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Nicole Heimann & Marina Cvetkovic: Empowering leaders build great businesses

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Nicole Heimann & Marina Cvetkovic: Empowering leaders build great businesses

ELITE WOMEN

IN BUSINESS

2021

Nicole Heimann & Marina Cvetkovic

The best thing you can do today to grow your business, expand your market, services or just flourish as an executive is to network and build legitimate connections to support your cause. In simple words, the bigger the network gets, the more impact one can make. It also allows business leaders to get out of their vacuum of thoughts and find fresh ideas, new perspectives, and sometimes even a better way to take their ambition forward.

In this feature, we present you Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners, the world’s leading experts in leadership alliances, founded by Nicole Heimann and Marina Cvetkovic who strive to support senior leaders and management teams in fulfilling their mission by leading authentically and creating meaningful alliances on the way. They help them find their drive both individually and together as a team and concur on the most effective way to accomplish company objectives.

To learn more about their mission and how they are helping the world leaders shape a new future for us, we sat down with Nicole Heimann and Marina Cvetkovic, the Co-CEO’s at Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners, both multi award-winning Executive & Team Coaches, sought after keynote speakers, members of the prestigious “100Coaches” founded by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. Nicole is also the author of the successful leadership book “How to Develop the Authentic Leader in You”. Here’s what they shared with us on their philosophy and the true impact of the work that they do:

Nicole Heimann

“Most leadership teams and boards we work with would agree with the vision of creating a true partnership, however, almost all of them struggle with how to do that. This is why our company, Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners, focuses on helping boards and management teams across the globe create strong leadership alliances”

“Let’s work together to build successful leadership alliances”
What makes their approach rather unique is, among other elements, how they view the importance of the top team leadership for the culture of the whole organization.

“We believe that the culture of every organization starts at the top, and should therefore be something that is a matter of highest strategic importance. Just because a senior leadership team or a board is a collection of highly successful individuals - this does not make a highly effective team. Top team effectiveness and a true leadership alliance is something that does not just happen organically - no matter how successful the individual leaders that make the team are. It takes a high collective awareness to build a true leadership alliance and unfortunately, seniority and success are not indicators that one’s self-awareness is at a peak,” Nicole shared with us.

“What makes our concept different, is how holistic it is. We don’t just focus only on the vision, or team norms, or culture. We look at all of those factors holistically, help a management team identify where they are today vs. where they would like to be, and then take them on that journey as their sparring partners. Our Leadership Alliance Culture signature concept for accelerating performance and alignment in top teams has been endorsed by Alan Mullaly, the former CEO of Ford Motors Company, and many other C-suite members across the globe,” Marina added.

Redefining the role of Board
When it comes to top-team leadership, Marina and Nicole’s work particularly focuses on the collaboration between the board and the executive team.

“The role of the board has changed significantly over the past decade and even more so over the past year. Increasingly, boards are asked and challenged to be a true strategic asset to organizations, moving past the outdated mandate rooted purely in governance and oversight. This poses a question: What is the optimal way in which management teams and boards should work together going forward to successfully master the emerging business challenges?” Marina noted.

“Most leadership teams and boards we work with would agree with the vision of creating a true partnership, however, almost all of them struggle with how to do that. This is why our company, Heimann Cvetkovic & Partners, focuses on helping boards and management teams across the globe create strong leadership alliances,” Nicole added.

Marina Cvetkovic

The role of the board has changed significantly over the past decade and even more so over the past year. Increasingly, boards are asked and challenged to be a true strategic asset to organizations, moving past the outdated mandate rooted purely in governance and oversight.

Breaking all stereotypes as Female Leaders
Interestingly, it is the influence of the dads of both Nicole and Marina that had a strong impact on who they became.

Nicole shared with us the following, “My dad had a big influence on my life. He was more of a silent leader with a very strong loving and positive presence. He always referred to his grandmother who told him with absolute conviction that ‘a Heimann can achieve anything and that ‘there are no limits for a Heimann!’ These words of my grand-grandmother whom I have never known, meant so much to me and became part of my being. So, from very early on in my life, I became aware that people have different views of the world and I also realized how our mindset and what we believe in drives our decisions and actions. Even if back then, I would not have said it with these words, I realized that it was up to me to create my own reality. Believing that I would be worthless because I am a woman or have fewer opportunities was never an option I considered.”

Marina’s journey was also influenced by her father figure. She says, “My blessing was that my father was a successful executive and entrepreneur. He would share stories with me from a very young age: on his latest business challenges and successes, bringing the idea of big, bold dreams becoming a reality, closer to my heart. By the time I was 20, I felt like I can conquer the world! More importantly, I believe the notion that I can achieve the same and more than my dad was very important that early on. So, I never really bought into the narrative that I’ll be disadvantaged as a woman – my father’s story and philosophy is much stronger in me than that.”

Nicole added, “I believe the entrepreneurial journey is one of creation and growing into the next best version of ourselves. This takes a strong vision, clarity of purpose, courage, hard work, persistence, and discipline. My gender as a leader was indeed questioned when I moved to Switzerland back in 1997. In Belgium, it is common for women to be working mothers. In Switzerland, things were different. Even if I was stigmatized and called a “raven mother” for wanting to have a career, I never allowed this to influence me, nor did I want the fact of being a woman to be a restriction.”

Maneuvering leadership in a unique way
We were of course very curious to understand – are Nicole and Marina walking the talk in the way they lead their own company?

Marina explained, “Walking the talk is very important to Nicole and me– as we are advocates of stronger leadership alliances at the top, we of course have a leadership alliance of our own, reflected in the Co-CEO title, which we both share. We are both very challenging with our clients and go deep in different ways; Nicole comes with a calm, warm Zen energy, very much focused on the person, and I with a calm, but always assertive and strategically focused tone. We share the same mission and vision about the impact we strive to have on the executives and leadership teams we work with. On that journey, we not only fully respect each other’s differences and freedom, but we strive to actively leverage them for the benefit of our alliance and in the interest of allowing each other to stay in our individual “Zone of Genius”.

“Last but not least – our leadership alliance is only successful because we can rise above the ego and fully allow the magical co-creative process together to evolve for the benefit of our clients and the higher purpose, we both care about. We support each other’s values, love each other’s differences and allow each other to grow and flourish more every day. That might mean that one of us takes the stage and the other one stays backstage at times – and we are perfectly fine with that!” Nicole added.

