. Sonia Neefs is the founder and Managing Director of “Organization Services” (*), specialised  in the organisation of theme evenings, Belgian folklore, Bruegel events and the rally "Taste and discover Brussels".
    Mrs. Sonia Neefs is the Award Winner of the "2002 Brussels Ambassador of Tourism", category "Incentives". 


    Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011

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