Monday 27 April 2015

Reflections on Transition: Gratitude And Lessons Learned From Volunteering And Succession Planning

“The stakes are higher when the financial stakes are lower.” I think all volunteers can relate to this statement, shared with me by the CEO of a leading not-for-profit organization, on a bus ride back from the Women’s Forum in Deauville in 2014. It particularly stuck with me as I reflected on my upcoming transition out of a leadership role of a dynamic, purpose driven global NGO and paved the way for an outstanding new leadership team, keen to make their own mark on the association.
When there are not extrinsic or personal financials linked to performance, it is not surprising that one links other, intrinsic values to contributions and achievements. In my reflection I have come to realize that the intrinsic motivators are powerful beyond measure and that's a good thing. At the same time, a volunteer, intrinsic-based leadership role could easily become intertwined with one’s identity. Timely, intentional transitions, and early succession planning is necessary to sustaining momentum and a positive transition. I remind myself that the collection of equally important and dedicated network leaders, also going through regular transitions, is what creates an incredible platform for everyone to leverage. With that in mind, I am thrilled to welcome a new leadership team, the 7th Federation Board of PWN Global.
The strong and highly motivated leadership team will embrace the opportunity to take the network to a new stage of development and I am personally excited to see how things change, evolve and advance. As I have focused on my succession, I’ve paused to reflect on my personal journey. I have considered what I have gleaned from leading and supporting the transition to an outstanding new leadership team.
I have learned that virtual relationships are strengthened by a unifying common purpose that directly resonates with each leader personally and deeply. I have been reminded that sharing best practices, generosity and celebrating success all come hand in hand, and are a direct result of a unified, shared purpose within an organisation. Common humanity across our diverse cultures is what brings us together. I am convinced that our annual meetings where we share, debate, strategize and connect face-to-face, help us align and build bridges across our networks.

In summary

There is always someone outstanding who is ready to replace you. Embrace this.
What an organization needed from a leader yesterday may be very different to what is needed tomorrow to bring it to the next level. Do not equate value and contribution to an organization ready for change.
Intrinsic motivations are powerful catalysts and trump currencies of influence.
Volunteer leadership raises one’s sense of ownership as it is about giving your time and energy to a cause that deeply resonates with you.
All good things continue.
When the fundamentals are there and good governance practices prevail, an organization will only continue to thrive and grow, albeit perhaps differently and in entirely new ways to the former leadership. Most importantly, things advance.
The mission and purpose of an organisation is what truly holds it together. The leader is a mere facilitator of this.
Women generously support the advancement of other women. As network leaders transition it is imperative to walk behind, ahead and alongside with support, praise, admiration and motivation whenever possible.
“The stakes are higher when the financial stakes are lower.” This continues to resonate with me.
I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t acknowledge that part of my identity has been linked to leading, boosting and building PWN Global, given my involvement for the past 10 years as a board member and most recently as President. Seeing as financial rewards are not part of volunteerism, I learned that my “payback” came from the leadership learning and development, the incredible global relationships formed, the cross cultural insights garnered and shared, the growing community and the opportunity to go from purpose to impact. These have all increased in value as the network has expanded. I am incredibly grateful to have had the privilege of accompanying others on the journey to advancing women in leadership.
Succession planning has been on our agenda for the past year and it is exciting to see a new group of leaders taking the reins and embracing the next stage of PWN Global.

I believe our sense of ownership and accountability is amplified in a volunteer organization, or at least it was for me. Leadership at an NGO requires a generous spirit, a passion to make a difference, dedication to the cause and a lot of hard work. Perhaps it’s because we’re leading this For Purpose network from the head AND from the heart. You volunteer because of an intrinsic connection and PWN Global is all about this.

I have been reminded that one’s own success is directly correlated with the success stories shared by others who are connected to the network. Our volunteers and community are leading busy lives, professionally and personally, which creates challenges in accessing them, and fully leveraging them. My advice to the next Board of PWN would be not to take the silence personally, but to persist in trying to connect and empower our global community to get involved and push progress.

