Topic of the Edition


Labour market and +50s - Q4 2014

Evolution - Q2 2014

Learning - Q1 2014

Women With a Dream - Q3 2013

Being fit for success - Q2 2013

Pushing Limits - Q1 2013

Women & Risks - Q4 2012

Women & Ideals - Q3 2012


Change is in the air - Q1 2012

PWI PROGRAM - Building the women pipeline to the board: Talent & Recruitment - Autumn 2011

Mentoring - Summer 2011

Women Under the Spotlight - Spring 2011

  • 24 Jul 2013 14:29 | Armelle Loghmanian

     "May the Bioenergy be with you!" 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Albertina Serafini

    Bioenergetic Analysis Psychotherapist

    Albertina, you are a respected expert in Bioenergetic Analysis, please tell us about the bioenergetics exercise classes; what is it and what are the major benefits, specifically for women?

    Bioenergetic Analysis is a technique for the combined body and psyche created in the ’50s by Alexander Lowen (1910-2008), an American physician and psychotherapist. His technique states that a human being is a “unit” and therefore:
         - If a physical trauma occurs then the psyche is also involved, or if a person is anxious their body is also impacted and reflects the symptoms of anxiety.
         - This means that the psychological state of an individual determines their physical state.

    Dr. Lowen created the bioenergetic exercise classes as a tool to improve the psycho-physical health in terms of vital energy, emotional unlocking and our contact with our bodies. Being in contact with our body means <<not confusing thinking with feeling>>. Too often we live in our heads and lose contact with our bodies.

    The bioenergetic classes help reduce stress and increase mental and physical well-being. These physical exercises directly address the muscle tensions, even the chronic ones, and allow release through specific, appropriate movements, which transform the stress into energy. A key feature of these exercises is that they address muscles, articulations and vertebras in synchrony with respiration: this improves individual’s flexibility and their muscular tone, but also enhances their ability to connect deeply with their own body.

    Despite the fact that the bioenergetic exercise classes are done in classes with small groups, it remains a very personal experience which acknowledges the differences and pace of each individual, but at the same time benefits from the vitality and energy generated by a group.

    The bioenergetics exercises are meant for everybody: children, adolescents and seniors, women and men. They tend to be particularly beneficial for people charged with great responsibilities and/or exposed to conflicting and stressful situations. These are people who need to seek their optimal psycho-physical shape in order to guarantee their performance and good interrelationships. This optimal psycho-physical shape cannot be reached solely by an act of will, it is crucial to release stress and to increase their own awareness of their own physical and psychological limits.

    Which are the factors that can jeopardise the syntony between body and psyche?

    The perception of what is difficult or stressful is very subjective, therefore the factors that might compromise our body-mind syntony are many and may vary from individual to individual. Some examples of stress factors in the working life are: organizing our work, communication challenges, heavy work environment, social or psychological pressures, incomprehension or inability to face some situations.
    We lack body-mind syntony every time our balance is compromised due to objectively difficult situations or personal reasons linked to our personal story.

    Stress emerges when situations are perceived by the individual as dangerous, more than we can handle and a danger to our well-being. If we observe children crying or laughing, we notice that their body is in syntony with what they feel and what they express.
    Unfortunately we learn very early in our life how to hold our breath in order to avoid painful or intolerable feelings and this triggers the following pattern:
    • In order to reduce the intensity of our negative feelings our breathing becomes shallower and shallower. As a consequence we distance our negative feelings from ourselves
    • This reaction creates muscle tension and blocks our normal spontaneous movements until we freeze up, which prevents our abilities to feel
    • Therefore each chronically tense muscle reflects an internal conflict between the perceived feeling and permission to express it.
    If this mechanism persists, we risk becoming inefficient at work and inadequate in our private lives.

    How can work stress affect us?

    Currently many organisations lack flexibility in terms of working hours and work-life balance, and we do not have the benefit of social services that may alleviate parental or children care duties. Women are more impacted by these limitations regarding their work-family balance and might accumulate extra tension and stress.
    Unfortunately working women are also confronted by gender prejudices and stereotypes, diffidence and bias towards the female professionalism; we all know that in most countries men have most of the higher positions and that women still struggle to break the glass ceiling (term coined in 1986).
    In order to fight stress it is critical for women to know their resources well and to transform gender diversity into strength.
    Nevertheless, some “so-called female characteristics” like emotional intelligence, pragmatism, concreteness and the ability to listen actively are getting re-evaluated and will be crucial for the development of new organisational models, which are adequate to satisfy the new economic needs.

    Do you have any recommendations for women who want to be fitter at work?

    When we are in situations where we can demonstrate and realise our abilities, like school or work, we need to keep in touch with our ambitions, determination, desire for power, personal satisfaction and pleasure. This requires us to know our limits and capabilities. If we push too far for whatever reason we lose our contact with ourselves and we risk neglecting the most important thing: our health.
    We need to be able to realise we are consuming too much of our energy and stop before we hurt ourselves.

    In a nutshell, I recommend the following to both women and men: <<Do not fill your life with useless and ephemeral things, which require you to spend a lot of energy, because your well-being, pleasure and zest for life are equal to the quantity of energy you personally have>>.

    Albertina, please tell us about yourself, what inspired you to pursue a career in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy?

    Since I was young, I have been fascinated by the study of the individual as a whole and by their enormous potential.
    I worked for a few years as a teacher. Then I studied psychology at the Sapienza University of Rome. After graduating I decided to become a psychotherapist and specialize in Bioenergetic Analysis.

    Becoming a psychotherapist is a long process, during which we need to explore our inner being and acquire the sensitivity and the qualities that will make each of us unique in our profession.
    I also pursued studies in the field of the psychosomatic medicine (Gestalt-Bioenergetic orientation), sport psychology, relaxation techniques and Reiki.
    My favourite branch remains the Bioenergetic Analysis, which I value as an excellent method based on both theoretical and empirical knowledge. I believe that by combining the verbal-analytic work with work on the body we can reach the deep emotional nuclei and overcome the barriers erected by our resistances.

    Currently my practice is located in Brussels, the focal point of Europe, and I am happy and enthusiastic about meeting so many different people from so many different cultures and nationalities every day, all of them willing to take care of themselves.

    What are the positive contributions that a woman can bring to this profession?
    How do you balance your professional and family life?

    Throughout the world women largely outnumber men as psychologists and psychotherapists. Nevertheless, I do not think a woman in this profession could bring a more positive contribution than a man could.
    I recommend an interesting article by Dr. Giuliana Proietti (psychologist, psychotherapist and sexologist) (1) who theorizes that there is no evidence that having a male or female psychotherapist brings different results.

    Regarding my work-family balance: like the majority of women with children I have encountered a number of difficulties and have had to compromise in order to balance my energy between tasks (as a professional and as a mother).

    Via your profession you know the most intimate fears, difficulties and desires of members of our society and you get a deeper view of reality. How do you judge the current role and condition of women? How has woman’s role changed in recent years?

    For centuries women have fought against cultural and social stereotypes which limit their freedom of speech and expression.
    Nowadays a woman’s role in her public and private life is still limited. Women might be able to exercise their rights more often but this possibility is unequal, and not accessible to all women; there are still countries where women – for cultural, religious and economic reasons – face prejudice and a denial of their rights. There is still a long way to go to complete the re-evaluation of the contribution of women.

    Even the medical community has contributed to the discrimination against women in the past. Women were not allowed to freely express their feelings, personal aspirations, or their sexuality, and those who tried to do so were often accused of “hysteria”, which was considered a purely female disorder.
    As neurology has developed, the hypothesis that hysteria is a female disorder linked to gynecological/anatomical issues has been abandoned. Hysteria was then associated with the hyper-sensitivity of the nervous system of those women diagnosed with this complaint, who reacted against the harsh living conditions imposed on them by society’s styles and culture.
    Nowadays hysteria, as depicted by the classical symptoms, has disappeared since women have conquered their sexual freedom.

    Another example of discrimination between men and women in regard to the hormonal transformations due to menopause and andropause (male menopause), which present similar pathological symptoms. When they get older men often suffer from sexual dysfunctions like a lack of desire or impotence. On the contrary post-menopausal women, freed from the risk of an unwanted pregnancy, experience an increase in sexual desire. For centuries this fact has been denied because when a woman lost her fertility it meant that she had lost her femininity and sexuality in the eyes of society, which valued a woman for her ability to reproduce.
    I recommend that women accept menopause as a transition in life, and they open themselves to the changes that menopause brings. These changes are messages from their body inviting them to a new lifestyle, to renew their desire and to change their habits.

    It’s time for women to encounter their deepest emotions, which claim acknowledgement and respect. In fact, as dr. Lowen (2) used to say <<Health is something more than a lack of debilitating symptoms. Health is vitality, the ability to love, to be creative and to build relationships>>.

    In conclusion, the woman’s role has changed and it is still changing, it is permanently evolving. As it evolves, there will be new targets that women will achieve.

    What is your personal vision of the woman’s role? How should it change and why?

    In my work I have more women patients than men. I see many women who challenge themselves, who want to change and reach their peak of well-being. They are generous and compassionate despite the disappointments they have experienced. Many women have a lot of energy and are good at multi-tasking, which are acknowledged and appreciated qualities.

    I think that women should shift their focus in their fight for equality: women and men are different, different yet complementary, and therefore women should highlight their differences and build on them. Any action should be guided by common sense, common good, honesty and a respect for everybody.

    Short Biography

    Albertina Serafini graduated in 1985 in psychology from Sapienza University of Rome. Later she also became a certified therapist specializing in Bioenergetic Analysis (3)(4).
    She is a member of the “Commission Belge des Psychologues” and of the order of Psychologists and Psychotherapists of the Lazio Region in Italy.
    She gives bioenergetic exercise classes. She is specialized in psychosomatic medicine, sport psychology, pregnancy support and relaxation techniques.

    • “Creation of specific tests for the identification of cognitive delay in childhood and of cognitive deficit in adults”, Sapienza University of Rome.
      The results of her research were published in 1986 in the review ” Rassegna Italiana Linguistica Applicata”- n.2 Bulzoni
    • Research (1991): “Personality profiles of patients suffering from cluster headache”, Headache Centre, University Hospital Umberto I in Rome.

    Contact Details

    Albertina SERAFINI
    Bioenergetic Analysis Psychotherapist

    Avenue A.J. Slegers 65, 1200 Woluwe Saint Lambert (Brussels)



    (1) <<Perché la psicoterapia è donna?>> 24th May 2011  

    <<Need Therapy? A Good Man Is Hard to Find>> By BENEDICT CAREY, Published: May 21, 2011 New York Times

    (2) Dr. Alexander Lowen

    (3) Société Belge d'Analyse Bioénergétique:

    (4) International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis

  • 06 Apr 2013 23:01 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “Inner Journeys Outer Expression”

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Ruth Friedman

    Expressive Arts Therapies

    Careers Coaching
    Intercultural trainings
    Personal development
    For individuals and for groups

    Ruth, when I glanced at your LinkedIn profile I realised you have a scientific background. You worked as a Senior Scientist and Environmental Projects Officer in your native country (the United Kingdom) and then made a significant change in your career when you moved to Belgium.
    May I ask what inspired you to change your career direction and what were the main steps you took to re-invent yourself in your professional life?

    Actually I have re-invented myself many times in the course of my professional life, and I have done a lot of different things – you mention just a few of them I myself have changed a lot in that time, so I have changed my working life as my own needs and interests changed.
    Obviously coming to Belgium for personal reasons, as I did, meant that I had to re-create myself professionally to match not only my own changing interests, but also the needs of a different market. My latest career changes have allowed me to utilize my interest in people and support them through processes of change. My own journey through many different transitions and transformations guides and supports my work – and it is the wish to share the gifts that I found along the way that most motivates and inspires my work.

