Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day here at IMD. Beside several events running at campus, online discussion with faculty, dedicated articles by experts on new technology, gender and the future of work and our week long series of Instagram posts dedicated to achievements of women in our class, this day turns our full attention to gender parity and equality. The official theme of this year’s IWD is #PressForProgress and this powerful call out urges all of us to take action and strive for impact. At the same time, we are aware that higher gender parity cannot be achieved without men caring for gender inequality, acting as male role models prompting diversity. (Below photo: Juho recognised this day by offering each woman in the program and MBA office a rose – thanks for this touching gesture!)



Looking around the Lorange auditorium during the MBA finance class, I strongly believe ambassadors of both sides of the coalition are sitting here. Spotting female fellow cohorts, brings me to thinking what did it take us to get here:

….who ingrained the idea of  becoming a leader in us and who nurtured it

….who encouraged us to strive for more

….which events and milestones in our career and private life shaped us to not give up despite headwind and further headwind

….who were our role models and which mantras did we repeat to ourselves in unfavourable situations

Twenty six of us took action many times in the past, broke stereotypes and changed mindsets about gender parity. We lead for change in the transformational within and beyond business. We came to IMD to reinforce and refine our leadership styles to make an even bigger impact in the future.

Some of the Women in the 2018 Class shared who they are inspired by and how strong women role models impacted their lives and careers:

“I grew up on Enid Blyton, Louisa May Alcott and Margaret Mitchell whose Scarlet O’Hara has remained my ultimate female role model and even after all these years, she has been my source of personal leadership principles.  She taught me how to take responsibility for my actions, how even the most overwhelming tasks can be tackled with a “can-do attitude” and willingness to do whatever is necessary to not just survive but thrive and to always strive for more. ” Neharika

In challenging moments, Claudine follows words of wisdom by Audrey Hepburn : “Nothing is impossible, the world itself says I’m possible”.

Oriane’s role business model is Coco Chanel. “She was a successful business woman working in a man’s world, way ahead of her time”, she explains. To remind herself of the vast progress society has made since Coco’s times, Oriane recalls a quite by Coco: “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Both Candice and Suyun draw inspiration from Sheryl Sandberg: 

“I hope you find true meaning, contentment, and passion in your life. I hope you navigate the difficult times and come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope you find whatever balance you seek with your eyes wide open. And I hope that you — yes, you — have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world,” are the words of motivation for Suyun.

“We must raise both the ceiling and the floor” are the words of action for Candice. She explains: “It’s relatively easy to encourage women, it’s another thing to lead by example. For me, Sheryl Sandberg is the ultimate example of an inspiring female role model. She demonstrates great leadership acumen, charisma, and humility, and does it while fully harnessing, not shying away from, her emotions. She inspires me to not only smash the ceiling, but also raise the floor.”

As  female business and political leaders of my home country can be counted on the fingers of one hand,  I found inspiration in the empowering words of Hillary Clinton: “Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.”

Irina shared her testimony on the transformational impact of a strong female role model she encountered in her previous career: “My former boss, Nuzhat Naweed – at that time the only woman VP in a technology company of 11 000 people – motivated me to be much more professionally daring. …. She openly spoke about diversity, shared what challenges she faced as the only female VP, and how she handled them. Thanks to her empowering example, not only did I go forth and deliver on ambitious projects, but I also became more engaged in encouraging female colleagues to aim higher.”, Irina comments. 

She adds: “Thanks to Nuzhat’s vibrant example, I would love to call forth all the women in leadership positions to leverage their power of role models. In fact, I believe that role models can bring the broadest, most sustainable impact on gender balance in the management world. The more visibility female achievers have, the more other women will be inspired to follow, fuelling change bottom-up.”

….Happy International Women’s Day!





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