I’m excited about what the future holds and anticipating more free time to fill with new and interesting endeavors. As I get more engaged with my own business again, I also realize that regardless of what fills my newly found “space”, sharing and celebrating the wonderful stories of our members, boards, volunteer teams and successes of our city networks will be ongoing.   These success stories are what make PWN Global thrive. 
Marijo Bos
President, PWN Global
April 2010-2015

Thursday 19 March 2015

Raising the volume on International Women's Day - EVERY YEAR

We have been inspired and uplifted by the amazing events delivered by our PWN volunteer teams around the globe in celebration of International Women's Day 2015. For me, IWD 2015 included two events; one with the PWN Paris team and the OECD, and the other was a celebration of the launch of our newest publication, Mixité, featuring real life stories of male CEOs who are fearlessly leading balanced leadership practices across their organisations. These men successfully leverage IWD, and every day of the year, to amplify their goals around gender balanced leadership.
This got me thinking about WHY it’s imperative that organizations like PWN and companies continue to raise the volume each year on IWD.  The journey continues. The attention to IWD certainly stimulates dialogue on the topic and in turn adds to the momentum on positive change.  Raising awareness on why women go from 50% in the classroom to less than 20% in executive committees and on boards generates thinking around behaviors, habits, practices, company norms and leadership biases that many be unconsciously impeding progress.  It gets men, women, decision makers, to go from learners to courageous action leaders on this topic.
Lifting up IWD builds a sense of solidarity on the topic across organizations, across genders and generations.  It’s hard to ignore the topic if all global organizations are celebrating IWD inside their companies as a way to stay economically competitive. It’s worth highlighting that China based Alibaba with the largest IPO in history promotes women in leadership as their “secret sauce” to success. IWD brings these stories to light, and through stories the words turn into actions.
Building a better and more engaged culture is another motivating factor to create IWD awareness inside and outside of global organizations. Just think about how 50% of the talent would feel if their company leaders (to whom they dedicate the majority of their waking hours) ignored this highly recognized, social, business and cultural 21st century leadership topic. It’s key to keeping half the talent engaged.
And finally, it makes perfect business sense in a global, complex and changing economy. Reducing blind spots through diversity - of thought, ideas and solutions.  Male and female leaders will reap the benefits through more successful business outcomes as a result of gender balance teams.
Until we attain a level of equal opportunity and equal success across sectors, we need to keep celebrating IWD.  
We look forward to the day when it's redundant and we can celebrate ILD (International Leaders' Day | Women & Men Leading TOGETHER).
Stay connected, 
Marijo Bos
President, PWN Global

Tuesday 22 July 2014


Take a break this summer to explore how to generate more passion for what you do, the journey you’re taking and the story you’re making. PWN Global will be creating experiences to support you on this journey when you come back from the summer holidays. Our quest is your quest – to achieve stronger overall wellbeing, a feeling of happiness and an environment in which you flourish.

What does well-being mean to you? Well-being is a BIG word and it encompasses many different aspirations – happiness, positivity, resilience, a sense of purpose, to name a few. Summer is the ideal time to explore the different tools that you can use to help enrich your WHOLE life and reach a higher level of overall wellness.

I’d like to share a few well-being boosters that I’d encourage you to take some time to reflect on and experience under the warm Summer sun.

Mindfulness meditation is getting a lot of attention these days and for good reason. Research is showing that it positively impacts many areas in your life from openness and creativity to resilience and health. Try Prof Mark Williams' 3-minute breathing space practices and the Jon Kabat Zinn guided longer meditational experiences, or download this app, so it’s ready when you are.

Purpose: How to find it, nurture it and keep it?

It’s recognised as a key ingredient to strengthening happiness and so how do we inspire this from the inside out? From Arianna Huffington’s Thrive  and the Harvard Business Review article From Purpose to Impactto Srikumar Rao’s Happiness at Work, and the numerous pieces on goodwill making for a better world, there are wonderful resources to help you customize a well-being plan that matches your life and that of your organisations.

If you are a registered member with PWN, Harvard Business Review has agreed to give you exclusive access to the complete From Purpose to Impact article. Make sure you're logged into the PWN Member Platform, and click here. If you're not a member of PWN Global and want to benefit from our exclusive content, join us today.

Finally, if you want to quantify and review how you’re doing on your personal happiness plan, you may like this positive resonance tool on finding happiness and moments of personal connection, 
We hope you find something that resonates with you.

Enjoy your time off - we look forward to connecting with you in September.

Marijo Bos, President, PWN Global

Marijo Bos
President, PWN Global

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Reflections on International Women's Month 2013

This is me, Marijo Bos, celebrating International Women's
Day/Month in Madrid
In celebration of International Women’s Month, we salute our EPWN community and all women who continue their unwavering work to eliminate gender balance barriers in professional settings, be it industry, function, level, culture or self-imposed barriers.  The courage and activity around raising the visibility, influence, voice and mostly raising the numbers of women in leadership, is astounding and the united front that’s been created as a result is awesome.  From the bells ringing at many Stock Exchanges around the world in recognition of progress, to the Global Board Ready Women (GBRW) LinkedIn searchable database breaking out of the gates on 8th March 2013, for all executive recruiters and companies to access, along with the local EPWN-hosted IWD events in Madrid, Amsterdam, Brussels and Munich, we stand united.  We are driven by a purpose, an anticipated outcome, and also by the ongoing antagonist known as ‘resistance to change.’  This hasn’t slowed our efforts in Europe and the world but instead fuels our perseverance and focus to dismantle historical business, cultural, and societal barriers, many of which are unconscious barriers. 