    I like your motto: “Inner Journeys Outer Expression”, it makes me think of the journey to self-realization. How do you help people along this journey of self-exploration?

    Yes, exactly, I am very much about helping people towards their own self-realization.  My work is about helping people find doorways to themselves, to create the opportunity, and then to encourage and support them – to go ahead and open the door.  I think that all of us, as part of growing up in a less than perfect world, had to put some things behind a door. At that point in our lives it was too difficult or too challenging or we simply didn’t have the necessary resources to deal with that situation at that time – so we put it behind a door – to deal with later.  And that’s the point; we always meant to deal with it.  All too often we get used to living with those closed doors inside of us and it becomes familiar and safe; and at the same time we make ourselves smaller than we need to be, and not as free as we want to be. There comes a moment when we are ready to open the door. The truth is we never really know what we are going to find on the other side of that door until we open it – especially when it’s a door that was sealed shut a long time ago.
    Anyway, my role is to encourage and support people to go ahead and open the door – and to help them accept and love that part of themselves, whatever they discover behind the door.

    So what is “expressive arts therapy”?  And what does it have to do with the workshops and session that you run?

    Carl Jung said “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”, so how do you bring the unconscious in to consciousness so that you can understand it better? This is where expressive art therapies comes in - we use the creative process of making art (be it visual art, dancing, writing, singing, etc.) to create a pathway to the unconscious. Art therapy has been around since the 1940s and 1950s, so it’s a well-established process. We tap into the unconscious and gain insights into ourselves, our environment – past and present and so on, it also enhances our sense of well-being and wholeness.
    The expressive arts therapy approach is more recent (starting in the 1970s) and uses ‘inter-modality’ - meaning that you pass from one media to another as part of the therapeutic process.  For instance, starting a session with some movement and exploring underlying emotions that might arise, and then changing to a visual art or writing structure to express these emotions, and so on. I use diverse media in my workshops and individual sessions, depending on the needs of the people who come.

    I use the term personal development to describe my workshops because that is my main interest.  By this I am talking about the on-going evolution of ourselves as individuals and as humanity, supporting us to become more who we are, and to evolve and develop into beings with a bigger, stronger, wider sense of self. It generates a sense of wellbeing because it helps us to better integrate all aspects of our life and our experiences, and brings us to a sense of wholeness. I would say that personal development is really for anyone that wants to know more about themselves, and how they relate to the world, with or without big problems to resolve, as well as for people who love expressing themselves and who have fun being fully themselves.

    What is the role of the 'art' medium in your workshops and coaching? What is the role of movement? How powerful are they?

    In my work as an expressive arts therapist the two main media which I use are the visual arts and movement.  The point of using the media is to get people past the cognitive part of their brain (the part that does all that rational thinking stuff) and into deeper contact with the truer part of themselves.  I use dance and movement as my work is grounded in about 20 years practice as an expressive dancer, and I use visual art because it can be such a powerful medium  for expressing feelings and memories that we may not otherwise have access to. I discovered this medium more recently and I have been working extensively with it for several years now. I have even been involved in several small exhibitions which included my own artistic work.

    Some examples of the art work from participants in my sessions (all names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality):



     Two spontaneous pictures from ‘Sabine’ an older woman – recovering old memories   Marc’ a man in his 50’s – expressing his vision for himself   



     ‘Marie’ a woman in her 50’s going through transition – loss of a parent, divorce, challenges at work…     Participants at one of the workshops

    How do your clients react to these methods? What are their main fears or difficulties? Are there differences across the different nationalities or cultures?

    In general the people who come to me want to explore in this way, so they are usually really open and curious – even if they do not see themselves as artistic, because they understand that’s not the point. Often they find themselves surprised at what they produce, or how easy it is to move and discover new freedom in their body – for instance. Every once in a while someone will come along and discover it’s not really for them – some people are not ready to let go of their cognitive mind.

    More often people  get a lot out of what I am offering and then they go looking for some kind of theory or other rational explanation. The whole point about working with the unconscious is that it’s not rational, and whilst we can, of course, put a broad frame around things to ground the work, analysing the process all too often detracts from the power of the experiences themselves.

    What is Self-Compassion and what is a Self-Compassion Workshop?

    Self-compassion draws on contemporary psychological research combined with wisdom from ancient traditions, to offer a set of tools to help people through life’s more challenging moments.  Life can be tough for each of us, and being kind to ourselves actually helps us to enhance our performance and to do our work better, because we learn to stop beating ourselves up for living in a less than perfect world.  

    During the workshops we go into detail about self-compassion and some of the tools that can help.  Workshops are tailored to the needs of the participants who come, but self-compassion is particularly useful for people who tend to be judgmental of themselves and others, for people who procrastinate, and for people who are caregivers – professional caregivers or informally caring for a parent, child or friend.

    I see you have done a lot of youth work in the past.  Do you work with young people now?

    Most of the work I do these days is with the children and teenagers of expat families who have relocated as young people often need help to manage the impact of a family relocation. My work not only helps them understand about cultural differences but it also helps them to express the wide range of feelings they might have regarding leaving their friends behind and going off on a new adventure with their family.
    Children can find this type of readjustment really challenging and my work supports the children through this process.  The art therapy tools are especially adapted - age–appropriately - to meet the needs of the young people involved, so that they can make the most of the unique opportunity of living in a new country..

    If you look at your life and career, what would you like to change and why?

    If I look back, I would say that everything I have done has helped me become the person that I am now, and one way or another, it has helped me to develop the skills that I use now in my work with individuals and with groups.
    I think that one of the reasons I am so passionate about my work, is that I really love it when people ‘get it’ about themselves – those little moments of self-realization, it’s such a privilege to witness them.

    Ruth, I see that as well as all the expressive creative stuff you also do career work. How does that all fit together?

    When people think about “careers work”, they often think about the CV writing and job interview skills – which is also something I do – but it’s not where I usually start, unless the person has a very clear career goal that they want to achieve. 
    I see my job as helping the person access more than their cognitive thoughts about their career – we might do some creative drawing or writing exercises, to help the person get in contact with their essential skills and what they dream of.  Then we look at what that means on the current job market and how to communicate that to a potential employer or to clients. 

    What are your future professional goals and developments? What are your “dreams” for yourself and for our society? How will you contribute?

    I think we are at an exciting point in the evolution of humanity and of the world - never before has there been so much access to information, to choices, and to opportunity. More and more people are waking up out of some kind of slumber, realizing that they want to get more out of life and that they want to create success on their own terms and not on society’s. Globally I think that this will be good for the whole.

    I believe that when I help people get in contact with their higher purpose and their unconscious, I am helping them live to their fullest potential  and when society has more people who are living in deeper contact with themselves it will be good for all of us.  I would say that my dream and my vision for society are very closely connected to the work that I am doing now.

    Short Biography

    Ruth Friedman has been on a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery most of her adult life.
    "I treasure deeply all that has helped me open more and more to the fullness of life and to my own being. The wish to share this gift is what most motivates my work".

    Her professional background is diverse: She is trained and experienced as a scientist, in environmental and community issues, and as an educator. She is from the UK, and since arriving in Belgium in 2004, she has focused on career and personal development, non-discrimination and intercultural diversity. She has been running personal development workshops of different kinds since 1999.
    Her clients include OSCE (the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), Cultural Awareness International, Brookfield’s Relocation Consultancy, People To People International, and TIPIK (communication agency).

    Contact Details

     Ruth Friedman
    Expressive Arts Therapies
    Careers Coaching
    Intercultural trainings


    M: +32 (0)498 10 22 69

       Ruth Friedman Workshops

    “Inner Journeys Outer Expression”


  • 06 Apr 2013 22:59 | Armelle Loghmanian

     It’s a matter of citizenship ...
    Verona in the world through its citizens 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Vittorio Di Dio
    • Counselor to the Verona Mayor
    • Responsible for the relationships with Verona’s citizens residents abroad, circles “Veronesi nel Mondo”
    • Responsible for the Wi-Fi Program
    • PR Director of Fiera di Verona

    Verona is the fourth most important town for tourism in Italy (after Rome, Venice and Florence) and is known worldwide for its Roman amphitheater (Arena) and for becoming the “Town of Love” thanks to the myth of “Romeo & Juliet”.
    The town is well known, but not everybody knows that the Commune of Verona takes into great consideration the relationships with their citizens, including the emigrants and the Veronese citizens living abroad temporarily.
    Therefore, in 2007 the Mayor of Verona – Mr. Flavio Tosi – appointed his counselor Mr. Vittorio Di Dio as responsible for the “Affairs with the Veronese living abroad”.
    Being myself Veronese and recently appointed as the President of the “Brussels Circle of Veronesi nel Mondo (Veronese living abroad)”, I wanted to share this experience with you, so I went to Verona to interview Mr. Di Dio.

    The “Arena” (left) and the Town Hall of Verona  Juliet’s balcony, Verona The Roman bridge, Verona

    Mr. Di Dio, would you like to illustrate the mandate you were given by the Mayor of Verona to build a bridge between Verona and their citizens /emigrants around the world?

    In 2007 the Mayor of Verona – Mr. Flavio Tosi – appointed me as responsible for the Affairs with the Veronese living abroad in order to support the Veronese emigrants, meaning specifically the ones who emigrated (including their direct descendants), the ones willing to repatriate and the ones temporarily resident in other countries.

    In these six years my work has been to increase the knowledge of the over 40 circles of Verona located throughout the world.
    Thanks to these years of experience we could define a best practice model to manage the relationships with our emigrants and - with your support, Alessandra - we are implementing this Pilot Model for the Circle of Veronesi nel Mondo in Brussels.

    The ultimate goals of my mandate and of this “Veronesi nel Mondo” pilot model include:
    • Citizenship - Keeping a strong social bond between Verona and the Veronese citizens/communities abroad
    • Culture & Tourism - Spreading a flavour of our beautiful town across the world, and inviting the world to visit Verona and adopt it as the “Town of Love
    • Economy – Introduce entrepreneurs, gastronomic and other Veronese excellences to the Veronese citizens abroad, to their local networks and to potential business partners.
    Certainly, the Veronese community of Brussels will be the main driver of all the new circles that we will open in Europe, it will be a cultural point of reference and support for the Veronese in Brussels and in Belgium.

    How will this model be replicated to the other Veronese Communities around the world?

    I want to say right away that every nation in the world has its own characteristics; therefore each Veronese community, in order to be active and effective, must be inserted in the social context of the country where they live. In this way we will work for the circle of Brussels too.

    How can the Commune of Verona support the “The European Year of Citizens 2013” (1) and contribute to building the “Identity of Citizens of the European Union”?

    I believe that to build the new identity of the citizens of Europe in 2013, first we have to teach them the history of Verona and we need to make them rediscover the beauty of their roots. We aim through the establishment of this circle of Verona to teach and pass on to young people the value and pride of their origins.
    On the other hand I think that this initiative by the Commune of Verona can be considered a significant effort to contribute to building the “identity of Citizen of the European Union (2)” by bringing the citizens’ birth town close to the EU and vice versa: in this sense Verona tries to be a champion of European citizenship.

    Mr. Di Dio, the other way round now: what is the value of the Veronese Communities for Verona? How can the Veronese living abroad contribute to promote their town?

    The Veronese communities who live abroad have always contributed to the development of Verona, because their successes in the world of work and culture have represented the hard work and ingenuity of the Veronese, becoming in this way the best ambassadors of our town and country in the world.

    Mr. Di Dio, in your opinion, how can Verona play a role in Europe? And in the world?

