On the afternoon of June 5th 2015, within the context of the Athens Bi-annual, WIL held a dedicated, lively and informative Women Talent Pool Session for our Emerging Leaders, WIL Members and guests.
Following a networking lunch, WIL Emerging leaders Virginie Battu-Henriksson, Advisor to the Director for Media & Communication, Council of the European Union and Yvonne Chebib, Business Manager Public Sector MEA, Microsoft took the stage with WIL President Thaima Samman to wrap-up the morning sessions. Virginie Battu-Henriksonn provided her insights into the first session, sharing that the keywords we should retain about “Fostering Inclusive Growth in Europe” are trust and vision. Trust to be established between the public authorities and private sector, and visions of determined entrepreneurs that enabled thanks to a clear regulatory framework. She left the floor to Yvonne Chebib who shared on the second session, social innovation at the heart of inclusive growth. She described the impact of digitalization on job creation and knowledge sharing with SMEs as the core of this process.
The Women Talent Pool Session officially kicked off with a lively presentation by Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning and Development Director for MCI Group on “New Leadership Skills in a Competitive Environment”. He outlined that leadership is not as much about charisma as it is about promoting a cause or a company taking advantage of the right parameters in a competitive environment. Mr. Chandarana shared eye opening statistics about the changing demographics and environment of the workforce setting the tone of how leadership is adapting and changing as we move into the future. He discussed three concepts leaders have to deal with this decade, which are globalization, demographic evolution and the social-digital revolution. Mr. Chandarana went on to explain that now-a-days a good leader needs to keep up with technological progress, as adaptation to new technologies is becoming an obligation (a must have) rather than an option.
For Mr. Chandarana new leadership skills needed in this digital era include: influence, virtual management and quick execution, which is all linked to the management and leadership of the new generation of employees, the “millennials” who have “digital in their DNA”. Outlining how digitalization and globalization are quickly and constantly changing the nature of traditional working relationship, he explained that more and more leaders are forced to empower team who are working on the other side of the globe, which means juggling time differences and trusting individuals (more responsibility and less oversight). New technologies are blurring the distance and making us all more connected and capable to work. Another thing Mr. Chandarana stressed is that increasingly “work is a thing you do, not a place where you go”, but virtual interaction will never replace a face to face meeting. The last big leadership trend for the future we discuss was the emergence and increased importance of “boundary spanning”. Boundary spanning is the ability for a leader to cross traditional barriers to achieve an objective and to follow a cause, like working hand in hand with a competitor, or sharing revolutionary information within the sector and with competitors in service of a higher vision or goal (ex. Tesla technologies).
Building on this energizing workshop, we launched into a great panel session on Inclusive Leadership moderated by Thaima Samman, WIL President and Partner at SAMMAN Legal and Corporate Affair, and featuring Senior Leaders such as Craig Shank, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Microsoft, Maria Pernas, Senior Vice President, Group Legal Department, Atos, Shawn A. Covell, Vice President, Government Affairs, Qualcomm, Viktorija Smatko-Abaza, Principal Adviser, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission. Craig Shank opened the panel by sharing his experience of working and leading Microsoft’s global legal corporate affairs. He explained that he has to manage people working in 15 different time zones, who speak several language and all have different backgrounds and cultures. According to him inclusive leadership is closely linked to the notion of diversity, and diversity is not only about gender and race but also about seniority and cultural background. For Mr. Shank leaders needs to adapt themselves to multicultural work environments and as mentioned by Mr. Chandarana to technology that links global teams. He also asked the participants “How will you use failure to your best advantage”? Understating that there is a valuable lesson to be learned behind every failure, as this is part of the process of becoming a leader.
Maria Pernas went on to discuss how women are still underrepresented in the ICT sector, but encouragingly their number are slowly increasing. She took the example of her experience as Head of Atos Diversity Program to illustrate this. In Atos 30% of employees recruited under 30 are female, however, more still needs to be done. When discussing diversity at Atos, Ms. Pernas mentioned that she does not position it as a ‘women’s issue’ but an issue of company performance, as it has been proven through various studies that more diverse leadership teams and companies in general have a higher return on investment and better performance. In this regards, diversity initiatives can be strategic to company development and assigned indicators can measure their contribution to the company. Ultimately, diversity within a company, and especially at the leadership level, is just good business.
Viktorija Smatko-Abaza, provided the European Commission perspective to inclusive leadership and mentioned the men-women quotas proposition from the Commission to be implemented at national level. In appliance to the subsidiary principle there is no uniform legislation for quotas, but mentalities are evolving and companies are willing to fix internal objectives to promote women in leadership. Within the Commission there is definitely work to be done in promoting women in leadership, Ms. Smatko-Abaza said, continuing to explain that leadership programs exist but do not targeted women specifically. Lastly, in relation to work-life balance, Ms. Smatko-Abaza mentioned that the Commission should foster more workplace flexibility in order to enable women (and men) to pursue successful careers, but not at the price of their outside lives. Shawn Covell went on to share how she advocates for women and women’s promotion at Qualcomm where like any ICT company women are still underrepresented. She encouraged women to take ownership in their careers, as leadership is not only about working hard but about owning your successes and self-marketing. She also urged everyone in the audience, emerging leaders, guest and WIL members alike to take advantage of every learning opportunity available to them, like online management trainings etc.
After an afternoon of examining the many components of inclusive Leadership under different perspectives and learning about the future of leadership, Béatrice Delmas Linel, Managing Partner, Osborne Clarke closed the session by thanking the remarkable speakers from the morning and afternoon. She concluded that as women we need to take ownership over our careers and to put in practice all the knowledge acquired during this session, finding our own paths to a fulfilling career without limitations.