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Research identifies a potential link between the pandemic and an uptick in violence.

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Research identifies a potential link between the pandemic and an uptick in violence.

VIOLENCE

As the coronavirus reaches developing countries in Africa and Asia, the pandemic will have effects beyond public health and economic activity. As the disease wreaks its havoc in areas poorly equipped to handle its spread, terrorism likely will increase there as well.

We are political scientists who study the developing world and political conflict. Our recently published research identifies a potential link between the pandemic and an uptick in violence. We find that food insecurity – the lack of both financial and physical access to nutritious food, which leads to malnutrition and undernourishment in a population – makes citizens angry at their governments.

Citizens conclude that their political leaders are either unable or unwilling to ease their suffering. This anger gives terrorist groups opportunities to recruit new members by providing them a violent outlet for venting their frustrations. In many cases, terrorist organizations do what their governments can’t or won’t do: give people the food and money they badly need to survive.

An existing food crisis
Extreme weather, political conflict and economic shocks tend to increase food insecurity, especially among children, the elderly, the poor and people with disabilities.

In 2019, about 55 countries from regions in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East and Asia were in food crisis. The coronavirus pandemic is causing political and economic problems even in wealthy countries.

As the crisis extends to the developing world, nations will face serious problems feeding their people – and keeping the peace.

When people are hungry or not sure where their next meal is coming from, they get angry at their governments. This gives terrorist groups opportunities to recruit new members.

Difficult days ahead in Africa
The types of conflicts plaguing Africa before the pandemic arrived mostly consist of bands of terrorist organizations using violence to cause political or social changes in their home countries, such as Boko Haram’s violent insurgency in Nigeria.

These conflicts happen in places where the government is too weak to monitor and capture the terrorists and their group leaders. Due to weak governance and lack of border restrictions between countries, the violence often spills into neighboring weak states, enveloping entire regions.

Even before the pandemic broke out, regional conflicts had already created food crises in parts of Africa. The national lockdowns will help contain the coronavirus, but they also cause other civic and economic problems that can lead to violence.

For example, Nigeria has a large number of self-employed people who are now unable to earn a living due to the lockdown. As a result, they do not have enough to eat, and the government has been unable to provide food to everyone in need.

This food scarcity has led to protests in Abuja and food stampedes to collect food supplies from the government in Lagos, Nigeria. People are frustrated with the government’s response in dealing with the pandemic and its inability to provide essential food for all who need it.

Terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram, an organization dedicated to the creation of an Islamic state within Nigeria, are actively using the grief caused by the coronavirus to strengthen their campaigns of violence. Boko Haram is known for recruiting unemployed young adults from families who live in poverty without sufficient food. The group is now increasing its recruitment of young men to carry out ambushes, kidnappings and bombings in the region.

These efforts have resulted in renewed violence across the Lake Chad region, where a recent Boko Haram attack against the Nigerian military killed 47. In neighboring Chad, the group ambushed a large group of Chadian soldiers, killing 92. It was the deadliest attack ever on Chad’s military. Even as Nigeria is gradually lifting lockdown measures, unemployment is likely to persist, diminishing people’s ability to afford basic goods such as food. This pattern of violence is extending to other war-torn areas. Mozambique and Mali, for example, are experiencing an increase in attacks from Islamist insurgents in the wake of the pandemic. It is likely that food insecurity brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is playing a role there as well.

Across the developing world, the coronavirus is magnifying existing societal problems, worsening food and financial shortages that give rise to terrorist violence.

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Leading from the front with Helen Yu

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ELITE WOMEN

IN BUSINESS

2021

Helen Yu

Helen Yu, a partner and consultant to the world’s largest technology companies such as IBM, AT&T, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Vodafone among others, established Tigon Advisory in 2017 as a growth accelerator. Helen is a board advisor for fast growth SaaS companies. She also serves as Vice-Chair and Board Director at the Global Cybersecurity Association. She speaks regularly at conferences including SXSW, TiECon, Global AI and Big Data conference, DMS, and Money2020. She has led multibillion-dollar revenue growth and profitability for pre-IPOs and Fortune 500 enterprises, including Oracle, Adobe, and Marketo. After watching many start-up technology founders rise and fail, Helen wrote the book Ascend Your Startup: Conquer the 5 Disconnects to Accelerate Growth so she could share proven strategies for scaling a business with more people. She has been named a Top 10 Global Influencer in Digital Transformation by IBM, Top 33 Women in Finance by Onalytica, Global Cloud Top 15 Thought Leader, Top 10 Cybersecurity Influencer, and Global Top 10 AI Thought Leader by Thinkers360. When not traveling the world or watching Iron Man, you can find Helen on Twitter @YuHelenYu where she connects with her 33.5K+ followers on diverse topics like AI, Cloud, IoT, Cybersecurity, 5G, Growth, FinTech, and Start-Ups.

We spoke with Helen to find out why she embarked on the entrepreneurial journey, how she deals with challenges, and what keeps her going. She also opened up about overcoming self-doubt and dwells on the importance of making equality a priority. She shows us all that leading with your values and empowering others is a winning game.

Aspioneer (A): Tigon Advisory was launched in 2017. What inspired you to start this company? What is the biggest problem you want to help solve through your service?
Helen Yu (H): “My journey began in my youth. I grew up as the youngest and only girl in a house with nine boys in a small town outside of Beijing, China. Being raised in a culture where males are revered taught me resilience and gave me a strong sense of courage to take on big challenges and not give up. In my career, I first learned to code as a Hyperion consultant and went on to design and implement 400+ financial planning applications working alongside CFOs. Then, I ran an Oracle BI consulting practice post-acquisition with the added pleasure of learning from then Oracle Executive Vice President of Sales Keith Block. Under his tutelage, I learned the nuances of Enterprise Solution Sales at Oracle. I then learned marketing and SAAS at Adobe and successfully led the startup to scale-up challenges at Marketo.

I started Tigon Advisory because I saw many companies – from start-ups to large enterprises – making the same mistakes. I felt there was a better way to scale organizations if they could torch the gaps, thereby growing more swiftly and delivering a better customer experience and company culture, both of which I am very passionate about. Tigon Advisory advises the largest technology companies in the world and drives growth for the fastest growing start-ups. We are the only strategic advisory firm that addresses five essential disconnects: The Product/Market Fit disconnect, the Define-Minimum Repeatability disconnect, the Measurement disconnect, the Customer Voice disconnect, the Process disconnect.”

