Inspiring Women: The Challenges of Leadership in Times of Change

On March 23rd, 2023, the Great Female Leadership Conference, the largest Portuguese event about women in leadership, was back in Porto. With the central theme “Inspiring Women”, this time Executiva decided to inspire women through the best examples of women in leadership in difficult times. Other topics discussed included toxic leadership, how to stay on a board, and, finally, what new leadership will look like.

To start the conference, Isabel Canha, the Executiva director, shared with the audience important data on equality in companies. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 132 years to eliminate global inequalities between men and women, meaning only in the year 2154. According to the study “Gender Diversity in Portugal” by Informa D&B, only 13.9% of CEOs are women. And only 16.2% of Board of Director Chairs are women.

Inspiring women: Isabel Canha women in leadership 2023

Patrícia Teixeira Lopes, vice dean of Porto Business School, hosted the Great Conference on Female Leadership for the third time. She said, “It is not for lack of empirical evidence that diversity in general, and the presence of women in decision-making positions, has a positive correlation with the performance of companies, with creativity, innovation, with more adequate decision-making, more accurate. This is internationally recognized, it is evident.”

women in leadership 2023

9th Great Women’s Leadership Conference

Women on Boards

The lack of parity in boards of directors, the C-Level, fueled the round table, “Women on Boards”. The topics under discussion were how women can reach boards and remain on them.

Soledade Carvalho Duarte, the managing partner of Invesco Transearch, advised that before deciding to enter the race for the top power of companies women should reflect on why they want to reach a board and what they intend to do with it. In her opinion, “to lead is to serve, we need to be ready to serve the organization, assume the responsibilities, of what goes well, but above all what goes wrong, with all the organization’s stakeholders.” On the other hand, we must realize that joining a board represents a profound change in the way of looking at an organization.

Inspiring Women: Women on Boards

Leading in Turbulent Times

At the roundtable “Leading in Turbulent Times”, Cristina Saiago, director general of Clarins, highlighted the role of micro-events in management, especially in turbulent times, alongside Sónia Calado, director of DRT Moldes, and Filipa Montalvão, partner of White.

In these times of uncertainty, we must listen without filters and communicate frequently and transparently. “It’s transformational and people transform stress into passion and when people are passionate about what they do, things happen in a simpler way and in a brighter and more genuine way. It is a state of mind that is promoted and spreads throughout the organization and it is a privilege to work with passionate teams”, said Cristina Saiago.

Leadership in New Work Models

Machine intelligence and artificial intelligence are here to stay. Companies will have to deal with them from the point of view of their employees, said Catarina Quintela, the director of Corporate Solutions at Porto Business School. “Machines will not replace people; they will add support; companies have to help people deal with this reality.”

Inspiring Women: Catarina Quintela women in leadership 2023

“More and more people do not stop at their workplaces. With the pandemic, they went home, thought, reflected on their purposes, and want to change jobs more often. They want to have an employee experience with which they fully identify their values. This is here to stay, and people will only have one remedy, which is to adapt”, concluded Catarina Quintela.

“In the competition for talent, companies will have to shorten their workweeks; workers increasingly value 32-hour workweeks. It can be an interesting way for small companies. Because they have more difficulty keeping up with salary inflation to retain and attract talent. In addition, concerns remain about flexibility and balance between personal and professional life.”

Toxic Leadership

Toxic leadership drives away talent and the best workers, which is happening worldwide. “In organizations, toxicity is always played out by the boss, by the leader. They reproduce their values, beliefs, family culture, and the organization. This provokes automatic behavioral responses in people’s lives”, considered Rosângela Angonese, co-author of the book “The End of Toxic Leadership on Organizations”.

But what must change is the essence of leadership. “Creating more collaborative, more inclusive and more horizontal environments, with a healthier organizational environment and a happy place to work, to live and to socialize.”

women in leadership 2023 Inspiring Women: Rosângela Angonese

The New Leadership

To close the inspiring 2023 women in leadership event, Sara do Ó, founder and CEO of the Your Group, shared her experiences. The executive defended that leadership is taking care of people. It is making sure the goal is clearly defined, and it must be a completely obsessed goal and purpose. “I’m obsessed with commitment, and we have to be obsessed because warm water doesn’t exist in a leadership path”.

Inspiring Women: Sara do Ó

All Images Courtesy of Executiva

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