It’s exciting to see the ‘globality’ of our efforts, most recently with the LeanIn movement in the USA creating a heightened level of debate and awareness which will no doubt be contagious around the world. The more we stand UNITED on the end goal, the faster the world will benefit from wholeheartedly incorporating 57% of college degree holders, 85% of the consumers purchasing purse, 54% of voters and half the workplace. The effort, energy and time behind these mostly volunteer driven activities are enormous.  In our network alone with approximately 240 volunteer board and committee leaders, each dedicating conservatively an average of 3 hours a week across our 22 city networks, we deliver 37,400 volunteer hours a year - equivalent to EIGHTEEN full-time, highly skilled people (bearing in mind all these volunteers hold down senior day-jobs, that’s a huge achievement).  When we also include the time given by global organizations, business schools, networks and associations to support us in pushing gender diversity for a stronger economy, the efforts are extraordinary. The engagement and momentum is undoubtedly growing. 

The unending research such as McKinsey’s Women Matter pointing out what’s working or impeding the progress of corporations to have their executive ranks reflect their employee, client, stakeholder base gives us reason to persist, and at the same time reminds us of our antagonist...resistance to change. We continue to emphasize FUTURE FOCUSED ACTIONS and are reminded not to get stuck on yesterday’s logic in terms of what initiatives have impact.  Importantly if we don’t want recent progress to stall, we must courageously speak up so that eliminating gender barrier and promoting diversity of thought remain a top priority in the midst of our organizations, countries dealing with economic turbulence. 

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic”
Peter Drucker. 

We are calling on the support of male allies, who are key to reaching the end goal in this decade. It’s encouraging to see the growing number of men engaged on this topic, men who are courageously speaking up in their organizations, as panelists, mentors, speakers at business events. These men are early movers in completely embracing a wide scale change in how business taps into talent, men and women, equally. From a Swedish male executive in the IT industry speaking up when he notices there were so few women speakers / panelists at a recent industry conference, to a Spain- based Partner at a global consulting firm raising the Forbes article on the “Superiority of Female Workers Confirmed” on LinkedIn, to an EPWN Partner European President insisting a recruiting firm look harder and wider for female finance candidates and then putting a women from China in the job!  It begins with taking notice, speaking up and with our EPWN Engaging Men community support, taking action as allies. International Women’s Day is a celebration of men and women pushing economic progress through gender balanced leadership. We are future focused and see the light at the end of the tunnel when the 37,400 hours of EPWN volunteer time each year can be used for an even greater cause and the calendars highlight International WoMen’s Day/Month for economic progress. 

A happy and reflective International Women’s Month to all! 

Marijo Bos 
EPWN Federation President
March 2013

Tuesday 30 October 2012


Perspective - Marijo Bos

As the President of EPWN, a business network spanning 15 counties, 20 cities, and nearly 3500 members, I’m often faced with the question, does EPWN support legislated quotas and if so, will we support campaigns promoting quota legislation.  

The Federation elects not to state an “official view” on quota legislation on behalf of all of our stakeholders since we have diverse points of view. In order to quantify our diversity on the topic, we asked our EPWN stakeholders to answer a quick EPWN platform poll on quotas. With 700 respondents, 19% of this total said they do not support quota legislation (see more on this in the Q3 newsletter). A dominant percentage of those responding NO were from EPWN London-based members while our Milan network respondents mostly said YES in support of quota legislation. EPWN in Milan also has the most active WOB visibility programs running for the 3rd consecutive year, Ready for Board Women. 

The fact that even 19% of the respondents of a women’s network, whose stated mission is to promote the progress of women, oppose legislation is an indication of the complexity of the issue. This reinforced our need to be present at the WOB Brussels Briefing panel in London, “Quotas: Does One Size Fit All Cultures?” I’ve reflected a lot more on this topic and inquired as I’ve attended WOB conferences and visited EPWN members from Lisbon to Munich, Dublin to Brussels and so I’d like to share my personal perspective on the topic.  Naturally, my perspective is influenced by the sub cultures in which I was raised, spent the majority of my professional career and where I’ve lived. 

Since the word “quota” triggers a negative reaction, with men in particular, let’s refer to this business objective as a target, a KPI (key performance indicator), a more commonly accepted term for success markers in business.  With this, a business objective becomes personal because it’s a measurement about “my” performance. What Gets Measured Gets Movement. This is a statement most leaders of people can agree on when it comes to business. If there are clear objectives, targets and immediate rewards or consequences around meeting goals, things get done.  And if things aren’t measured, a large majority of leaders or men in influential decision making roles will focus on the targets that are required by their boss’, the company President, their stated business plan.  And in so doing, leave the complex gender balance topic to the company D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) heads, women’s networks and other champions to pursue.  