“My curiosity and learning agility got me where I am today. Had I relied on only what I knew I could do, I never would have climbed the leadership ranks. So, be curious and embrace the joy of being a lifelong learner!”

(A): How do you see the intersection of tech and humanity?
(H): I believe growth comes at the crossroad of tech and humanity. There is where customer loyalty and growth thrive. Technology defeats its purpose if it does not serve the greater good of society and solve real problems. Before organizations embrace any technology, they must embrace humanity as an organization.

The philosophy behind my brand is value exchange with my customers. Staying current with technology trends, providing thought leadership at conferences, creating engaging content in collaboration with fortune companies, or serving as interim CXO at start-ups, I always make sure I understand my customers well, what success means to them and how they measure the success. The same principle applies to partners I work with to ensure joint success.

(A): Behind every success, there are strings of failures and rejections attached to it. A can-do attitude is all one needs. What kept you motivated?
(H): “I was raised by my grandmother. Being the only girl and the youngest, grandma always made sure I grew up strong. I broke down when grandma passed away. Grandma’s last words to me were: “Stay special, make the world proud, and spread my ashes to a tall mountain.” That’s why I set out on a mission to climb Mt. Everest base camp and carried her ashes there. I applied lessons learned through my climbing experience to my life’s work and broke through many challenges like rejections and being stereotyped for being a female leader. I was sent to “Women Unlimited” by Adobe in 2011. I left Adobe right after I graduated from the program. I volunteered to go back to the group to share my experience and was rejected and was told that I was “unfit” by the group leader in Chicago. “Unfit” is sometimes code for trailblazers. I decided to mentor and coach other “unfit” female leaders since then and take the pride in seeing their success over the years.”

(A): How do you look at yourself as a leader? What are the skills you think you possess that make you an effective leader? What is your way of dealing with challenges as a leader?
(H): “I have been a giver my entire life and thrive to be a servant leader. My learning agility and grit helped me on my entrepreneurial journey. As a leader, I invest time in mentoring and coaching others on my team. Learning how to manage up is an uphill battle for many female leaders. Our tendency to focus on the team sometimes compromises our focus on self-development. When I face challenges as a leader, I focus on understanding why the challenge exists, the root cause of the challenge, what it takes to overcome the challenge, and then work to solve the challenge. I sometimes reach out to others who have faced similar challenges to seek advice. The journey to overcome challenges and learning how to prevent them from happening encourages me the most.”

(A): What is, from your perspective, the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles? What strategies do you think can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
(H): “Confidence. We “own” our leadership journey. I’ve seen some women, however, feel imposter syndrome because they might have a skill gap or because they’ve never tackled a challenge before, yet this is how we grow. I started my career as an accountant and financial analyst. My curiosity and learning agility got me where I am today. Had I relied on only what I knew I could do, I never would have climbed the leadership ranks. So, be curious and embrace the joy of being a lifelong learner!

The world needs strong female role models and the many traits we bring innately to the table: nurturing, resilient mindset, dependability, and good listening skill. Here are constructive changes that would improve women becoming leaders: 1) Women believing in themselves, recognizing their value to the organization, and building their negotiation skills so they ask for what they want (i.e. that next job in their career journey, promotion, special projects), 2) Women supporting women, 3) Educating men to be allies to women in the workforce, 4) Building inclusive workplace cultures where men and women may safely share ideas, provide and receive critical feedback, and work together without labels or unconscious bias.”

(A): What are your current goals? What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
(H): “My career aspiration is to become a CEO at a Tech company and serve as Board Director for Tech companies.

Being a multiplier and bring greater success to others has always been my personal goal. Success is measured by how much positive impact you make on others. I started to write my eulogy a couple of years ago. I reflect from time to time and remind myself about the legacy I’d like to leave behind: passion, curiosity, and grit. I believe it is important to always embrace your setbacks, learn from mistakes and never give up. I also plan on continuing to share predictions on future-proofing topics. For example, I contributed a prediction on the Internet of Things, AI, and Digital Transformation for Thinkers360, been a guest on the Move the Deal podcast in front of a live audience of 500+, contributed chapters to books, Forbes article, IDC research, Techment Healthcare research. I write blogs and articles and have been published on RiskMinds, ClickZ, LinkedIn, IBM, Microsoft and Medium. Lastly, Social responsibility and strengthening the tech ecosystem through community and collaboration is extremely important to me. Every year on my birthday, I volunteer my time to make a difference. In 2019, that meant donating my time to speaking at 1871, a tech startup accelerator in the heart of Chicago. I celebrated being another year older by leading a hands-on workshop for tech founders.”

(A): Finally, how do you unplug from work?
(H): “I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, skiing, and traveling to see the world. My favorite books are Shoe Dog, Good Strategy Bad Strategy, and The Five Temptations of a CEO. My favorite film is Iron Man. Pepper and Tony Stark are my favorite characters. That’s why I named my podcast CXO Spice Talk.”

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Women bring a much-needed change in perspective to cybersecurity.

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Women bring a much-needed change in perspective to cybersecurity.

CYBERSECURITY

Women are highly underrepresented in the field of cybersecurity. In 2017, women’s share in the U.S. cybersecurity field was 14%, compared to 48% in the general workforce.

The problem is more acute outside the U.S. In 2018, women accounted for 10% of the cybersecurity workforce in the Asia-Pacific region, 9% in Africa, 8% in Latin America, 7% in Europe and 5% in the Middle East.

Women are even less well represented in the upper echelons of security leadership. Only 1% of female internet security workers are in senior management positions.

I study online crime and security issues facing consumers, organizations and nations. In my research, I have found that internet security requires strategies beyond technical solutions. Women’s representation is important because women tend to offer viewpoints and perspectives that are different from men’s, and these underrepresented perspectives are critical in addressing cyber risks.

Perception, awareness and bias
The low representation of women in internet security is linked to the broader problem of their low representation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Only 30% of scientists and engineers in the U.S. are women.

The societal view is that internet security is a job that men do, though there is nothing inherent in gender that predisposes men to be more interested in or more adept at cybersecurity. In addition, the industry mistakenly gives potential employees the impression that only technical skills matter in cybersecurity, which can give women the impression that the field is overly technical or even boring.

Women are also generally not presented with opportunities in information technology fields. In a survey of women pursuing careers outside of IT fields, 69% indicated that the main reason they didn’t pursue opportunities in IT was because they were unaware of them.

Women are underrepresented in technology fields, but especially so in cybersecurity. It's not just a matter of fairness. Women are better than men at key aspects of keeping the internet safe.

Good security and good business
Boosting women’s involvement in information security makes both security and business sense. Female leaders in this area tend to prioritize important areas that males often overlook. This is partly due to their backgrounds. Forty-four percent of women in information security fields have degrees in business and social sciences, compared to 30% of men.

Female internet security professionals put a higher priority on internal training and education in security and risk management. Women are also stronger advocates for online training, which is a flexible, low-cost way of increasing employees’ awareness of security issues.

Female internet security professionals are also adept at selecting partner organizations to develop secure software. Women tend to pay more attention to partner organizations’ qualifications and personnel, and they assess partners’ ability to meet contractual obligations. They also prefer partners that are willing to perform independent security tests.

Increasing women’s participation in cybersecurity is a business issue as well as a gender issue. According to an Ernst & Young report, by 2028 women will control 75% of discretionary consumer spending worldwide. Security considerations like encryption, fraud detection and biometrics are becoming important in consumers’ buying decisions. Product designs require a trade-off between cybersecurity and usability. Female cybersecurity professionals can make better-informed decisions about such trade-offs for products that are targeted at female customers.

Attracting women to cybersecurity
Attracting more women to cybersecurity requires governments, nonprofit organizations, professional and trade associations and the private sector to work together. Public-private partnership projects could help solve the problem in the long run.

One example is Israel’s Shift community, previously known as the CyberGirlz program, which is jointly financed by the country’s Defense Ministry, the Rashi Foundation and Start-Up Nation Central. It identifies high school girls with aptitude, desire and natural curiosity to learn IT and and helps them develop those skills.

The girls participate in hackathons and training programs, and get advice, guidance and support from female mentors. Some of the mentors are from elite technology units of the country’s military. The participants learn hacking skills, network analysis and the Python programming language. They also practice simulating cyber-attacks to find potential vulnerabilities. By 2018, about 2,000 girls participated in the CyberGirlz Club and the CyberGirlz Community.

In 2017, cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks teamed up with the Girl Scouts of the USA to develop cybersecurity badges. The goal is to foster cybersecurity knowledge and develop interest in the profession. The curriculum includes the basics of computer networks, cyberattacks and online safety.

Professional associations can also foster interest in cybersecurity and help women develop relevant knowledge. For example, Women in Cybersecurity of Spain has started a mentoring program that supports female cybersecurity professionals early in their careers.

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New technologies have fuelled the rise of personalised nutrition

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New technologies have fuelled the rise of personalised nutrition

NUTRITION

What is personalised nutrition?
Personalised nutrition involves tailoring dietary advice to improve health, based on the characteristics of the individual. So dietary advice could be tailored based on anything from the person’s eating habits and weight to their cholesterol levels and genetics.

The concept of tailored dietary advice isn’t new — dietitians have been giving personalised advice for centuries. What is new is the rise in popularity of new technologies, apps and wearable devices, which allow for detailed monitoring of individual health. Health-care professionals can then use this information to provide personalised advice.

Our research
We recruited 1,607 adult volunteers from across seven European countries into a six-month dietary study.

At the beginning, adults were allocated into either a control group, or one of three personalised nutrition groups. Usual dietary advice In the control group adults received usual dietary advice. For example, “eat at least five serves of fruit and vegetables each day”. (In Australia the recommendation is at least seven serves daily.)

Our results show personalised dietary advice can support people to eat less junk food. This should have important implications for how researchers and health-care professionals design healthy eating strategies moving forward.

Personalised dietary advice
To help us understand the best way to personalise dietary advice, the three personalised nutrition groups received tailored dietary advice based on different sets of characteristics. All advice was based on behaviour change strategies, such as swapping discretionary foods for healthier alternatives.

Group 1 received advice based on what they ate.

For example, for someone eating a lot of salty meat products, we told them to reduce their intake of processed meats and pies, and swap salami and bacon for turkey or beef.

Group 2 received advice based on their diet and body measurements.

For example, if someone had high waist circumference and cholesterol levels, and was snacking on biscuits and chocolate, we told them they were carrying too much weight around their middle and had high cholesterol levels so would benefit from snacking on fruit and healthy fats, such as nuts, instead.

Group 3 received advice based on their diet, body measurements and genetic information.

For example, if someone had a genetic risk of high cholesterol, and was eating lots of salty meat products, we told them they have a genetic variation and would benefit from maintaining a healthy intake of saturated fat and normal cholesterol levels. We suggested they swap processed meats, for example burgers and sausages, for lean meats or skinless chicken breast.

So, does personalised nutrition work?
At the beginning and end of the study we asked our volunteers to complete an online questionnaire, which asked them how often they consumed various foods and drinks.

We found participants who received personalised dietary advice reduced their intake of discretionary foods more than participants who received usual dietary advice.

Interestingly, this improvement in diet was seen across all personalised nutrition groups; regardless of whether advice was personalised based on diet, body measurements or genetics, or a combination of these factors.

That said, we did see some evidence that the addition of genetic information (group 3) helped adults to reduce their discretionary food intake more than those who received advice based on their diet and body measurements alone (group 2).

Our findings are consistent with the broader evidence on personalised nutrition. In a recent systematic review we looked at results from 11 personalised nutrition studies conducted across Europe and North America. We found overall, personalised nutrition advice improved dietary habits more than usual dietary advice.

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Amanda Brock: Leading the UK’s organisation for the business of Open Technology

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Amanda Brock is CEO and Chief Policy Officer of the UK body for Open technology, being open-source software, open hardware and open data, “OpenUK”. Founded in 2018, the not-for-profit, OpenUK, promotes businesses, projects and people, who use and develop Open Technology and strives to collaborate across all existing organisations for Open. She has previously been the Chair of the open-source and Intellectual Property (IP) advisory group of the United Nation's Technology Innovation Labs; CEO of the Trustable Software engineering project, focused on solutions to risk in open source software; and a member of the Cabinet Office Advisory on open source; General Counsel of Canonical, one of the world’s biggest open-source companies and the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, setting up the global legal team and running this for five years. As a senior lawyer, she worked across a range of sectors including mobile, ISP, data center, and digital financial services in emerging markets. She is also the Editor of the book, Free and Open-Source Software: Law, Policy and Practice”, 2nd Edition, to be published by Oxford University Press in the autumn of 2021 with open access sponsored by the Vietsch Foundation and contributed to by 20 leading figures in open source.