    Verona will play a very important role in the world if it emerges as a city of tourism, culture, art and excellent food. If Verona has the ability to communicate these distinctions to the world through the many Veronese living abroad, and if it is able to build development policies in this direction, then the city of Romeo and Juliet will become the pride of Europe.

    Short Biography

    Born in 1957 Mr. Vittorio Di Dio has started to be involved in politics when he was very young.
    He served in the Bersaglieri (rifle regiment in Italian army) with the grade of lieutenant, where he learned that in order to deliver results, it is necessary to work cleverly and quickly.

    He studied business planning, organisation and marketing.

    He covered the role of President of the Verona Mercato (a joint-stock company, which built and owns the Agricultural Centre of Verona, and manages it directly); through this job he could personally envisage the economic potential of Verona.
    He was also the Vice-president of the Fiere di Rovigo, where he had the opportunity to acquire crucial operations competencies, which are very helpful in his current position of PR Director of the Fiera di Verona.

    In the last five years he has been appointed as Counselor for various sectors: equal opportunities, construction industry, tourism, social affairs and now relationships with the Veronese in the world.

    Contact Details

    Vittorio Di Dio
    Consigliere incaricato Veronesi nel Mondo


    Tel: 0458077514

    Ufficio presso Comune di Verona - P.zza Bra n°1
    37121 Verona

    Disclaimer -   
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Comune di Verona, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.


    (1) The European Year of Citizens 2013

    <<The European Year of Citizens 2013 is dedicated to the rights that come with EU citizenship. Over this year, we will encourage dialogue between all levels of government, civil society and business at events and conferences around Europe to discuss those EU rights and build a vision of how the EU should be in 2020>>.

    << … The Europe for citizens programme helps promote understanding between the Union and its citizens, seeks to deepen awareness of what it means to be a European, and assists in developing a sense of European identity. The Europe for citizens programme (2007-2013) aims to give the citizen a key role in the development of the European Union: promoting Europe’s common values and history, fostering a sense of ownership of the EU project among citizens, and developing ideas and activities with a European angle…>>

    (2) Source: Flash Eurobarometer 294 "European Union Citizenship", October 2010

  • 20 Feb 2013 02:10 | Armelle Loghmanian

     Life risking for life rescuing: a brave lady's story of her work with RNLI

    Interviewed by Beverley Sinton


    Sloane Phillips

    Deputy 2nd Coxswain of Hastings Lifeboat

    You seem to have always had a very close connection to the sea. Was this because you grew up beside the sea or do you have family members who have been sailors?

    I have lived in Hastings all my life and I watched the lifeboat launch many times when I was growing up. My mum has been a volunteer in the Lifeboat Shop and Visitor Centre for as long as I can remember and we used to go down to see her when she was working. I remember the excitement of the maroons being fired and the lifeboat launching. I admired the crews that selflessly put to sea in all conditions to help others and loved watching the boat coming back from a rescue. I also remember visiting the station on a school trip and the coxswain at the time telling us about the work of the RNLI and the crews at Hastings. The work of the RNLI has always interested me but I didn’t think one day I would be one of the crew.

    I notice you were previously a Beach Lifeguard. Could you tell us a bit more about this? I am curious, why did you choose a job which could put your life into some danger? Did you face any opposition from your family?

    I became a member of the local voluntary Lifeguard club when I was 14 and they operated a beach lifeguard service every Sunday throughout the summer months. It was then that I started to patrol the beaches of Hastings as a volunteer and when I was old enough I took my RLSS Beach Lifeguard Qualification which then led to me working full time on the beach at Hastings for the local Council when I left college.

    The training and job involved swimming in the sea in different conditions and carrying out different types of rescues. I learnt to respect the sea and understand the varying conditions. I loved how it could go from being beautifully calm one day to turbulent rough conditions the next. 
    I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of beach lifeguarding so going out to rescue someone, even in bad conditions, was something that didn’t cross my mind; I just wanted to help people. Most of the work I did as a lifeguard involved carrying out first aid and advising people about the beach and sea but my training really came into force when one day I and a couple of colleagues rescued a man from drowning. It was a horrible shock but to find out he survived made us so happy and made what we did worthwhile.

    What lead you to join the Lifeboat service? This is a voluntary position, so what else was going on in your life when you joined?

    I wondered if my new found lifeguarding skills would help on the lifeboat so one morning when on one of my patrols I went along to the lifeboat station and after a chat with the coxswain I was asked to join. I was lucky as not only could I volunteer for the RNLI on my days off, the Council allowed me to respond to the pager at work if I could.
    It was at this time that I met my husband too; he was a volunteer for Rye Harbour Lifeboat and understood why I volunteered for the RNLI. He soon became a member of the crew at Hastings too and it was great to dash off together when the pagers went off. However, we always knew our roles and responsibilities when volunteering for the Lifeboat and we have a great working relationship. He is now a full time Fleet Staff Coxswain for the RNLI and travels the country covering at different stations and carrying out trial work on new lifeboats and equipment.

    Please could you tell us some more about the work of the lifeboat? For instance I know most of the staff are voluntary - how many people are qualified to act as crew, and how many need to be on board before the lifeboat can be launched? Do you have regular practice days? How much time do you spend on the lifeboat and are there days when the crew are assembled 'waiting for a call out'? Do you have to arrange your summer holidays with your lifeboat duties in mind?

    The RNLI is a charity that saves lives at sea; they receive no government funding and rely solely on public donations. They provide an on call 24-hour Lifeboat Search & Rescue service and Flood Rescue Service and a seasonal Lifeguard Service.
    All of the team at Hastings are volunteers except for the Coxswain/Mechanic who is a paid full time member of staff. His job is to command the All Weather Lifeboat on Service & Exercise, maintain the machinery, plant and equipment at the station and in his absence he has 3 Deputy Coxswains & 3 Deputy Mechanics.
    The volunteer crew is made up of guys & girls from all different walks of life. We have shop keepers, a window fitter, an Accident & Emergency Doctor, a Motorcycle shop owner, a civil servant and even an arbor culturist to name a few.

    The D-Class Inshore Lifeboat carries out mainly inshore rescue work, for example swimmers, windsurfers, inflatable dinghy’s and small craft/fishing boats. The crew is normally 2 or 3 people as long as one of them is a Helmsman and responds to calls within a few minutes.
    The Mersey Class All Weather Lifeboat carries out jobs in all conditions and responds to a variety of calls, for example fishing boats, commercial ships, medical jobs, yachts and pleasure craft etc. The crew is normally 5 or 6 people including a coxswain & mechanic. The crew carry out all sorts of duties including deck work, radar, navigation, helming the boat and look out.

    All of the crew carry pagers and if we are free to respond when a call comes in from The Coastguard we start heading for the station. We could be asleep in our beds, out for a meal, at a party or at work, the crews are very dedicated. The D Class launches as soon as the crew arrive (as long as one is a helm) and the Mersey crew is picked by the coxswain depending on the job and crew competencies.

    All of the crew start as shore crew and once they settle in they are asked to go on the seagoing crew. This is where they start their training and as well as on station training and exercises they can attend the Lifeboat Training College in Poole, Dorset and take a Sea Survival course, Basic Crew courses, First Aid and many more.
    It’s a fair commitment being part of a lifeboat crew. At Hastings we exercise with the boats every fortnight and we have shore based crew training every Wednesday where we carry out training and exercises on all aspects of lifeboat work, for example radar, navigation, first aid, and rope work practice and engineering and maintenance.

    The RNLI provide a great training programme and over the years I have progressed well, attending many different courses with the RNLI. These included Powerboat Level 2, Long Range Radio, Navigation & Radar Courses, Search & Rescue Command and Yacht master.
    Being a Deputy 2nd Coxswain I commit to being on call in the absence of the coxswain, if he is sick or on leave for example. This means I have to be able to respond if the pagers go off and can’t go very far from the station. It’s a big commitment.

    I am very curious about the life of a woman in a lifeboat crew. Are there any other women in your crew? Have you ever felt that being a woman put you at a disadvantage? Would you recommend joining the Lifeboat service to other women?

    The RNLI is a very traditional organisation and when I joined I was the only female at Hastings, I never thought they would let a girlie in! I admit I was apprehensive; however, I was lucky at Hastings as there had been a female crew member at the station a few years before me. I was made to feel really welcome and soon became part of the team and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Today at Hastings there are two females on the crew and two on the launch crew and over 200 within the RNLI.

    You quickly qualified as a lifeboat helmsman, then a navigator and now you are a coxswain. Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

    With hard work and commitment I progressed into command positions on the lifeboat, this has made me very proud. I honestly didn’t think that when I joined I would be a deputy coxswain but after 17 years I am really happy to be in the roles I am at Hastings.

    I know you have qualified as a Paramedic with the lifeboat service, and you are also a paramedic in your paid career.
    Please could you tell us something of your regular job - do you work on the ambulances? How would you describe your job? Are there many female paramedics?

    I am a full time Paramedic for South East Coast Ambulance Service and I have been part of their Hazardous Area Response Team for the last 3 years. HART teams are comprised of specially recruited and trained personnel who provide the ambulance response to particularly hazardous or challenging incidents and in some cases where there is a mass casualty, CBRN, Large Fires or Search & Rescue incidents. I also respond to regular 999 calls single manned in a response car or as part of a crew on an ambulance. This means I never know what my next job will be and it may be anything from an elderly patient that has fallen to a patient having a stroke or a heart attack, to Road Traffic Crash or child. However, I recently passed an assessment day and Interview for the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) and I start my training in February. I will be based in Kent but the service provides Paramedic and Doctor cover to all of Kent, Sussex and Surrey.

    I see you recently joined an International Flood Rescue Team. Could you tell us something about this sort of work?

    I am also a volunteer on the RNLI’s National & International Flood Rescue Team. The National Team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to deploy to flooding events in the UK, Ireland. The team comprises lifeboat crews from all around the RNLI, who have been specially trained for the risks involved when working in or around fast moving flood water. The team was formed in 2000, and we now have six divisional teams strategically positioned to respond to a flood anywhere in the UK or the RoI within 6 hours – a total of 250 team members. The RNLI’s international Flood Rescue Team (iFRT) is a group of approximately 50 specially trained RNLI lifeboat men and women who have volunteered to be ready to travel anywhere in the world to assist in flood relief work. We have additional skills for working overseas, including previous experience in developing countries and disaster zones, as well as specific skills such as being a doctor, paramedic, linguist or mechanic. We always have to ensure we have all our necessary vaccinations up to date and a bag packed to enable us to deploy at a moment's notice.

    Do you have a favourite memory from your time in the RNLI? For instance from the celebrations of the Queen Mother's 100th birthday or from the celebrations for Hastings Lifeboat 150th birthday? Or possibly you were involved this summer with Queen's Jubilee or the Olympics?

    I have many fond memories of my time with the RNLI, from my first job on the inshore lifeboat, to representing the RNLI at the Queen Mothers 100th Birthday Celebrations in London in 2000 and taking part in Europe’s biggest ever Flood exercise in Holland with the Flood Rescue Team in 2009. I was also proud to receive a Framed Letter of Thanks from the RNLI’s Chairman in 2006 after a service on the Inshore Lifeboat which saw our Senior Helmsman awarded a ‘Thanks of the Institution’ inscribed on Vellum. It was for the rescue of a swimmer from the sea and the D class lifeboat was operating in the surf at the limit of its capability in heavy 3m-high seas, it was a tough job.

    I am very proud to be a volunteer for the RNLI and to be able to do something to help others. The training is second to none, the teamwork at the station is fantastic and I have made so many new & lifelong friends over the years. We all get on immensely well and enjoy every aspect of our RNLI work, from the training, to the service calls and the socialising.

    Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

    In my spare time (when I do get some) I love spending time with my husband, walking our dogs over the local country park, socialising with friends and taking the opportunity at least once a year to head for the slopes and enjoy a week or so snowboarding.

    Short Biography

    Sloane Phillips has worked for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust since 2002 qualifying as a Paramedic in 2007 and has just started a 3 year secondment to the Kent Sussex & Surrey Air Ambulance Trust. They are a registered charity established to relieve sick and injured people in South East England and surrounding areas by providing a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS). They respond swiftly to 999 calls and deliver a highly skilled team of Specialist Doctors and Critical Care Paramedics to the patient at the scene.

    Sloane completed a Foundation Degree in Paramedic Science through St Georges University of London & has also completed a Mentorship Preparation module at BSC Level 6 through Brighton University. The mentorship qualification allows her to mentor in service and external Paramedics through their course and progression with the Trust.

    Prior to her HEMS position Sloane spent 3 years with the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) gaining several other specialist Rescue Paramedic qualification and Safe Working at Height. This allows her to work in hazardous areas such as collapsed buildings, confined space rescue and at height. Sloane has been a volunteer crewmember with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) since 1997 and holds the Deputy 2nd Coxswain and Inshore Lifeboat Helmsman at Hastings Lifeboat
    Station. She is also a member of the RNLI’s National.
    Sloane is passionate about her work with the RNLI & the Air Ambulance and is honoured to be a representative for two such high profile charities.

    Sloane Phillips,
    Hastings Lifeboat Sta
    The Stade, Hastings, East Sussex, UK TN34 3AL

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of RNLI, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 20 Jan 2013 02:13 | Armelle Loghmanian

     Lady Justice: the art of leadership in law 

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Kellie Wingate Campbell

    Attorney, Lafayette County Prosecutor
    President of MOVA (#Missouri Victim Assistance Network)

    Congratulations, Kellie, you are the first woman prosecutor in your rural area, Lafayette County, Missouri. What did it mean to you this significant achievement?

    Thank you. It is exciting to be a small part of history in this way and yet when you think about it, it’s really quite strange that we are still experiencing so many ‘firsts’ for women lawyers 143 years after the first woman was allowed to practice law in the U.S. I wonder what ‘firsts’ will remain to be realized at the 200-year mark! These milestones are significant and each one represents progress in addressing historic injustices.
    As important as this accomplishment is to me, though, it is even more important that I perform my duties to the very best of my ability, something I aspire to do every day.

    How could other women benefit from your “breaking the ice” as first lady prosecutor? Are you planning to mentor women candidates to the same or similar roles?

    I think that the next woman prosecutor in this position is likely to be accepted more readily by certain segments of the population than I was. I hope our office is proving that it is experience and integrity rather than gender that determines success in prosecuting criminal cases. I have encouraged and mentored other women prosecutors, law school students, and even secondary school students at various times during my career. Mentoring brings a real sense of fulfillment.

    What was the reaction of your male colleagues to your promotion as prosecutor?
    How many prosecutors does Lafayette County have?

    I try to perform as though gender does not affect my professional interactions and the majority of the time this works well. However, this is an unrealistic approach in many circumstances. A periodic crude, sexist remark provides obvious proof of the issue, but subtle forms of sexism are the most frustrating because they are more difficult to pin down. When you encounter an invisible barrier in a particular relationship or setting, you will repeatedly bang your head against it until you finally acknowledge it. Once you name it, you stop wasting your time looking for the ‘problem’ and you contain the sexism to the best possible extent. If you can’t identify the source of conflict or tension as personality, performance, politics or something else, gender bias may very well be at play.
    There are no easy solutions for eradicating gender bias. My choice is to be true to myself while continually learning how to lead better and to earn the respect of those around me. On a humorous note, the day I blew up and dropped a few choice words, the guys were all impressed with this less-than-civil behavior and my clout reportedly increased a notch or two. Apparently, I was viewed as too composed and my mini-explosion was an expression of the ‘fire’ they needed to see. Go figure.

    Based on your observation, is there a difference between women and men in “feeling” and approaching justice? Or are other factors making the difference? Which ones?
    For example, I have always believed that women have more compassion than men, but I have never been able to collect enough evidence of it …

    Studies regarding gender consistently show that there are differences between men and women whether it be in leadership style, communication or problem-solving.
     Rather than ignore this evidence, we can use these differences to benefit our various justice systems. The same studies suggest that this balanced approach produces better outcomes. An article from the Harvard Business Review (1) earlier this year citing studies on these differences provides insight into perception versus reality regarding gender differences and leadership.

    Gender is not the only characteristic each one of us brings to the table, of course. We each have unique biases, experiences, strengths and weaknesses that come to bear on our approach to things. Increased insight into all of these areas can help improve our leadership skills and overall performance in the workplace. Gender is one facet of a larger picture when it comes to improving our judicial systems.

    Kellie, which are the main gender differences/qualities/attitudes you have encountered in administrating justice?
    How could the various justice systems benefit from using the differences between men and women in approaching justice?

    Shortly after I was appointed to this position, I spoke to a business club. Someone in the audience asked me whether I would be as ‘tough’ as the man before me. The fact that the question was even asked could be seen as a form of gender bias: would they have asked the same question of me if I were a man? I responded by saying, “Ideally, a prosecutor would be both tough and fair, but let me ask this – if you had to choose between them, would you choose ‘tough’ or would you choose ‘fair’?” The room was silent as this concept took hold. Of course, people want to be treated with fairness first and foremost, especially when it is their own family member or friend who has gotten into trouble or been arrested for driving drunk.

    Another gender issue I have encountered relates to appearance. Flowing hair, pantyhose and a polite voice have often been underestimated. ‘Tough’ is not defined by appearance in my field. Out-dated attitudes regarding appearance still pop up here and thereand these attitudes lead to real embarrassment for those who have a hard time accepting change. It is usually my choice in these situations to refuse to concede inferiority while at the same time to avoid shaming the source. I have found that it works better for me to remain professional and cordial while firmly advancing my position with intelligence and poise.
    I have also had to learn over the years to project my voice and to overcome years of being soft-spoken. My husband is an actor. I have learned from him the importance and method of being heard. Many women I know would benefit from learning to use their voice more effectively.
    The second part of your question is harder to answer. I go back to my belief that gender is just one of many aspects of leadership, and diversity of all kinds – personality, race, age, experience, gender, economic standing - is required for a well-balanced approached to justice.

    Please tell us about your profession. Which risks do prosecutors take in their profession?
    What is your attitude to risk?
    In your opinion, do female prosecutors expose themselves more to professional risks than men do?

    In general, my profession requires analytical thinking, public speaking, research and writing skills, common sense and various forms of risk-taking. In my current position as a public figure, I take a risk every time I open my mouth because so many people are listening and ready to criticize, but this is not what I typically think of when I think of risk.

    Instead, I think of the lives I affect each day when deciding whether to file a criminal charge that will certainly affect someone’s future, for both victims and defendants. Experience and a good deal of discretion are required. My constant prayer is, “God, grant me the wisdom to know the right thing to do, and the courage to do it.” Risk-taking requires courage.
    I find that most of my female colleagues readily and skillfully embrace decision-making that requires a calculated level of risk. As Soren Kierkegaard points out, risk-taking may involve some uncertainty but is absolutely essential: “To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself”. What a great reflection.

    I read you are a sponsor of MOVA (Missouri Victim Assistance Network), what is it about? Its mission? What is your role in this network?

    In July, I became president of MOVA, an organization devoted to ensuring that victims of crime have a voice in the criminal justice system. For many years, victims of crime had no rights and were not included in vital stages of a criminal case. Two decades ago, MOVA helped pass state laws that give rights to victims. Prior to this, victims had no right to be notified of court dates, no right to speak at sentencing, no right to an advocate or many of the other basic rights we call ‘victims’ rights’ today. 
    This is a volunteer position that relates directly to my mission as a prosecutor. It also gives my jurisdiction a presence at the state level and keeps me immersed in current issues and legislation pertaining to victims of crime.
    I have worked with victims for the majority of the past twenty years and have seen gradual progress in the area of victims’ rights. We have come far, but there is still much work to be done. Most victims’ rights laws have no enforcement or ‘teeth’ behind them. In other words, if a prosecutor or judge does not afford the victim an opportunity for input, the victim has no immediate recourse to enforce their rights.

    Funding is also lacking for victim services in many areas. Another obstacle is that the emotional, ‘touchy-feely’ side of victimology is often avoided in the courtroom. Courtrooms tend to be structured and orderly and even sterile. Victims of crime are understandably angry or emotional and this is often seen as awkward in many courtrooms. Promoting victims’ rights is not as simple as it sounds. The term ‘victimology’ is relatively new, historically speaking, and reflects an international movement formally recognized in the mid-1980s to provide victims substantial access to the criminal justice system. Victimology is the study, in part, of how victims respond to crime and their offenders and how they interact with the court system. When law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges have a better understanding of the victim experience, we see better results in investigations and sentences, and, more importantly, we see victims experiencing less victim-blaming and less re-victimization by the people assigned to protect them.

    Kellie, you have started the LinkedIn group “Lady Justice: In Acclaim of Women Lawyers”, a very intriguing name … What is your aim with this virtual group?

    As a new attorney over twenty years ago, I struggled to find other mothers and attorneys who had been down the same path before me.

    Then I became an elected official and again found myself at a loss for mentors during some tumultuous times. In spite of the supportive male mentors I’ve had over the years, there were many moments when I wanted to talk to a woman who had already gone through the challenges I was facing.

    In a rural area, the internet is especially valuable in increasing those networking possibilities. I decided to create a network myself designed to provide encouragement and support to other women in my field. It’s just a little late-night project that allows me to share articles I find helpful, knowing that other women lawyers may find them useful, too. Women lawyers have such an interesting history of overcoming obstacles and I post articles on this as well. As I search for and read articles to post, I am humbled by the determination of so many women I discover, not just the heroes of the past, but the heroes of today who are fighting for justice all around the world.

    What inspired you, Kellie, to become an attorney and a prosecutor? 
    Are any members of your family also involved in the legal profession?

    My first degree was in Psychology. During my studies I used to work as a medical clerk in a hospital, it was a male co-worker who said to me one day, out of the blue, “You should go to law school”.
    I didn’t see this in myself but he saw my interest in righting wrongs, and I valued his input. He was right. Up to this point I had only consulted with an attorney one time and it was not a pleasant experience. I didn’t particularly enjoy law school, but after I graduated in 1988 and obtained my license, I found that I truly enjoy working in this field.

    Friends and family would have described me as a child as being shy and quiet, but when you find your passion, you also find your voice, and I certainly found my passion in the practice of law. People in any profession have the ability to improve the lives of those around them, but a law degree has allowed me to do this in ways not otherwise possible.
    Once again, I had no mentors or family members to look to for advice specific to this experience as no one close to me was an attorney. I had to seek them out at various stages of my career.

    Kellie, which are your professional dreams that have not yet come true? 
    And your personal ones?

    I have been privileged to see many of my professional goals fulfilled which would have to include - in no particular order - speaking at an international conference in the World Forum in The Hague, helping several child molestation victims find justice, breaking into a position not previously held by a woman, and starting my own business. The conference in The Hague was the 14th International Symposium of the World Society of Victimology. I was invited to speak on victims’ rights as they relate to confidentiality, a matter of both dignity and personal safety.

