It was a pleasure to be part of the Women’s Network Webinar on “Women in Leadership”, hosted by AlixPartners, the University of St.Gallen HSG and the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management.

Hearing from leading female executives from various industries who reflected on the key challenges and activities for systemic change and self-empowerment, in pursuit of gender parity and women’s empowerment in leadership was fascinating. 

Here’s a short summary of the key takeaways:

How can companies increase the hiring rate of women into key management positions and foster the talent pipeline?

  • Whenever hiring executives externally, make it a requirement to have female candidates in the selection process
  • When hiring internally, officially post every leadership position so that everybody can apply; and make it mandatory to include females in the interviewing process. If there are no female applications, hiring managers need to report the reasons for this to HR
  • Succession planning policies should include the requirement to have a diverse set of candidates for every leadership role
  • Link recruitment of gender with the bonus system, having short-term financial incentives being influenced by the degree a manager is hiring in line with the gender target
  • Invest in building the pipeline on the lower management levels, to secure female candidates on all levels for long-term success
  • “What gets measured gets done”: regularly report on the progression of gender parity and women’s empowerment within the company; and install a “diversity board” to assess numbers and initiate actions
  • Foster sponsorship and mentorship programs to accelerate women’s advancement
  • Install hybrid and flexible working models to make it easier to combine work with family needs
  • Upgrade childcare models and provide more flexible hours for childcare

What strategies for self-empowerment have worked for the panelists to successfully advance in their career?

  • Be authentic, be yourself, and don’t try to be a copy of somebody else
  • Build your own personal brand, make sure your surroundings know what you stand for and talk about what you have achieved
  • Make sure you are part of conversations and bring in your opinion, push yourself out of your comfort zone and take risks
  • Look for the right company and environment to work for, e.g. people who are interviewing you: are they authentic and do they think outside the box? Look for signs of a diverse and inclusive company culture
  • When you start your career, follow your instincts, do what you want and be self-confident; don’t restrain yourself with potential family and work-life balance questions, there will always be a solution
  • Proactively look for mentors, female and male, to have someone to push and support you
  • Build your internal and external network. Find peers to align with and people to reach out to to get another opinion
  • If your career is moving slowly, switch the job or the company
  • Seek role models and become one for the women around you

Although the topic of women’s empowerment has risen on the corporate agenda in recent years, the panel agreed that the existing situation and issues need to be permanently addressed to further improve women’s empowerment. Please talk about it! And of course, it is not only about women in leadership, but also diversity in general that needs to be put on even more agendas.

A big thank you to our fantastic speakers for this inspiring event:

  • Dr. Bettina Orlopp, CFO & Deputy Chairwoman of the Board of Managing Directors at Commerzbank AG
  • Ayla Busch, Co-CEO & Co-Owner of Busch SE and Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board at Pfeiffer Vacuum Technology AG
  • Bettina Schaller, President of World Employment Confederation and Head Group Public Affairs at Adecco Group
  • Beatrix Morath, Local Market Leader Switzerland, Managing Director and Member of the Board of Directors at AlixPartners

and to our moderator Dr. Patricia Widmer, Programme Director Open Enrolment and Diversity at University of St. Gallen, who led the discussion professionally and effectively.

And many thanks also to Delphine Demeestere from HSG MBA Alumni & President of the HSG MBA Women in Business Club, Martina Beermann, Director Career Development/Employer Relations from HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and Lina Kayser, Martin Mair and Lana Anderson from AlixPartners.

This event was sponsored by AlixPartners Women’s Empowerment Matters Employee Resource Group.