In an exclusive conversation with Aspioneer, Amanda Brock discusses her journey, beliefs, and vision with OpenUK.

Aspioneer(A): Tell us a little bit about your organisation? What makes it unique?
Amanda Brock (AB): “We are a globally unique organisation at the moment. What makes us unique? Firstly, we call out the need to bring together three separate strands - open-source software, open hardware, and open data - to create Open Technology. Our mission is to develop and sustain UK leadership in Open Technology. Secondly, we focus on the business of Open Technology in the UK. We are not a traditional membership or open-source organisation focusing only on local businesses but we aim to bring together the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK working in Open Technology in all businesses and represent them on a world stage. The UK is blessed with great talent, but we want to raise that profile. One of the great things about Open, beyond its transparency creating trust, is the opportunity to work across borders and develop diverse, sustainable, and global outputs. That will be essential to the UK’s economy in the future and companies in this country can be a big part in driving some of those trends around technology forward.”

“Leadership is based on treating people with respect and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves in what they do while holding people accountable for their actions and for what they promise to deliver. It is a fine balance between trying to get the most out of people, and respecting their situations.”

(A): How did you start with the organization? What has changed since then and how did you contribute to bringing that change?
(AB): “OpenUK was an existing by embryonic organisation, so effectively we had to start from first principles around what we wanted to put together so that it would fit with what we wanted to create. It is best judged as a start-up that’s 18 months old. We are bootstrapping currently to build and scale.

Today almost all software includes open source and the world wide web and cloud environments are built on it. I could see we needed to unite geographically in the UK as a consequence of Brexit, and the rollercoaster that this and other geopolitical shifts are bringing. Tech is the foundation of all of our infrastructure today and few people have understood how fundamental that is to the global economy and politics.

We need to focus locally within our geographic areas to collaborate globally. Combine that with the UK’s previously unsung position as a world leader in open-source software - number one in the EU before Brexit - and I frankly saw both an opportunity to develop this position and really make the UK’s community around Open Technology world-leading and a need for someone to step in and do it. I have the right skills and experience so thought I would give it a go.

The beauty of Open is that you have to collaborate in order to be successful. It is in our DNA to collaborate and share globally without discrimination. And in that way alone will our UK Open Technology community and our economy be able to thrive.”

(A): What were the challenges you came across in your career as a female leader? There has been an increasing conversation about moving the needle on diversity and inclusion, have things actually changed?
(AB): “I was a lawyer for 25 years. It was pretty rough if I am honest. I have had more than my fair share of both direct and indirect sexism and haven’t always felt like I belonged. I have had times of real frustration. not being heard. I am pretty determined, I guess.

I heard someone describe Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging as Diversity – being invited to the dance in the first place; Inclusion – being asked to dance and; Belonging – being able to choose the music, I believe it’s attributed to Verna Myers. That really resonated with me as when I started work in the early 90’s we were standing on each other’s shoulders trying to see through the high up window just to get a glimpse of what the dance looked like. We have come a long way.

When I look around me, I am really proud to see so many young women at the table, bringing skills and talent. I really hope that they will feel able to continue in business, in technology and stay the course to the senior executive level. That’s when we will see real change. It is of course not just about being female. It’s about there being a place for everyone. There needs to be room for people not being the same and not having to fight the stereotype to get to the table. We need to just see people.”

(A): Which skills do you think are most important when it comes to leadership?
(AB): “Leadership is about integrity. People follow who they believe in, not who they are told to. To lead, you must be willing to be accountable, to be transparent, and act with integrity. We need to remember we are dealing with people, not AI, and we have to both accept and encourage differences. Leadership is based on treating people with respect and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves in what they do while holding people accountable for their actions and for what they promise to deliver. It is a fine balance between trying to get the most out of people, and respecting their situations.”

(A): How do you unplug from work? What are your favorite books, websites, films, and resources?
(AB): “Unfortunately a lot of the things I like doing, like writing, relate to work. In the pandemic, in lockdown alone with a kitten who’s now a much-loved cat (and a celebrity at conferences) I have been bad at taking the time to do other things. I don’t read so much, but enjoy audiobooks – anything Gabor Mate, Brene Brown, or Eckhart Tolle floats my boat. I do try, not always successfully, to spend some time each day meditating or contemplating.

In terms of tv and movies, trying to work out what to watch in lockdown, was driving me nuts, so I started to follow themes, like a director, a year of release, or an actor. I really enjoyed my Jack Nicholson period and I am a big Jane Fonda fan.”

(A): What are your current goals?
(AB): “My current goal is to have greater impact and influence on UK policies around technology, to succeed in seeing our children better educated in technology with an Open slant and the UK acknowledging the important role that Open plays in technology and society.”

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Ellen Voie: Promoting gender diversity in the road transport industry

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It is no secret trucking industry has a diversity problem. While many just accepted the status quo, Ellen Voie wondered why women were still a minority in the trucking industry. She was eager to break this outdated and inaccurate limitation. Hence, to create a gender-equal culture in the road transportation industry, Ellen established the Women In Trucking Association, Inc. (WIT). This American-based non-profit organization focuses on the employment of women in the trucking industry. The group was established in 2007 and is based in Plover, Wisconsin. The goal includes raising awareness and encouraging women to consider a career in transportation. "Our mission is to encourage the employment of women, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry," says Ellen Voie, President/CEO and Founder of WIT.

A born leader
Ellen, since her childhood, was naturally inclined towards learning new skills that pushed her beyond her comfort zone. She believed that she could challenge herself by testing these limits. Even in school, Ellen participated in those activities that typically appealed to boys. She was active in team sports and preferred to learn industrial arts instead of the traditional home economics classes. Willing to explore new things and take risks, Ellen has always been shattering limitations and has been an entrepreneur by heart.

Having studied engines, woodworking, welding, and drafting in her high school, in 1978, Ellen was hired at a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin. She worked in the drafting department, designing material handling equipment, such as steel pallets, bins, and racking. While Ellen enjoyed this role, she was promoted to the shipping department. The company sent her to Traffic and Transportation Management school, and Ellen was ultimately promoted to Traffic Manager.

After Ellen started her family, she worked as a free lane transportation consultant for 18 years. During this time, she completed her bachelor's and then Master's degree in communication. In 2006, Schneider, Inc. recruited her job to initiate corporate-level programs designed to attract and retain non-traditional groups. During that time, she also earned her pilot's license and belonged to an organization for female pilots. Ellen realized there was no such group for women in the trucking industry, and she decided to create one. This decision led to the start of WIT.

"Our mission is to encourage the employment of women, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry"

Redefining the Road
As Ellen continued her fight for equality in the trucking industry, she realized that a significant barrier for women in non-traditional careers was that they first needed to prove that they are capable. Secondly, they had to perform as well, if not better, than their male peers. "When you are a sole female in an organization, you are representing all women in the way you behave. Whether this is fair or not isn't the issue, as you are being observed!" shares Ellen. "However, once you have proven yourself, you are welcomed as a peer. I have found this to be true in any male-dominated profession. Do the job, and you will earn respect."

Ellen's journey to success has been far from easy. Though she had the potential, the extraordinary leadership skills, and the will to make it big, she had to go through some very challenging experiences. There were times at WIT when they couldn't meet payroll, and Ellen had to pay the staff and had to wait for the funds to pay herself. Having learned from these experiences, today, Ellen is proud to have made WIT financially secure. For someone with an ordinary mindset, this would have been enough to give up. But Ellen was determined to create a space for women, and her intent only keeps getting stronger. "Progressive companies recognize the value women bring to their organizations," says Ellen. "Women are typically more risk-averse. We make decisions differently than men. Neither one is better, but when quick decision-making, risky behaviors, and hierarchical cultures are valued, it precludes women from having the same level of success. Companies that hire more women from top to bottom have proven to be more profitable. Female commercial drivers are safer because of this risk-averse tendency. Safer drivers benefit all of us!"

Ellen considers WIT to be one substantial mentoring opportunity to attract, retain and promote women in the trucking industry. "I'd like to see carriers hiring many more female drivers as well as promoting more women into management and C-level positions," continues Ellen. "Ultimately, I would like to see more benchmarking and public recognition for the companies that have the best practices." These changes won't happen on their own but only if we have more women trailblazers'. "The greatest challenge for women in leadership roles is in having the confidence to take risks to be a pioneer. We don't always have someone to follow, so we need to make our own path to the top," says Ellen.

One Team. One vision
At WIT, the work culture is one of innovation and independence and self-motivation. Every staff member's passion is to further the mission. They know that they lead the way for every woman who wants to work in the trucking industry to feel welcome and valued. "We are a results-based organization," affirms Ellen. "We have a very independent culture." Every staff member has specific areas of responsibility. Suggesting ideas, innovations, and creativity is assumed, and a critical parameter used to gauge employee performance and contribution to the organization. A transparent work environment reduces corporate politics and nurtures the feeling of being united and faithful to the organization's purpose. "I try to be an example for my staff, members, and board of directors. I hold myself to a high standard in both my personal and professional life," adds Ellen.

Driving Change
For her exemplary work, Ellen was honored by the White House as a "Transportation Innovators Champion of Change" in July 2012. In 2014, for providing outstanding service to the trucking industry and association as a whole, she was awarded the Frank W. Babbitt award from the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association. She also received the Skinner Humanitarian award, presented annually to a trucking advocate in her state. The year 2015 brought another achievement in the form of the "Distinguished Alumna of the Year" award from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Division of Communication. She was also named one of Supply & Demand Chain Executives magazine's "2016 Pros to Know" and was chosen as Fleet Owner's Dozen Outstanding Women In Trucking in 2016. In 2021, Ellen was appointed for a two-year term on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

With tones of achievements, Ellen is humbled by her success. She is willing to do everything it takes to build an industry that embraces women's attributes but places a higher value on the differences they bring. Her end goal is to create a substantial change and break down the gender bias that created a divide for years. Having earned respect for herself and women in the trucking industry, Ellen is a leader in its truest sense and a winner of hearts. "I want to be seen as a disrupter," says Ellen. "I want people to remember me as someone who had a passion for changing the corporate environment and the accomplishments to have achieved a degree of change."

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There is more to life than increasing speed.

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There is more to life than increasing speed.

SUSTAINABLE CITIES

Slowing transport in cities provides immense benefits for the health of people, economies and the planet, so why are we still obsessed with speed?

This speaks to our own physical and mental well-being, as well as to the health of cities in the broadest sense. For the past century we have been told, and largely accepted, a story that “faster travel will save time and make everyone better off”. This is myth rather than reality.

How do people behave when faster travel becomes possible in cities? We assume they get to destinations faster and “save” time. But the sprawl that comes with speed means more time is spent on travel, and people have to work longer hours to pay for all the costs of speed. A great paradox of modern times is that the faster we go, the less time we have. More time can be saved by slowing city transport than by speeding it up.

Speed takes a profound toll on our lives. Higher city speeds increase road deaths and injuries, air pollution, physical inactivity, infrastructure costs, energy demands and climate emergency impacts. As long as models, policies, investment, attitudes and behaviours are based on the belief that “faster is always better”, urban planning will be unable to resolve the current climate and ecological crises.

How to conquer our speed addiction
An alternative to trying to go faster is to “slow the city”, as we explain in our book, Slow Cities: Conquering our speed addiction for health and sustainability. Instead of “mobility” (how far you can go in a given time), the goal of the “slow city” is accessibility (how much you can get to in that time).

Planning for speed and mobility focuses on saving time, which is rarely achieved in practice. Planning for accessibility focuses on time well spent.

In accessibility-rich places you don’t need to move fast. Hence walking, cycling and public transport are preferred ways to travel. These slow, active modes are also the healthiest and most sustainable modes.

Cities around the world are reducing traffic speeds and improving access to local services and activities by public transport, cycling and walking. They are now reaping the many 'slow city' benefits.

The slow city dividend
In the 21st century various “slow movements” – “slow food”, “slow parenting”, “slow tourism” – have gained traction. Hence “slowing the city” may be a more feasible and appealing concept to planners and city residents than “encouraging active travel” or “curbing car use”.

Already, COVID-19 has helped us think about alternative uses for streets in the city. Local, slow, “park-like” spaces have been created from reallocated traffic lanes, creating safe space for people rather than for speed.

While our cultural obsession with speed might prompt some to question or even ridicule “slowness”, it is worth considering the slow city dividend. Slow cities have less inequality, less air pollution, less road trauma and lower greenhouse gas emissions. They are more competitive in the global economy, with higher tax yields and GDPs.