    Looking to the future, I want to become a better leader and I constantly work at this. A member of my LinkedIn group posted an article that recommended must-reads for today’s leaders, so at the moment, I am working my way through ‘The Lean Startup’ by author Eric Ries. Women leaders face their own set of challenges, especially in fields where ‘leadership’ is defined by male attributes. This is an ongoing challenge and I want to be on the forefront of change. I suppose this will be a lifetime goal accompanied by a lifetime of effort. 
    I also enjoy writing and would like to write more often. And I want to do all of this while taking cross-country and international trips with my grandchildren, who are yet unborn! Dare to dream big.

    Kellie, what do you think about the work-life balance issue?

    One of the struggles for many mothers who accept positions of societal authority and power is whether they are cheating their children. I want to assure those mothers that they are setting such an important example for their sons and daughters.
    My oldest daughter remarked the other day that she is so proud each time she runs into someone in our community who tells her how I have helped them. Her Facebook posts about this and similar encouragement of the work I do help make up for a small portion of my guilt over missing her concert at Carnegie Hall three years ago!

    Professional decisions often require unpleasant sacrifice, but as time goes on, I become more and more convinced that my children have gained much more than they have lost.

    Another example: My youngest daughter asked me several years ago, “If you don’t work for Molly’s dad anymore, then who is your boss?” I responded, “Me”. The smile on her face and her response - “Cool!” - let me know that I had planted an important seed, not only that the ‘boss’ is not always male, but that a woman can direct her own future. Keep planting those seeds!

    Kellie, please tell your daughters and your son that we will bring your interesting “story” to Europe – they will enjoy it - and give them a hug from me: we need “daughters and sons proud of their mother’s professional achievements”, it is very rewarding and encouraging.

    Short Biography

    Kellie Wingate Campbell  was appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to serve as the Lafayette County Prosecuting Attorney in 2009. She later ran for office unopposed in the 2010 election.
    Kellie Campbell received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Stephens College, a private women’s college founded in 1833, and her juris doctor degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1988. She is married with three children. is tbios

    Contact Details

    Kellie Wingate Campbell
    Attorney, Lafayette County Prosecutor & President of MOVA (Missouri Victim Assistance Network)

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MOVA, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

    SOURCES (1) 
    Link to the HBR article with an opportunity to download the studies is provided here: 
  • 15 Jan 2013 23:30 | Armelle Loghmanian

    Excellence in extreme sports: three champion ladies

    This article includes two interviews:

    a. By Alessandra Zocca to Giampiero Genovese 
    b. By Giampiero Genovese to Ilaria Bonin, Isabelle Gillet and Maria Felicia Carraturo

    a. By Alessandra Zocca to Giampiero Genovese 


    Giampiero Genovese

    Officer at the European Commission,
    Free-diving apnea instructor, coach and trainer

    Giampiero, could you please describe briefly what is apnea diving, including the different discipline types? 
    Is apnea diving an Olympic sport? Are there any professional apnea divers? 
    Do you always dive in swimming pools or do you also dive in the sea?

    Currently apnea diving or free diving is not an Olympic sport. It used to be in the early days of the modern Olympic games, but it was abandoned because as an underwater sport it was not very visible to the public. In fact, the term "apnea" designates a sports event where the athlete holds his breath keeping the face below the surface of the water. The final purpose of this discipline is to dive deep into the sea or dive for as long as you can with one breath.

    There are very few professional apnea divers (a dozen) and they are those who are the most involved in record breaking and can attract sponsors. 

    The activity in the pool was seen at the beginning of modern apnea in the 50’s as a training opportunity to develop mental aspects and technique, then in modern free diving, pool disciplines like static (staying in the water while holding your breath) and dynamic (how long you can go with one breath) have become disciplines and are a matter of competition. 

    As regard depth competitions disciplines are: 
    • Constant Weight which is going down following a security rope as deep as you can and coming back to the surface with the same ballast, it can be done with or without fins but the rope cannot be grabbed 
    • Free immersion is to go down just pulling on the rope, no use of the legs 
    • Variable Weight, which consists in going down with a ballast, releasing it and coming up with no weight 
    • No Limit discipline, which is going down with a ballast, releasing it and coming up with an artificial system (for instance an inflated balloon) 
    • Jump Blue discipline which consists in an event where the athlete must cover the maximum distance in apnea around a square of 15 (fifteen) meters side situated in a depth of 10 (ten) meters (this discipline is also called the cube).

    Giampiero, do you think apnea diving has helped develop your personal qualities or had an influence on your business life?

    Apnea diving is a discipline where the mental part counts for 80%. 
    For this reason apnea training, like in any other sport which requires a strong mental effort, will impact your daily attitude. Capacity of concentration and lucidity, capacity of relaxation, correct and efficient breathing are the most evident results.

    b. By Giampiero Genovese to Ilaria Bonin, Isabelle Gillet and Maria Felicia Carraturo

     Ilaria Bonin  Isabelle Gillet  Mariafelicia Carraturo
     World record champion of Dynamic (210 m - CMAS Federation) and of Jump Blue (169 m – CMAS Federation) and World record of Dynamic with no fins (163 m – All Federation)

     Belgian record champion of Dynamic Apnea (119 m – AIDA Federation)  Italian record champion of Free Immersion (- 62 m – AIDA federation) and CMAS Constant Weight (-68 m) and Aida Constant Weight (-79)

     What inspired you to choose this sporting discipline and to compete in apnea diving?

    My inspiration is based on a challenge with myself. I have always been in a swimming pool since I was 3 years old, but the blue of the sea made me scared.
    So, when I finished with my previous sport, water polo I started a free-diving course to overcome this fear. And I really felt in love with free-diving.

    Everything started in 2003 when I met Umberto Pelizzari while I was working in the Bahamas for the Club Med. I joined the discovery training he gave and I enjoyed being in the water and learning how to feel good by swimming as long as possible with only one breath:).
    Time passed but I didn’t forget these beautiful moments. Eight years later I crossed the path of free divers that convinced me to come and try this in a pool. Quite a difference but I immediately recovered the good sensations I had before.
    For me free-diving is completely different from the other sports. I practised several sports like tennis, swimming, volley ball, hockey. In these sports you need to develop power, strength, speed and by producing stress, energy, adrenaline,… in free diving you have to transform all this into complete relaxation. This became my first challenge.
    My meeting with Giampiero was the way to go back to compete again. I love challenges and competition. But the way you compete in free-diving is quite different from what I used to do in other sports. With a nice balance between performance and pleasure, as taught by Giampiero during his trainings, I couldn’t resist to rediscover my competition mood again. 

    I like the sea and I started to go deep very soon, so I became curious to discover my limits.

     How would you define “excellence” in your sport?
    I think it is every time that someone overcomes himself: his thoughts, his fear, his mental and physical limit.
    The excellence is when you do a good dive, when you feel the water, when all the time you spent during training makes the performance the best.

    Working and being rigorous, sharing and enjoying… being willing to learn and having the determination to go forward…motivation and a bit self-confidence…. these are the little elements that makes your performance grow and produce excellence.
    I would say that the results are not the ultimate aim, but it is the performance you give that is important.
    Excellence is not only a distance or a time in free diving but it is the philosophy you develop that will bring you to a state of excellence and at the same time help your performance.
    “Enjoying each beautiful trip you do when you dive” that is also a way of excellence in free diving.

    To go deep always with good sensations and a smiling face.

     What are the main challenges to become a record-holding champion?
    Work with your mind. Because without it you cannot go anywhere. The mind and our beliefs are very strong and if we don’t work on it we cannot improve. But the beliefs are related to feelings and emotions, so you must learn to recognize it, and then, work to modify it.

    Keeping on training, enjoying, learning, discovering, always believe in your abilities, being self- confident, listening to your body and having a friendly attitude with yourself…
    The most important point is keeping a good balance among all these elements. This is the way that leads you to beautiful moments such as breaking a record and becoming a record holder.

    First of all I had to face cultural barriers. I explain better: I started competitions in this sport very late, not very young, with two children to bring up …a woman…all this in a context where everybody was against my decision and not believing in my choice, even my mother, who now in fact is my best supporter and helps me a lot with my children.
    Secondly to assert oneself in world made by “macho men” some of them suffering from being beaten by a woman older than them...

     Is apnea diving mainly a male sport? If so, why? What holds women back? Are there, in this sport, areas where women excel and vice versa?

    I think the problem is that many women think that free-diving is only for extraordinary athletes and they don’t try it at all. Before becoming a champion, you must live in the water with the curiosity and the happiness of a child; you must play and feel good. Everyone can try this, everyone can be relaxed in the water and only after this you can try and overcome your emotions. Men can go further or deeper than a woman because they have better physical gifts. But the sensation, the feelings, the emotions are the same.

    I don’t think it is mainly a male sport, maybe in competition! Why?
    I would say that women are more involved in other kind of activities.
    Days are long and when I talk with all my girlfriends (between 28-40 years old) they simply don’t have the time or I would say they don’t take the time for themselves. It is hard with our rhythm of life today to spend time, a lot of time in a sport or any activity.
    With a family and children I think it’s very hard for a woman to go on and to continue to perform. Like every other thing in life, when you stop it is very difficult to start again and it’s harder to come back to your best level. This is maybe one of the reasons why they are fewer women than men in free diving competitions.

    On the other hand I know some women who are addicted to the discipline but don’t like to compete. They come to enjoy the trainings and that’s enough. No stress, no pressure, no (competition) aim, just relaxing and having a good time. It’s just the way you want to approach the practice of the activity. So I think they could be as many women as men practicing free diving.

    I think men and women can excel in that sport the same way but each with their basic abilities and capacities.

    No, this is not just a sport for men, but, as in most of the sports, the women started to practice it later than men…so…this is, for me, the only reason why the women are not doing so well with performances. Do not forget that at least in Italy till the beginning of the last century it was not allowed for women to practice sports or competitions.

     Could you describe your feelings, emotions and thoughts at the end of the competition when you realized YOU were the record-holding champion?

    I remember with more pleasure the Jump Blue competition. I did my performance and I was first and after me only one athlete was left: Sophie Jaquin, of the French team. I was really happy when I came out of the water because I had very good feelings underwater, and when Sophie was disqualified for a wrong surface protocol and I realized that the title and the world record was mine, I felt a giant wave of warmth and happiness coming up inside me. And my happiness was double because I reached the same target as my trainer Mike Maric. He did the world record in jump blue in 2004 and when I reached it I was full of joy, because he won a second time, with me.

    First you don’t really realise. Especially for me, my aim was not to break the record. My aim was to do my best at my best level. I was surprised and happy at the same time.
    My motivation was on top and I was thankful to my coach, family and friends that were supporting me. My trip to get the record was beautiful…I really enjoyed it and had a good experience. It is a good start to go on and try to do better in a next competition. The record is one thing but doing a record while enjoying and being well all the way through…that’s my pleasure!
    Happiness, being proud of myself and being thankful were the main feelings when I realised that I broke the record.

    I was so happy, my target was achieved…and I thought…”my sons can be proud of me”.

     What would you recommend to a lady - let’s say a business woman - who would like to learn apnea diving?
    I would like to tell her to take pleasure to staying in the water. Look at the colour inside it; hear the sound of the wave and how the water transforms every sound. I would like to tell her to be herself, to join the water and be happy like a kid. Kids are better divers than us, we can learn from them.

    I would recommend to her to take the time to discover the activity. By going on in learning free diving you go on by discovering step by step a little bit more of yourself. It is also a good way to take some time for yourself. You can have the choice to do it in very smooth way but if you like challenges there is also a possibility to practice in that way. No rush, take the time, enjoy each “trip” and give yourself the opportunity to continue.
    Free diving is a philosophy, a way of life….so taste it and you will be addicted because it brings you a plus in your daily life!!!

