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Video: New book profiles top female leaders in Brussels

Oct 11, 2017
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Women Leading the Way in Brussels sets out to inspire a new generation of female leaders, featuring interviews with 14 women in top jobs

A new book aims to promote more gender-inclusive organisations and inspire a new generation of female leaders, by focusing on 14 successful women who have "made it" in Brussels fields ranging from politics and law to journalism and technology.

Women Leading the Way in Brussels is co-authored by Claudia Caldeirinha, a university professor and founder of consultancy company Redscope, and Corinna Hörst, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund of the US and president of Women in International Security.

In the book, they aim to give advice from women at the height of their career, from insightful tips to dos and don'ts. By looking at who is making the decisions in big companies, the book also provides a talking point, as well as a platform for aspiring female leaders.

"We are privileged, we work with a lot of powerful women on a daily basis," Caldeirinha explains. "We thought: why not share this? This connection would be very helpful to the rest of our communities, to know and learn from the things that went well and the things that didn’t go so well."

At the core of the book are 14 interviews with women in positions of power across different industries, from chief executives and CEOs in politics and law, to editors and directors in journalism and technology. It illustrates the multitude of ways women can lead.

'It's about men and women working together'

One of the interviewees is Louise Harvey, the chair in strategic communications at FTI Consulting. When she was asked to think about her career path, she began to question how things have progressed for women.

She mentions her 23 year-old daughter who is just entering the workforce. "Not enough has changed from when I was 23," she says. Harvey wants to help women leapfrog common leadership issues. “The advice I give to my daughter and everyone else is don't marry a dinosaur."

In fact, many of the women say that men need to be regarded as allies, helping to empower women. "It's about men and women working together," Oana Lunguescu concurs.

Following 25 years at the BBC World Service, Lunguescu is now the chief spokesperson and head of media operations at Nato. For her, change is happening. She says there are six women heads of state and nine women ambassadors to Nato. “A woman is deputy secretary-general and hopefully we’ll soon see a woman secretary-general,” she adds. The current secretary-general calls himself a feminist.

Quotas and targets are also seen as an important way forward. The European Commission has set itself a goal of at least 40% female leadership by 2019. Ann Mettler is one of those leaders, as head of the European Political Strategy Centre DG at the Commission. "Societies that treat women the way they deserve function better," she says.

The guidebook to Brussels

On top of promoting female leadership, the book helps newcomers in Brussels. It provides information for navigating around the capital and its institutions. "When I first came [to Brussels] I was looking to figure out how EU affairs work. There was nothing," Corinna Hörst tells the crowd at the book launch. "We decided to do the guidebook we’d been looking for."

The book ends with a directory of 52 initiatives that support women in Brussels. On the subject of Brussels, Horta says it has a mix of sectors unlike any other city. “It’s an incredible place to form your identity, it’s not subject to national norms,” she says.

In this regard, it is also a city more conducive to change - a good starting block. "We must build a Europe where women lead up in front and not from behind," she concludes.

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