Our new Manifesto for 21st Century Slow Cities is intended to guide progressive politicians, practitioners and citizens in efforts to end the damaging culture of speed in the city. Slowing the city may be an effective treatment for many debilitating urban conditions. If you want your city to be healthier, happier, safer, wealthier, less unequal and more child-friendly and resilient, just slow it down.

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Irene Perdomo: An empathetic leader

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Women Leader

ELITE WOMEN

IN BUSINESS

2021

Irene Perdomo

Persistence with a touch of ‘modesty’ is the most essential trait and must be possessed by every leader yet is the most neglected one. Though the leaders are expected to be decisive, strong-minded, and opinionated, a perfect blend of compassion, determination, and a never-give-up attitude is what makes someone a great leader.

“If you are not good at understanding people, at putting yourself in their shoes, it is unlikely that you can become a successful leader. People would end up resenting you and leaving the organization. I firmly believe that the most important element for the success of a business is PEOPLE,” says Irene Perdomo, Managing Director, Head of Product Strategy at Gresham Investment Management who’s compassion and empathy has helped her to achieve many milestones in her pathway.

‘Nothing good comes out of giving up!’
Though extremely successful today, Irene’s journey was anything but easy. In her early days, Irene struggled to even get an opportunity to pave her path into trading. “It took me about a year and a half to get the first real interview. The most frustrating part was that I could not get interviews. I wish I could say that it took me so long to get a role because I was failing the interviews. That, at least, would have been fair enough. But I was not even getting them,” shares Irene. When it comes to challenges in business, we can say that women face more obligations as compared to men. Irene too experienced quite a few gender-based pushbacks. “Without those comments, I would probably not have associated 'my struggle' to get into trading as a gender-related issue, as I know that it is very difficult for anybody to get trading opportunities and it can take years,” she explains. After having worked in the Commodity Investor Structuring team at Barclays in London she started trading base metals at Noble Resources in Singapore.

Later in the year 2013, Irene took a big risk of starting her own business. As the CEO and Managing Partner of Devet Capital, a boutique commodities-focused quant firm she decided to change the fintech landscape. It was quite a difficult path to take yet she strived and thrived exceptionally well that too, without regression. “The chances of success were extremely low and of course, ex-post, it is easy to say "I am so glad that I did it" but it was a roller-coaster ride,” she quotes. According to Irene, the investment was itself a risk as like every business the early earnings are slow-running train, so was for her. “But, again, you just think someone has to do the job and if you don't try, for sure you will never make it,” she adds.

Irene Perdomo
Irene Perdomo

“As the world’s largest commodity asset manager (as measured by institutional AUM) we seek to provide our clients inflation protection and commodity exposure efficiently and thoughtfully while avoiding the pitfalls associated with commodity investing,” mentions Irene.

Undeniably Irene has been through many difficult episodes—as she calls them. Her professional and personal life has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but her optimistic approach has always helped to overcome that par. To her, no challenge is bigger than one’s firm determination and one’s positive outlook towards life. Irene believes people can do anything if they set their minds to it. And that is what kept her resilient during trying circumstances. “When facing challenges first, I just think someone has to do the job. Second, it is unlikely that I would be the first person to face and solve that particular challenge and, if others already did so, then why not me?” Irene asserts, “I think that things generally happen for a reason. If something does not happen in the way which you want or expect then you just need to keep fighting. Nothing good comes out of giving up! A lesson that life has taught me is that when something does not happen the exact way you want, it is because there is probably something (much) better waiting around the corner for you.”

Her perseverance paid off. In a short time, Devet Capital found itself in the fast lane of success. With almost USD 750k of their capital investment, she took the company to attain a stature of USD 115 million. Years later, in the year 2019, she and her colleague weighed in the significance of evolving their business and soon join forces with one of the top players in finance. “Luck came knocking and, happily, we were absorbed by Gresham,” says Irene. Now, she is developing further Gresham’s business lines as well as investing in creating new ones.

“Gresham Investment Management traces its origins to the family office of Dr. Henry Jarecki and commenced trading of our flagship Tangible Asset Program (TAP) in January 1987. The firm has been managing client assets since 2005. Gresham is an investment affiliate of Nuveen Investments, which has offices across 22 countries. Gresham itself is headquartered in New York and maintains a research pod within the Nuveen office in London,” tells Irene while sharing a brief history of Gresham.

It is a pioneer in the management of diversified commodity investment portfolios, with a track record that predates both the BCOM and S&P GSCI indices. It portrays a unique approach in aspects such as dedicated focus, well-established history, and scale within the space. The company also leverages its substantial experience as well as the resources of its parent company to provide clients with blue-chip infrastructure and controls. “Our motto is ‘Adhere and Prosper’ which accurately reflects our disciplined investment approach,” says Irene.

The company’s philosophy is underpinned by an unwavering belief in the benefits of diversified commodity allocations and emphasis on its clients. “As the world’s largest commodity asset manager (as measured by institutional AUM) we seek to provide our clients inflation protection and commodity exposure efficiently and thoughtfully while avoiding the pitfalls associated with commodity investing,” mentions Irene.

Gresham also helps empower its employees. The culture here was created by the employees, and they respect each other, and they all work hard together. On this, Irene quotes, “Diversity & Inclusion is a key element of the company’s business strategies, both internally and externally, and is inclusive of not only gender and ethnicity, but also in experiences, backgrounds, skills, education, and other characteristics.” She asserts that women play a key role in the organization, with several women holding senior roles across the firm. As it is the policy of Gresham and Nuveen, she and her team feel extreme pride in treating all employees fairly and equitably, providing equal opportunity to all applicants, regardless of age, race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, gender, and other factors. Irene, herself, is also a firm believer in equality and finds it very essential not only for women but for all types of minorities out there. “Different studies have shown that diversified workplaces perform better,” she asserts. According to her, equality should be a priority for every organization, it is in their interest. “As someone once said "there are no free lunches, except, maybe, diversification!",” says Irene.

To promote gender equality in daily life and create a gender-equal world, Irene suggests to, “continue to drive equality of the genders. Also educate, educate and educate the younger generation. I would like to see successful women getting invited to schools and universities to talk about their careers and their challenges.” To female entrepreneurs, Irene urges them to be self-confident, follow their instincts, and believe in their work. Be stronger, shake it up, know what you want, and know that you can make it happen. She says, “There is no bigger defeat than when you do not even try.” Although Irene accepts the biggest challenge for women is to get the roles in the first place. But is confident that “women can be just as successful as men in leadership roles once they have them.”