    It could be a marvellous idea!
    Apnea can change your mind, your feeling, your way to live your life.

    Short Biography

    Ilaria Bonin

    Ilaria was born in Busto Arsizio Italy, in 1984. When she was very young she started swimming as a sport and then in 1993 joined a water polo team. In 2007 she decided to “try” free-diving and since then she fell in love with this discipline and started to collect a number of records.

    Isabelle Gillet

    Isabelle was born in Brussels (Belgium) in 1980. At 14 years old she started swimming competitions. In 2002 she obtained a University Degree in Sports. After some years of travelling around the word she finally settled down in Brussels and started free-diving discipline in 2011.  
    Mariafelicia Carraturo

    Maria Felica Carraturo was born (more than 40 years ago) in Naples, Italy where she still lives. She studied economy and she is the mother of two boys. When her first child was born In 2002 she decided to leave her job to dedicate her time to her children and to the passion of her life: apnea. With her family she owns a famous pastry making shop in Naples, “Pasticceria Carraturo” where she also works during the main holiday periods.

     Short Biography of Giampiero Genovese 
     Giampiero Genovese was born in Pompei in Italy in 1965. He became Free diving Instructor (Apnea Academy) and Trainer in 2006. He collaborates with many apnea champions such as Umberto Pelizzari the famous Italian Free Diving Champion and world record holder and Patrick Musimu the first man who made a descent below 200 m in No Limit. He is a European Commission Officer, who lives and gives free-diving courses in Brussels – Belgium.

    Disclaimer -     
    Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of of the European Commission, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 26 Dec 2012 02:48 | Armelle Loghmanian

     Women @ Work

    By Melanie Barker


    Elke Vergaeren

    Senior researcher and co-ordinator at SEIN, a research institute part of Hasselt University

    How would you explain that despite some progress made, it is still very difficult for women to achieve top management positions?

    Although things have certainly changed a lot there is still a long way to go. While some women have certainly achieved top positions for many the situation is still difficult. The explanations for this have changed over time. The first approach is called the deficit model and compares how women match to men – the dominant group in society. So the question was “what is wrong with women, why do they not achieve?”. In the past women may have lacked education, top level management experience and ambition. We cannot say that women lack education now but there are some interesting points about the ambitions of women. Research shows that women have a wider range of ambitions than men and also this is linked to the level of education. Among highly educated young people there is almost no difference in ambition levels between men and women. However, ambition is not enough and organizations do not reward the ambitions of women in the same way as for men. Senior male managers sometimes assume that women are less ambitious after the birth of their first child.

    During your conference presentation you talked about a leaky pipeline rather than a glass ceiling effect to describe the fact that fewer women than men are able to reach the top management levels in companies. Can you give us more details about this?

    I think the concept of a leaky pipeline rather than the “glass ceiling” is now widely accepted. This describes the fact that at all levels women become under-represented. Following from the individual deficit model that I have just talked about many reports have now shown that even if women have the same experience, the same educational level and the same aspirations as men, they still find it harder to progress in their career. Something else must be happening and this is what is perceived as unjustified discrimination on the basis of gender. So, the question in research changed from “what is wrong with women” to “what is wrong with companies?” The importance of the informal networks persists and the “old boy” networks are still very much alive. Women’s networks are a valuable alternative but at the moment they are not sufficient to counter the effectiveness of the old boy networks for career advancement. The issues of work life balance are now very much more important and this is not just a women’s issue any more. But, in practice women still tend to pay a higher career price for this shift in values than men.

    Can you describe for us typical men and women difference at work?

    Actually, I don’t really consider this a valid point or a helpful analysis. Statistically you would say that there are more differences between men and between women that between the genders themselves. Indeed the argument for increasing the number on women on boards is more about the need for more diversity in decision making in general than about the need to have women represented. A range of diverse attitudes and approaches has been proven to result in better business decisions and increased profitability for companies.

    Based on your observations, what could women do to be more successful in achieving top level functions in their organization?

    This is a very complex question as I have found that the effective solutions for women are very specific to each organization. However, it will always be helpful for women to find alliances within her organization and so networking and mentoring will help with this.

    Could you describe what type of measures an ideal company could take to improve gender balance, according to you?

    I think this is a more relevant approach. I have found researches to show that the organizational culture of a company will have a very big impact on a woman’s progress toward top management positions. For example, if the culture is to work late into the evening this may have a negative impact on women, some of whom will chose not to work these hours. Not being present in the workplace late may be seen to show lack of commitment but also exclude women from a level of networking and informal information exchange. Another example is a company which had a very linear career progression model. Progress was rewarded and measured by the status of the company car you drove. If for any reason you fell behind this track, for example through a career break after having a child, it would become very visible that you were behind on the career track and this would create strong negative social pressure. In conclusion, although networking, mentoring and leadership programs can of course be helpful for women, changes to these organizational practices would actually be a much more effective way to increase the gender balance at all levels of an organization.

    Do you think imposing ratios in favor of more women in board/top executive positions will help in changing behaviors, or would it be the opposite and create some reluctance, because they are imposed, and could ultimately lead to deteriorating the image of women?

    I personally believe that quotas are an effective way of improving the gender balance because they are measurable and so companies have to comply. However, as I set out just now, the more important issues are for companies to recognize where there organizational behaviours are inhibiting gender diversity and to make changes to this. If this is not done then women may either be unable to achieve in a company or may in fact chose not to remain.

    Elke, a more personal question - you have yourself reached a certain degree of seniority in your own organization: how did you manage to succeed, what skills did you use, and what advice would you give to our readers?

    Thank you but I do have to put my situation in context. Indeed I am the coordinator of my institute but it is not such a large sector – I have a “staff” of 15 people. Within the University there are about 500 employed academics and at the level of professor only 22% are women! I am actually working on a research project right now which is looking at diversity issues within Hasselt University so this should provide some interesting results.

    Why did you choose the area of gender balance, what drives you?

    I had a very great inspiration within my family history. In the 1940’s and 1950’s my grandmother was the head of a primary school and at that time this was a very unusual accomplishment. So, you could say that I have a history of interest in education and gender balance and an inspiration that women could achieve as much as men!

    Short Biography
    Elke Velgaeren  is a senior researcher and co-ordinator at SEIN, a research institute part of Hasselt University. SEIN conducts fundamental and applied research on diversity, (in)equality, identity and inclusion. Diversity refers to the socio-demographic characteristics such as gender, ethnicity (colour, culture, language and religion), class, age and disability. The research of SEIN covers the economic, social and ethical dimensions of diversity. SEIN also supports actions that promote equality and inclusion.
    Elke researched her PhD on the gender aspects of careers in the IT sector. Currently she is working on two research projects. The first is to study the barriers in the career paths at the University of Hasselt. The second is a project looking at gender mixed boards of listed companies in Belgium.

    Contact details

  • 18 Dec 2012 23:36 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “I will read it differently today"

    By Melanie Barker & Armelle Loghmanian


    Christine Van Rijsseghem

    Senior General Manager Group Finance

    CFO KBC Bank NV, KBC Verzekeringen NV en KBC Groep NV

    The topic of the PWI anniversary conference was “Gender balance in the Talent pipeline”. As you are the only senior female manager at KBC, we really appreciated having your testimonial during the conference. Christine, can you tell us what were the most important elements in building your career?

    First of all I think you have to make clear choices in life although unfortunately there's not always a possibility to have an end-end concept in your life. When I joined KBC coming out of the university, my husband and I took clear decisions concerning career development. It was very fortunate for me as the gender role model in current society is still hindering women in that perspective. I am a fighter too so from the outset I said to myself that I have at least as many qualities and chances than men to succeed. Of course, the world has changed in the meantime and in terms of leadership, we now have a more balanced way of approaching things in life but 25 years ago, that was not the case.

    The second thing that was also very important I think was that in my first assignment I worked for a manager who was a strong believer in gender balance. He was very committed to gender diversity so I got the possibilities and the trust necessary to prove myself in the job.

    Then, third factor, I was picked up quite early in the talent pool. 25 years ago KBC was already following the talent pool but without a systematic approach towards women and towards the possibility of women forming a career via the talent pool.

    Mentorship and sponsorship were also important. In addition, I had the possibility throughout my career to follow management courses on leadership internally and externally.

    And also predominately I got the opportunity at quite an early age to really have a lot of accountability and responsibility. When I look back, I was 32 years old and I was running the branches in France and then the branches in London. I consider I was very fortunate to get this kind of accountability, to have responsibility for a balance sheet which showed a number of billions euros at that moment.

    One important thing not to forget is also to be open to receive feedback. I still receive quite a bit of good or negative feedback. You need to be able, on one hand, to absorb that and on another hand to do something with it.

    Studies have shown that women in senior management (20% worldwide average) are most likely to be employed in HR or finance (13% as CFO, 13% as controller). As banking seems to be a very feminine sector at least at the entry level, one would expect a higher proportion of women in all management’s levels than in other industry. Do you see a difference? Do you think it is easier for a woman to make a career in the banking sector?

    No, it is not easier and although the banking sector is at the European average for women at the top level, it is still a very male sector within the service industry. When you enter a branch the majority of employees are women. In KBC for instance, the total number of women working is over 50%. At the entrance level, the gender balance is fine, but when you move up the management level, you see the gap.

    When you look within the banking & insurance sector, the number of women in general management functions and the commercial area is low, we see also more women at the top in areas such as HR, finance and risk management.

    KBC decided to take gender diversity seriously and to set some clear targets. Which concrete actions have been put in place? How do you measure the progress made?

    Yes, the target is clear: 25% of all senior management staff has to be female by 2016. We follow it on a quarterly base. We have seen quite a good progress through the different years. We are not yet at the 25%, so it remains quite a challenge. We are at around 15- 16% so we still have another 10% to go.

    Now in terms of actions, KBC has been working on 4 elements, first of all on the appointment process, secondly on the continuous detection and the follow up thereof,( which I consider as extremely important), thirdly on mentorship and sponsorship and last but not least on communication and networking.

    In terms of appointments, we have a kind of positive discrimination i.e. if two people are fit for the job, the preference goes to the woman. When there is a vacancy at the managers’ level position, the top list of female candidates is screened beforehand. Now, we are in a very specific economic climate, and whilst we want more female managers we are also reducing the size of the firm by about 30%. 

    Detection is extremely important: is also of terms of detection, we do see however that it is not easy to fill in the talent pipeline at a decent level and we will all agree that if you don’t have the candidates you have a problem. To solve this issue, we have a KPI at the middle management level. Every 6 months, together with HR, managers need to identify at least x number of women at different levels of the talent pipeline. So people are really pushed, and if they do not come up with high potential women, they have to explain and this is reported to the group executive committee (it a bit like the 40% now with Viviane Reding). People feel that they are under pressure, and I think it is a good thing, to really detect women, because we still prefer to be recognized instead of coming forward ourselves.

    Does it mean that you have a special training for your directors to detect women?

    We organize HR workshops and detecting talent is one of the elements you have to consider as a leader or as manager but we do not have specialized training or workshops on that matter. That’s perhaps an idea worthwhile to look into.

    You said there are cases where you had two equal candidates the decision will always be to offer the job to a woman. Do you feel any negative feedback from the male colleagues, or do they buy in, within KBC, to this approach or do you have to handle sometimes a negative feeling?

    Never! There is no issue in that respect. I also believe that the main reason is that women which have been appointed within KBC are doing a great job like they are doing in other industries.

