International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Andrea Bodstein-Walenciak

March 25, 2021

Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by. 

What skills and attributes do female leaders bring to create diverse leadership at management level? 

Well, there is a lot of research done about the superior leadership qualities of female leaders. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic for example, successful leaders score high on competence, humility and integrity and those traits are higher presented in women. Humility is not always a trait that you would immediately connect with a “leader” as our picture of a leader often reminds me of the lion king standing lonely on his rock and roaring about how great he is. So what makes women better leaders is their ability to reflect on their own actions, listen to all perspectives, integrating those perspectives and giving credit to the people who have done the job.

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

It means that I have an obligation to call out inequality, disrespect and bias and cannot choose to be silent.

How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table? 

You might want to turn the question around and ask “How can male leaders ensure they can keep their seat at the table?” In a few years from now, female job starters will be the majority since girls are already more successful in academic achievements now. So there will be a surplus of highly qualified young women who will outperform male candidates. Being a mother of a girl and a boy, this worries me for my son. As for the here and now, I would advise women to partner up with powerful role models and mentors to ensure they get noticed and invited to the table. Too often, female leaders hope that their contributions will be noticed by just working hard and getting things done. Women are great networkers in their private lives and very resourceful, use the same networking approach also in business life.

What is one thing women don’t talk about enough? 

Men could benefit learning from women how to use emotions to approach a problem, trusting your intuition and sixth sense to come to a solution, i.e. creative problem solving.

What are you really, really good at? 

My biggest asset is that I think that I am really, really good at almost everything. So, I guess, you can call this skill self-confidence, right? I love the saying from Pippi Longstocking: “I’ve never done that before, so I am sure I can do it!” Where I get most compliments for is my ability to provide a vision to a team, then ensure that this vision gets executed.

What has held you back in your career to date and how did you come to overcome that barrier? 

From the beginning of my career I was often the only woman on the team representing the “soft and fluffy people stuff”. And to be honest, I was my biggest critic, my own mind-set was my biggest obstacle of my own success. I held the belief that I had to be tough, data focused, business driven and without emotions to be successful. Unfortunately, still today many men and women, do think something similar. It took me years to find out that I don’t “have to be something” but simply “be myself” to be successful and happy.

Why is it important that we “choose to challenge” and call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping? 

Because the alternative would be to “choose to accept” which will not create a change in mind-sets and behaviours and thus will not lead to a more inclusive world. We all have a responsibility to call out inequality, especially in today’s world of social media and cyberbullying, otherwise the view of separation and difference will prevail, whilst in essence we are still all the same.

Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe