“You can’t expect sympathy from men in a situation that isn’t awkward for them,” is one of the phrases heard at the talk that IE Global Alumni Relations and the IE Center for Diversity organized on the occasion of International Women’s Day. It came from Valeria Domínguez, eCommerce and Omni-channel Director at Adolfo Domínguez and an EMBA 2013 graduate. Far from sounding defiant, it was received as push for women to take the reins of the changes that must be made to work for greater equality.
It’s common to hear that men have to take part in gender diversity management and social change. But, as Valeria pointed out, if men don’t feel uncomfortable with the current situation they are not going to help right the balance on their own.
At the event, which took place in the Aula Magna, the discussion centered around leadership, success and mistakes. These are universal topics, but on this occasion what was of interest was the opinion of women whose positions and careers seemed to indicate that they know a lot about the first two topics and have a great deal to say about the third.
Success? It is often seen as something linked to work, said Nitida Pastor, Strategy & Medical Affairs European Director at Mead Johnson Nutrition and a 1989 MBA, who has another idea. “When I think about success, I think about my dreams and how to achieve them.”
Valeria Domínguez stressed the business vision that Steve Jobs had, which ended up affecting all of Silicon Valley. She thinks there’s even a certain romance in companies if they are examined from a different point of view. To “change the world” or create “companies that have company values” are two aspects of success that have a more human and personal component than mere company growth and business figures.
Regarding leadership, and even though more and more women are graduating from universities, it’s still true that the management positions continue to be occupied by men. You just have to take a look at the leaders of companies on the IBEX 35 stock listing or at any other statistics on positions of company responsibility.
Valeria Domínguez says that society demands much more from men: among other things, they are expected to lead, whereas for women there are other roles, but not leadership. “We’re competing in a world where the companies have been created by men”, she said, and added that she sees a future in which women will start up more businesses, which will lead to more women in management positions.
Paula Aranegui, Business Developer for Spain and Portugal at Meetic and a 2014 GSMP graduate, noted that “anyone can be a leader” and pointed to a lesson from Gareth Jones, an IE professor and co-author of the book Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?, who declares: “Be yourself, with skills”. The ability to take risks, listen and inspire a team are some of the other qualities that Aranegui cites about leadership. Valeria Domínguez sums it up in three tasks that one has to do well: hire the right people, define a vision and motivate people, and finally, get resources.
The roundtable participants also spoke about failure, which in many cases is linked with success and leadership. Another common element: the notion that success is impossible without having first made mistakes, that running risks is the only way to gain experience.
A question of genders
Annick Marie-Jose Janssens, a 2016 student in the Master in Management program and who participated in the roundtable on behalf of the IE Women in Business Club, referred to the need that both men and women confront the problem. “Men have to be part of the change, even if they don’t lead it.”
A woman in the audience spoke of her personal situation, her sense of discomfort because her job didn’t allow her to be at home as much as she would like to be. This led to a comparison with other mothers, and of the need to comply with pre-established expectations. Rolando Ober, an EMBA 2016 student and Strategy Project Manager at Accenture, said that success is often a case of overcoming internal factors, and not of behavior or external situations.
“A real social transformation takes a full century, and we’re only at the 50-year point,” said Valeria Domínguez. “Women have just acquired a new role and new responsibilities in society.” And she added that they have not yet thrown off their earlier roles. It’s a process of transition and we’re only halfway there.