    One thing we need to keep in mind is that the person must agree, some of them prefer not to get to that level. For women, but also for men in KBC, money is not the key driver and has never been the key driver, not even in the good days. But with the finance crisis, I also must admit that, the appetite of taking on more responsibilities has also decreased. We must be honest in that respect, why would you, nowadays, take on more responsibility in a financial climate which is still very volatile? At the moment, when you do something good, we never get a positive remark from the external the market, but if you do something bad, you are nipped. That is also why we have launched the new culture change because we want to go back to the very proud company that we were some years ago.

    Networking is a major help in professional development. Is this a gender issue? Are gender specific networks helpful or do they reinforce stereotypes? What networks have you found most helpful in your career?

    Networking is very important to get women out of the cocoon they are working in. So to have external memberships in different networks such as a women organization or a professional one, is important to have exposure outside your own company. You have to take the time to do it. We need to be careful that when we have an event, a women focused event, not to have only women there. I am very much in favor of a mix in that respect.

    External networks are important but you need also a good internal network. I worked abroad for several years and when I came back I underestimated that a bit in the beginning. Internal networks are extremely important also in terms of role models, it is important that female managers show their capabilities within the organization taking part in various activities, fun as well as professional. So you have to get out of your own environment to show to the remaining part of KBC that you exist.

    I found also when I was abroad that the external networking with the embassy, the chamber of commerce, etc was really interesting. There, as a woman, you are representing KBC abroad and showing that they do have women at top position. Representing your company externally is for me the most important exposure, and of course in my position you are invited to interesting events and I always try to attend. You have to divide your time of course- to accept this extra “work”.

    What is your view on the discussion of the difference in management styles for women to achieve at senior level? Are there masculine behaviours that are still required or more helpful for women to succeed?

    What would I consider as being typically a male characteristic? Men tend to be more direct and task oriented while women tend to be more relationship oriented and seek harmony, that’s the classic.

    When I look to communication styles in KBC for example, we have been evolving to some more balanced leadership. Team work became extremely important. 5 or 10 years ago you would move in the management ladder on an individual basis by being the best and the most pronounced… but this has now completely changed. Now it is how you are able to make the best out of your team and I must say I find this an extremely good evolution which is recognized at the top management level. So when the evaluations are being made it is not only about how have you been doing in terms of your individual performance. It is also how you have performed in terms of team building, both in your own team and beyond. Half of the evaluation is made by colleagues and by people external to your directorate.

    One of my KPI is also to what extent have I been creating synergy or have I been working on helping someone else to excel. Helping someone to excel is not in our human nature, certainly not in a hard industry like the finance industry. This is also part of KBC's internal strategy; we want to promote the businesses to make the best decision.

    The financial crisis was triggered by quite a small group of individuals, but it has changed the industry and my firm. Individual performances are being looked at in a different way. This could prove beneficial to female bankers.

    Do you see in internal or external leadership and management programs any changes coming through to reflect on these kinds of changes?

    Yes, also in KBC, the program that we have on leadership is about these issues. It is about how to be a balanced leader by listening to your people, encouraging innovation through collaboration, giving open access to information, also vulnerability.

    Returning from abroad I was promoted to senior management level – the first woman in KBC's history at that level. In the new directorate I had to establish, there was a huge task to get it back on the rails. I chose to tackle this task solely with my management team.

    Now I would do things differently and also discuss with my peers. I would tell them:  “There is a huge problem on the table. I don’t think I can solve it alone. Can you give me some advice, how would you deal with that etc”. But I will read it completely differently now. I will also discuss it with peers, tell them: “There is a kind of very huge problem on the table. I got this assignment, I am not sure that I will succeed in that, can you give me tips and tricks on how you will read that, how will you deal with that etc”.It is all about showing vulnerability - we have all progressed at lot about this within KBC over the last 10 years.

    You mentioned earlier the hard feedback and how important and valuable receiving it has been for you. Do you feel that women generally have more difficulty dealing with hard and negative feedback? Are women not given so much negative feedback as an indication that their work is not taken so seriously (by themselves or others)?

    Boys and girls are different and are socialised to be different! Sorry if I sound stereotypical but I do believe women seek more harmony. Try not to take comments personally. Women are never totally satisfied although the product or the service they deliver is often of a very high quality . Personally, it took me some years to get through that and when it is done, you feel better
    I feel of course much more comfortable than 5 or 10 years ago presumably because I am a  bit older, but also because I can say: “I also have an opinion, I know that I can do it, the feedback I get is not personal and is not meant to break me down but is meant as a constructive feedback”. Women generally have more difficulty dealing with hard and negative feedback. We do not have what I call an elephant skin, we are more sensitive. But we do not have to give up our emotional side because it is part of us but it should not stop us from progressing.

    With the 40% directive for Women on Boards, I would like also to add a question about how KBC wants to implement the quotas.

    I am personally convinced that you need to work with quotas. I found that women against quotas are usually the ones who already belong to boards. The fact that companies will have to explain if they fail to comply may help but that would only be at a board level. I found it is a pity that the focus is only about the board of directors as the strategy is done at the executive committee level. At KBC, not only at the executive committee but also at my level, there are certainly not enough women. You can really only make a difference when you represent 30%.

    Christine, clearly you made it to the top, do you see yourself as a role model? What will be your advice to a young woman starting her career now?

    I think women, but this also applies for men, have to make clear decisions what you want to achieve in life. You can’t get it all; you have to make some sacrifices.
    I think I am not a good role model because although I do have a husband. we do not have children. And I admire enormously the women who have children and can combine all. But they also had to make clear choice and presumably decided to have less time for themselves. Personally I wanted to have a career but at the same time also have some time for myself and for my husband.

    So making the right choices is important but also young women should not be afraid to express what kind of qualities they have, to be more assertive, and show what they can do. In a word don’t be afraid and be convinced you have all the qualities you need to succeed.

    Short Biography
    Christine  Van Rijsseghem is the Senior General Manager of Group Finance since 2003 and also CFO KBC Bank NV, 
    KBC Verzekeringen NV and KBC Groep NV. Prior to this, Mrs. Van Rijsseghem was the CEO of KBC France and then London, before becoming the Senior General Manager Securities and Derivatives Processing Directorate. 
    After receiving her law degree from Ghent University RUG, she then received her MBA Financial Sciences from Vlerick University. Her career has been focused in the Financial Services sector. 
    Being a native Belgian Dutch speaker, Mrs Van Rijsseghem is also fluent in French, English and German. Her hobbies are reading, sports, swimming and golf. 

    Contact details
    Christine Van Rijsseghem   Senior General Manager Financial Group KBC Group
    KBC Groep
    Havenlaan 2
    B - 1080 Brussel

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of KBC Group, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.>
  • 18 Dec 2012 22:24 | Armelle Loghmanian


    By: Gaëlle Flammang-Dorie and Marie Terese Letorney

    Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea

    Director for Equality, European Commission -
     Directorate General for Justice

    After the success of the PWI 21st Anniversary and being inspired by the speech of Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director for Equality, at the European Commission’s Directorate –General for Justice, we were privileged to obtain an interview to learn more about the status of the Directive proposal for ‘gender balance’ in companies.

    Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Romanian born, has been appointed Director for Equality in the European’s Commission’s Directorate General (DG) for Justice in 2011, after serving for several years as the Director for Fundamental rights and Union citizenship, in the same DG Justice. He is a lawyer by training and holds a L.L.M from University of Illinois (US) and a PhD from the University of Bucharest (Romania). He speaks fluently French among other languages and is an avid reader of Jean Jacques Rousseau in its original text. This philosopher was an influential founding element in the beginning of Mr. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea’s career when he read the declaration of Human Rights and discovered a passion for protecting and serving the rights of every individual.

    Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea, what is the current status of the DG Justice proposal on ‘gender balance’?

    Responding with a delighted smile, Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea and his team were very proud, because the proposal had been adopted on November 14, 2012 by a consensus vote at the European Commission. Because of this outcome, votes were not needed to decide on this proposal. The next step is that this proposal has now to be endorsed by two EU bodies: the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. At the end of this process, each of these two institutions have to approve a version of the proposal, which will ultimately become an EU Directive and will then be applied by all Member States. Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea is confident that there will be a positive attitude in these two institutions leading to a rapid approval in order to create a general agreement amongst the Member States. A good sign of the general opinion consensus on this Proposal was that the main political groups in the European Parliament have issued a joint statement on the same day as the Proposal was adopted at the DG Justice.

    “This Proposal is not only focused on women, but on ‘under-represented sex’…”

    Furthermore, Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea is confident that the proposal is acceptable by the majority of the Member States as it overcomes some of their potential major worries, “this Proposal is not only focused on women, but on the ‘under-represented sex’ giving priority to the skills and competences of the candidate”. He further explains that when there are two equal candidates for a position, after a selection process which is based on skills and competences, the equally qualified female candidate should be chosen under the principle that women are under-represented in company boards. If it would be for a position where men are under-represented, then the man applying and selected as a potential candidate, should be preferred. This is bringing transparency and objective criteria in the selection process for an executive and that is what more than anything else will drive the change. In addition, the proposal is respecting the principle of subsidiarity of the Member States. Therefore, this proposal shall not be seen as a rigid and blind quota, imposing women, but really as a transparent proposal, aiming at helping the under-represented sex to achieve their professional ambitions when it has the necessary qualifications and skills.

    “this is not a proposal that aims at bringing token equality…”

    Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea, how can we ensure that companies will take this proposal seriously?

    Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea insisted that, “this is not a proposal that aims at bringing token equality, but effective equality in real life.” He further explains that not only the companies in the Member States will have to define their ways to comply with the quantitative objective quotas and the percentage of women achieving Board executive positions as a target, but that they will also have to set up transparent systems to report and to lead to these objectives. Each Member State will be free to set up and choose their solutions for reaching the objective including for the sanctions applicable in cases of non-compliance, which will fit to the particularities of their national systems. People have to be aware that this is NOT a soft proposal and that it will come with accompanied measures to track the progress made by the Member States and the companies.

    “Every Euro invested in gender equality policies at the level of the company brings
    more than one euro back to the company that is making the investment.”

    The European Commission will not be only be monitoring the success and implementation of the Proposal, but there will be actions put in place to encourage the companies to participate and to convince them that ‘gender equality’ is worth to invest. “Every Euro invested in gender equality policies at the level of the company brings more than one euro back to the company that is making the investment,” explains Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea. For example, the “Equality pays off” Program, will be initiated at the beginning of next year. This program will encourage companies to communicate to each other, share best practices and learn from each other on how they implemented the ‘gender equality’. With this vital information, these companies will achieve great value of what benefit they got from applying ‘gender equality’. These types of initiatives are meant to avoid counter effect of the proposal, and will go beyond all the studies that have been done prior. Each project proposed by the Commission has to be accompanied by an Impact study which asses the economic, social, environmental consequences of its project/proposal. In addition, the Commission looks at all the published and available studies.

    As our interview came to closure, our interlocutor confidently acknowledged that with this proposal being adopted in the near future, gender diversity, will find its ‘balance’.
    Thank you, Mr. Ciobanu-Dordea for this enlightening meeting.

    Short Biography

    Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea
    is Director for Equality in the European Commission’s Directorate-General Justice since 1 April 2011. Before that, he was the Director for Fundamental rights and Union Citizenship, also in DG Justice.
    He is a lawyer by training and holds an LL.M. from the University of Illinois (US) and a Ph.D. from the University of Bucharest (Romania).

  • 18 Dec 2012 20:20 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “When you have achieved things, you have a responsibility to give back to others"

    By Corina Ciechanow & Alessandra Zocca


    Jennifer Rademaker

    Group Head Core Products Europe
    Global Products & Solutions at MasterCard

    Jennifer, could you please illustrate MasterCard’s approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I)?

    Does it include equal opportunities for women, 50+, multi-cultural communities, LGBT communities and disabled employees?