Making the world a better place
Irene’s emphatic personality and optimistic approach also have beautifully reflected over her life outside business. It is no surprise as when asked, who is a leader worth admiration to her? Irene quickly comes up with this epic reply, “There are a lot of people in this world that are true models; I am not talking about the known ones who might donate a tiny percentage of their wealth and the world applauds them,” says Irene. “I am talking about those who live in sub-human conditions and yet they fight every day for freedom and justice. Many times, giving away 100% of everything they have, including their own lives to make the world a better place. Those are my role models.”

Irene envisions eventually set up an orphanage. “There are more professional milestones to be reached but at some point, it will be time to give back,” says Irene.

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Sue Unerman: A dynamic business leader

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Sue Unerman

ELITE WOMEN

IN BUSINESS

2021

Sue Unerman

Sue Unerman, the Chief Transformation Officer and author of The Glass Wall, has been working with MediaCom for more than 30 years. MediaCom with over 100 offices worldwide is an advertising media investment company. Their philosophy is: Seeing the Bigger Picture which means that their network of 8,000 people helps their clients look beyond the boundaries of traditional media to uncover new ideas and unlock growth. They challenge conventional thinking to build, optimize and drive their clients’ businesses forward at scale, as well as leading their industry in critical areas such as diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.

In an exclusive conversation with Aspioneer, Sue Unerman shared insights into her career journey, discussing the importance of diversity and inclusion. Read on for Sue’s advice for ambitious women to champion the success of other women while working on their own goals.

(A): You have been working with MediaCom for more than 30 years. What made you stay for so long and were there any challenges you had to face along the way? Please share a bit about your journey within your company.
(S): I joined the company in 1990 when as an associate director, I was the most senior woman they had employed. I was the first woman on the board. The company has grown from the minnow I joined (UK only billing less than £50m) to a global business that now bills over £1.5bn in the UK. The reason I have stayed so long and the reason that I have thrived is also the reason for our market-leading success. The culture really puts people first and allows and encourages everyone to be their best self at work. There have been many highs and many challenges during that time, but the outstanding highlight is the diversity and inclusion of everyone that works here. The culture of inclusion and belonging leads our sector, and as I know from my last two books with extensive research of businesses worldwide, is a leading light in the world of work.

Sue Unerman

I try and be a servant leader. My role is to help everyone else shine. I practice empathy as much as possible. Some people think that this is a feminine trait, and it might well be, but I know plenty of very empathetic men and some women who are not. I think you learn humility as a woman leader, and how to be heard in a world that is not designed to listen to you.

(A): You have published three books so far. Your second book The Glass Wall was one of the bestsellers. Last year your new book Belonging was published. Can you tell us a bit about them?
(S): My 2016 bestselling book, The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work and businesses that mean business details not just my own, but every woman’s journey to succeed in a business world that is built, not just for normal human beings, but for a minority of workaholic, driven, businessmen with full time stay at home partners. There are many gendered differences between men and women, and most women that I know, including me, struggle with showing off and are ambivalent about self-promotion. In this particular case, I have found a way to compensate for this ambivalence by making it about what the business has achieved and the team that I have led.

It is the workplace that must change, especially as we come out of the pandemic lockdown because research conclusively shows that more diverse workplaces deliver better decisions, profits and revenue. Despite over £6bn spent on diversity and inclusion initiatives, there has not been enough change. Therefore last year I have published a new book, Belonging, the key to transforming and maintaining diversity, inclusion, and equality at work. This diagnoses why there has been so little change and makes pragmatic and actionable change recommendations.

(A): You are an effective leader. What drives you?
(S): I try and be a servant leader. My role is to help everyone else shine. I practice empathy as much as possible. Some people think that this is a feminine trait, and it might well be, but I know plenty of very empathetic men and some women who are not. I think you learn humility as a woman leader, and how to be heard in a world that is not designed to listen to you.

The brilliance of the people I work with at MediaCom always restores my faith and optimism. I’m always encouraged by anyone who speaks truth to power.

(A): What is the greatest risk that you have taken? How do you manage self-doubt and build your inner resilience?
(S): Writing blogs and of course books in the public domain is risky. It means that you are expressing what you think in front of everyone, and of course, it is impossible to please everyone, especially when I aim to shoot down redundant heritage ideas and practices that are delaying equality for everyone. I work hard to be precise about expressing myself and back up my opinions with data.

(A): What according to you are the steps that companies should take to equal out the ground and to improve the representation of women in any given industry?
(S): The World Economic Forum's latest research says that it will take 136 years for gender parity. This is unacceptable, better outcomes for women are better outcomes for family, for the economy, and for everyone. Taking action needs to be a much higher priority. Everyone needs to take ownership of this, or there will be no change. What we need are diverse voices and different skill sets in a decision-making body. In many cases still, this means being different by being a woman.

(A): Who were or are your female role models? If allowed to mentor another potential female leader, would you consider it?
(S): I mentor, coach, and sponsor – we have programs in place at MediaCom for this. I recommend that everyone seeks out an informal board of advisors to help them with their career, both inside and outside the place that they work. I have many women role models, some are my bosses and colleagues, some are those women who have broken the mold throughout history. The strong women in my family are role models to me, especially my daughters.

I also very much admire (and wear) the designers Diane von Furstenberg and Vivienne Westwood – their creativity, originality, and consistent refusal to be stereotyped or boxed in.

(A): Where and in what roles are women in your organization's talent pipeline? What policies have you put in place to move your organization toward gender equality?
(S): We have strong women in leadership at MediaCom UK – my current CEO is a woman, and out of the last 4, 3 are women. During this time our business has gone from success to success. We have a very strong pipeline of women throughout the business. We have introduced micro-aggression and allyship training for everyone. The leadership team leads by example in challenging bias whenever we encounter it, and never being a bystander.

(A): What are your current goals? What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? What is next in your life? What do you hope your legacy will be?
(S): I am currently involved in leading the agile transformation of MediaCom, and last year developed a new skill as a Scrum Master. My ambition is, as it always has, to do my very best to make a difference in the work we do for our clients, for MediaCom, and for the wider business world. I hope my legacy is that I have helped women and other underrepresented groups to develop their careers at work to their fullest potential.

(A): What would you like other ambitious women to know about how best to move their careers forward?
(S): The best option for any ambitious woman is to champion others as well as herself.

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