#WhenWomenLead Event – International Women’s Day 2021

TheDOSchool event with UN Women on the topic of #WhenWomenLead. 

In honor of International Women’s Day, UN Women in collaboration with The DO School hosted an exchange between Industry Disruptor alumni and special guests:
#WhenWomenLead – Celebrating Disruptive Women Entrepreneurs. 

Here some key thoughts captured afterwards:

  • Future view: The future is (also female, but above all) #diverse!
  • Time to act: We have enough analysis & facts. Means: Put I&D on the agenda – target it – measure it – incentivize it. Organizations need to be purposeful and focused (on outcomes) about this.
  • Piece of advice: Think about your life as an entrepreneur – invest in yourself! Build your brand and relationships. Networks are social capital that we all need.

In your experience, what happens #WhenWomenLead – be it as entrepreneurs or in large organizations? And what are the key obstacles for women to step into leadership roles? 

Overall, our changing working world is about diversity in and at work. And about valuing these different qualities. In addition to networking and teamwork, diversity of ideas, thoughts, perspectives, experiences, skills, origins & personal backgrounds is needed to successfully tackle the complexity of our changing world.

In this increasingly “exponential” world (VUCA!), the demands on leadership are changing dramatically. This new world requires a new kind of leadership, enhancing self-organization, trust, experimentation, team, cooperation, networking.

#diversifyleadership is the mix of these new leadership qualities. #femaleleadership puts emphasis on communication, cooperation and empathy. Some of the “female skills” are also a question of socialization and can be learned. And, that also means in general moving away from stereotypes.

Thus, if you want to be and remain competitive as a company, you will win through the targeted promotion of ‘female‘-attributed environments and diverse perspectives. The future is (also female, but above all) #diverse!

“Making the INVISIBLE VISIBLE” of Oliver Wyman (Women in Leadership Report 2021)

In the report “Making the INVISIBLE VISIBLE” of Oliver Wyman (Women in Leadership Report 2021) it reads on critical barriers:

The world of business is moving to a more inclusive, collaborative work style that better taps the talent and innovation of the full team — a style that women leaders bring. But the system is still wired around an old model that was built in an environment when the vast majority of employees were men. By not shifting the leadership model more explicitly, we are letting the old “norms” de-select the very leaders and styles we are seeking to grow and making the journey to leaders more challenging for women.

Women need to appreciate why these relationships matter perhaps as much as results do, and focus more attention on developing them.

Women are more socialized as rule followers from an early age; …

These biases and microaggressions are commonplace and often unintentional, but nonetheless they take a toll on women. While the men may not see them, the women do, and it means that many women spend critical energy focused on adapting or self-editing. Over time, this can be demoralizing and exhausting.


What is already working? What do we need more of, to catalyze women leadership? Any best practices or insights on how we can bring more women in leadership positions?

We all are currently discussing in manyfold ways the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) as well as belonging as key to success.

In order to cope with the complexity of the changing world of work and digital transformation, we need – in addition to networking and teamwork – diversity of ideas, thoughts, perspectives, experiences and competencies. Especially, in challenging times like these, it is a driving force because it connects and helps to master challenges together as a team.

Our new “VUCA”-world requires a new organization that focuses on creating a shared culture, and designing a work environment that engages people and gives appreciation to the different qualities of people. Without that strong culture we will not succeed in tackling the challenges nor getting the required customer focus, need for innovation or let alone employee engagement.

We know the diversity of our workforce is what makes us strong and if we want to remain competitive as companies we need to embrace diversity in work.

The shift that now needs to happen is understanding DEI as a true competitive advantage, making it part of the business strategy. So the time is up and over to talk, we need to act. Making I&D a business imperative. Not a nice to have but a MUST have.

Let’s call out for ACTION: we have enough analysis and facts – it’s now the time to ACT.

That means: Put it on the agenda – target it – measure it – incentivize it. Organizations need to be purposeful and focused (on outcomes) about this.

TREAT I&D LIKE A BUSINESS TO GET MORE RESULTS Just like in business, you get what you measure and prioritize. So get over any discomfort with targets an measurement, and start challenging yourself by asking, “If I had to get ‘x’ more women in leadership roles within a year, how would I do that?” Then take action and make it happen like you would any operational challenge. (“Making the INVISIBLE VISIBLE” – Oliver Wyman – Women in Leadership Report 2021)

And then, most importantly, live it! Make it part of the culture & mindset. Make it visible & show it.

INCLUSIVE LEADERSHIP STARTS AT THE TOP Educate your existing leadership on the gender bias and systemic barriers …Create a shared view of what makes great leadership …and be more explicit and purposeful about how you develop and assess leaders against inclusive criteria. (“Making the INVISIBLE VISIBLE” – Oliver Wyman – Women in Leadership Report 2021)

Please check out other publications on this subject. Also my statement in IWD2021.

What is your key piece of advice to women when it comes to leadership?

  • Think about your life as an entrepreneur – as if you have your own company. Invest in yourself!
  • As soon as possible (start to) build your brand, for what do you want to be known for, for what remembered? Visibility matters!
  • Last but not least, most important: Network! Build relationships. Networks are social capital that we all need.


#WhenWomenLead #Change #able4change #Diversity #Inclusion #Diversitymatters #Equity #DiversityAndInclusion #IWD2021

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