    The first point to make on diversity and inclusion is that it is an employee led initiative, so employees lead what we call Business Resource Groups (BRGs). We have a Global Chief Diversity Officer – Donna Allgood Johnson – her role is to develop and implement our Diversity strategy and knit together the work of the BRGs.
    According to our diversity & inclusion strategy “these self-governed groups are comprised of individuals who come together based on similar interests or experiences, such as gender or ethnicity. BRG members help us to identify business programs that address the needs of diverse consumers by providing feedback on new ideas and initiatives, partnering with specific organizations, and reaching out to their communities”. At present, MasterCard has eight BRGs (1), with participation in each being voluntary.

    Currently in Europe we have the following BRGs active: Women’s Network, Young Professionals and an LGBT chapter called Pride.
    In the United States we have diversity groups that take into account employee descent, like the EAST and Latin Network that refer to Asian and Hispanic origins; these BRGs are less relevant in Europe. In the USA, these groups support our business by helping MasterCard understand how to appeal to and satisfy their community’s needs.
    We do not currently have a 50+ group in Europe. There is some talk about starting one, but we cannot begin until we have enough employees behind it who want to run this specific group. BRGs have to be initiated by the passion of employees because the success of these groups is very much dependent on passion and involvement.

    How do the Business Resource Groups (BRGs) get initiated?

    I’ll give you an example of how Business Resource Groups (BRGs) get initiated. In Europe about two years ago we had a group of young employees who wanted to launch a diversity group of young professionals. MasterCard tends to hire more seasoned business people, so to be 25/26 years old in this company could be a little rare. So they are a smaller, but high-energy BRG, that has a lot to contribute to MasterCard as we start moving into new technologies, like mobile payments. These young employees saw an opportunity to contribute to the business and came to me for advice on how to proceed because I had already promoted the Women’s Network BRG in Europe.

    We have a person in Europe who is our representative on the Global Diversity & Inclusion Council – a council of very senior people that meet once a quarter to discuss D&I - so we talked to her and she thought it was a great idea. The next step was to find an executive sponsor for this group, somebody in the senior management team willing to help these young professionals get visibility, attention, resources and so on, and we found one of our Divisional Presidents of Western Europe who agreed to be their sponsor. It is not too hard to get these initiatives off the ground at MasterCard.

    Could you please provide us with some examples of D&I initiatives already put in place or on-going? Which of them would you rate as the most effective ones? And, which are the main actions you put in place in your area of responsibility?

    The most effective diversity initiatives are those where there is a clear business imperative for that diversity group to be in place. For example the Women’s Network has been very effective for four years and the reason is because there is a business need to resolve, to bring more women to the top, to help them through their career.
    Certainly in Europe there is an opportunity for us to work on helping women coming back from maternity leave and supporting young mothers in their work-life balance. We are still working on it.
    In the past four years we hired a woman CFO, we have two board members who joined who are women, the President of International Markets – who reports directly to the CEO is a woman, the person who heads the UK/Ireland business is a woman. Europe’s representative on the Global Diversity & Inclusion council is Bella Stavchansky, the President of High Growth European markets. We are starting to see a bit of momentum getting women into jobs at the very senior level. We hire a lot of women but the challenge is getting women to rise through the pipeline, and in some functions like sales it is very difficult for a woman to make progress. We still have work to do …

    How do you measure success in the implemented D&I initiatives at MasterCard?

    It varies.; In the European Women’s Network we measure success using a survey, where we ask our female employees how they feel about MasterCard as an employer for women, what is their level of satisfaction with the company. We also ask them if they feel they have a good work-life balance. We use those answers to benchmark our results. Also we keep track of the percentages of women in different levels of responsibility and we compare them against industry benchmarks.

    In particular, MasterCard participated in McKinsey’s 2012 gender pipeline study: “Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work” and the scheme below shows our position against the benchmark.

    McKinsey Success Measurement



    Odds of Advancement



    Women at the top



    Presence in line roles



    Women at entry level



    The other BRGs do not yet have such strong metrics in place to measure the success of their initiatives; the Women’s Network is, I think, the most mature of the BRGs.

    Would you please tell us more about the women’s network/s in MasterCard and their main purpose and concrete actions?

    Our main purpose is to put in place the environment to help women get ahead at MasterCard. We use surveys to identify areas where women feel they need support. For example every year we get “mentoring.” Women want to be mentored, so we work with the Human Resources Department to be sure that the mentoring program is fit for purpose and that women can take advantage of it.

    This annual survey includes 20 questions that we benchmark over time to identify what happened; five of these questions are open, for example if somebody does not think MasterCard is a good employer, then we ask the reasons why, and we always ask for suggestions to make Women’s Network activities more effective.

    How does the HR function contribute to the D&I management? Is the Global Chief Diversity Officer part of HR?

    The Global Chief Diversity Officer is not part of HR, she sits in the Law Department. I think this separation from HR demonstrates that Diversity must be employee led and supported by HR.

    Apart from the sense of responsibility, what has inspired you to make efforts to support other women to succeed in their career?

    The sense of responsibility, exactly. I believe in my life that when you have achieved things, you have a responsibility to give back to others, not just to women.
    For example if you are affluent, you have the responsibility to create a job for another person in the home. I used to work in South Africa and I hired three people to work for me (gardener, baby-sitter, house-keeper). With so many jobless people in the world, my view is that those with disposable income have a moral obligation to provide employment. Similarly, I really think that if you achieve a certain level in your career, you need to reach down and give a hand up to other people. Another example: I currently mentor nine people at MasterCard, all talented people who I am working with to move to the next level of their career. What do I expect in return from these people? When they are promoted, they then have a responsibility to mentor other people and “pay forward” their good fortune.

    When I was eighteen, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the great South-African crusader against apartheid and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984, came to talk at the university where I studied in the United States. He made a strong speech encouraging us privileged and “free” American students to help fight the racial struggle in South Africa.
    That speech made an impact on me. When I was in my early twenties I went to live in South Africa under apartheid, and later, ten years ago, I lived there again for five years. These experiences contributed to make me the way I am now.

    Based on your experience what are the main areas of their professional life women need to improve to succeed? And, which are the major qualities that women should expand?

    In my view, one of the things that holds women back is the fact that women do not speak up as much as men when they have done something successful. If a woman has done an amazing project, she hopes that someone notices it, and if nobody notices she might talk about it to her boss.
    A man would not behave the same way. Men, I think, are more comfortable talking about the good things they are doing, the contribution they are making, the way they are making their company a better place, how successful and smart they are.

    Women on the other hand tend to not talk about their successes, they do not self-promote as much. Of course I am generalizing here. Women can appear to be less competitive than men, they need to speak up, to learn to be more vocal, and not be afraid to express their opinions. Women can also be too self-critical, they keep a sense of inadequacy in their mind, they think of things they are not good at. Mentally, this attitude, this burden does not help women succeed in business.

    Men seem less likely to keep that list of inadequacies in their heads and focus less on their failures.

    Referring to women’s qualities, I believe that women can be great people managers, they are good at delegating, they are good at multitasking, they use their emotional intelligence to better understand their employees’ needs, their mood, what is working and what is not.

    Can you give us any hints about how you see D&I at MasterCard developing in the future?
    Is MasterCard in touch with any other firms with a view to sharing best practice in the D&I field of business?

    I think that MasterCard is on the right path of diversity and inclusion; I think that in the future we will continue doing what we have initiated, I do not think there will be a change in our strategy, we are going in the right direction and we have achieved great momentum.
    Sharing our best practices with other companies is limited right now For example, we work with Catalyst, but are just starting to reach out to our customers, banks. We participate in women’s associations in some countries like Valore-D in Italy.

    Short Biography
    Jennifer Rademaker leads the Core Products group for the MasterCard Europe region. In this role, Ms. Rademaker is responsible for the management, development and commercialization of consumer and commercial products for Europe, including Debit, Credit, Commercial, Prepaid, and Cardholder Solutions. Previous roles at MasterCard include head of Europe Strategy for Europe, and head of Europe Customer Delivery Optimization.
    Before joining MasterCard Europe in 2007, Ms. Rademaker was the chief credit officer at African Bank, a large sub-prime lender in South Africa. Ms. Rademaker previously worked for MasterCard from 2000 to 2003 in the MasterCard Advisors group, founding the Decision Analytics practice. She brings over 20 years of global experience in Financial Services, with positions at Experian, American Express, and First USA/Bank One. She is also the author of a comic book series published in South Africa that educates children on good financial habits and life skills.
    Ms. Rademaker holds a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Lehigh University and a Master of Science in Statistics from Iowa State University.

    Contact details

    Jennifer Rademaker

    Group Head
    Core Products Europe
    Global Products & Solutions at MasterCard

    MasterCard Europe
    Chaussée de Tervuren, 198A
    1410 Waterloo

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MasterCard, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

    (1) Extract from: “MasterCard Global Diversity and Inclusion Brochure”

     Empowering Asian Employers for Success and Thought Leadership  
     EAST consists of employees who have an affinity towards Asia, either by heritage or a strong interest in Asian affairs. As part of its mission, EAST directs efforts and programs designed to enhance the understanding among all MasterCard employees of the overall trends in Asia, and how key dynamics impact our business in the region. Additionally, the group acts as a resource to provide insight into programs and services that target and influence the purchasing preferences of Asian consumers, both in the United States and abroad.

     Latin Network  
    The Latin Network brings together employees of Latin descent, including those who are Latin American, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian, as well as others who have an affinity for those cultures. It provides members with an opportunity for professional development and networking, while creating shareholder value for MasterCard through its connection to the Hispanic consumer segment and organizations.

     Lifting Employees of African Descent  
     LEAD’s mission is to facilitate an environment that attracts, promotes, and retains employees of African descent, including providing them opportunities for professional growth. LEAD also acts as a resource to provide insight into programs and services that target and influence the purchasing preferences of this important minority group.

     Fostering an environment of inclusiveness and Respect for LGBT employees  
     PRIDE members take a leadership role in fostering an environment of inclusiveness and respect throughout MasterCard that enables employees to feel comfortable being open about their lives, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. The environment is also one where equality of treatment is promoted and discriminatory behavior is not tolerated. PRIDE further serves the organization by helping MasterCard explore and implement ways to better reach out to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community as potential customers, clients, or employees.

     Active & Veteran Military Personnel & Their Families  
     SALUTE’s mission is to build a global network of support for active and veteran military personnel and their families by providing an environment that attracts, engages, and retains active and veteran military personnel, facilitates a successful transition into MasterCard’s corporate culture, and provides opportunities for professional growth by fostering a military-friendly culture that advances career development.

     WLN (Women’s Leadership Network)  
     With approximately 1,400 members in 36 locations across all five of MasterCard’s regions, the WLN seeks to advance women’s careers and performance through a culture of mentoring and coaching. By enabling members’ professional and personal growth, it provides reputational and financial benefit to MasterCard and our shareholders.
     WWAVE Workers with Accumulated Valued Experience  
     WWAVE incorporates all facets of diversity to engage its members, while at the same time utilizing their experience, talents, and value to positively impact MasterCard's business. Additionally, WWAVE utilizes its members to work with the business and other BRGs to analyze purchasing power, identify new consumer segments, and develop new ways for MasterCard to best capture our ever expanding markets.

     YoPros Young Professionals  
     YoPros are focused on developing and utilizing the innovative skills of our young professionals. As such, the group reflects our belief that diversity encompasses generational differences and life stages as much as it does more traditional distinctions, such as gender and ethnicity. YoPros’ mission is to create a network of young professionals that not only informs MasterCard World wide’s business strategy as it pertains to this segment, but also fosters information sharing and relationship building.

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