Of course there are exceptions, some men do actively embracing gender balanced teams and boards. These enlightened men, or “menlightened” have often had a great female boss, a high performance mixed gender team experience, or they are blessed with exceptional business-minded wives, sisters, daughters etc. and so they personalize this as making business sense, being just or fair. However, this is not the norm.  

KPIs come with consequences if they are not met across business metrics, such as losing one’s bonus, the big promotion, and ultimately one’s job. In essence I’m a believer in targets and KPIs which accelerate movement in the right direction. I believe gender balance and gender intelligence must be a KPI set by the boss’, the Presidents of organizations, team leaders.  Gender Intelligence (getting the most out of men/women through versatile leadership) should become a stated Corporate Competency.  Only then, will decision makers personalize this objective and we won’t have to rely government regulations.   

My work, outside my volunteer role of EPWN, is delivering leadership development for global organizations and because of this I am regularly reminded of two things.  First of all, the large majority of executive program participants continue to be men, and secondly, leaders spend time developing skills, business practices and habits that are linked to their corporate culture’s stated expectations.  Change happens when behaviors are monitored and measured against past behaviors, and rewards given when the goal is reached. These rewards can be tangible or emotional rewards. 

It’s no secret that old habits are hard to break even when it’s obvious that societies and the world have evolved. The unconscious bias to recruit mirror image candidates who are easier to understand and manage, is one such habit that if not changed through monitors and consequences, deters the evolution of a stronger organization and stronger board. As with smoking laws, smokers weren't willing to shift their indoor smoking habits even with binders full of information on health hazards, environmental impact, injustices to nonsmokers etc. They only stopped smoking indoors when it became illegal.  Spain (my home much of the time) was a late adapter with resistance from all stakeholders, restaurants and individuals. Today it's a non-issue, a year after the law was implemented. It can be hard to see the forest through the trees, until you look back. 

There are immense arguments and well publicized studies which show that gender diversity improves the performance of a company, creates higher performing teams, increases employee engagement and improves overall communication dynamics and good governance. There’s also growing investor and consumer concern on the topic  of more female representation on boards connected to women’s orientation and competencies on risk management, collaboration and social responsibility. I believe there will be a first mover advantages for leaders and companies who wholeheartedly are transforming their cultures around gender and fully leveraging the intelligence and different experiences of men and women. Sodexo is just one example of a leading organization on the topic, recently bringing their board to 38% women with diverse experiences. 

Does one size fit all?  It's nearly impossible to get all of the women, let alone men, to agree on a single solution to the under representation of women at the top of the pipeline and on boards.   Corporate cultures and the “gender intelligence stage” of a country’s culture should be kept front and center in thinking through KPIs with consequences. The context and culture are key factors in determining how and when KPIs on gender balance should be legislated.  The UK benefits from the influence of Lord Davies, a respected, influential proponent and the strong voices of numerous programs, which Charlotte Sweeney, President EPWN London pointed out during the recent Brussels Briefing panel.  If all corporate cultures, and countries were fortunate enough to have a ‘Lord Davies’ plus influential local programs pushing WOB, maybe there wouldn’t be a need for this KPI to be legislated.  Sadly many countries are missing this. Where are the male champions with the stature and influence of Lord Davies in Portugal, Italy, Spain? 

What’s the impact of legislation and awareness? The progress in a few countries has been impressive. France passed a binding quota law a few years ago and the impact is clear with women filling 52.7% of all replenished board positions last year, bringing them to over 20% female representation on the largest company boards. Australia also progressed although this was not dependent on legislation but rather through total transparency on board selection, goal setting and good governance programs with strong female and male voices behind them.  Both countries have made great strides forward in entirely different contexts. 

Of note, Australia has enjoyed a solid economy over the past few years since "quotas" have become front and center in political conversation and so keeping WOB high on the corporate business agenda has succeeded.  In some countries, the cultural and contextual barriers or blinding distractions such as the economic crisis keep the WOB and executive pipeline numbers low.   We see this in Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal.  It’s unfortunate that the economic challenges in the Eurozone have made the WOB topic less of a priority resulting in little progress, which is another argument for the binding KPI so it is top of the agenda and top of mind with leaders.   

Whether it's the US, Germany, Spain, Australia, Tunisia or Saudi Arabia, there is a single common thread: A patriarchal society keeps us from fast and efficient progress. Even with all of the indicators on improved corporate financial performance, stronger engagement across genders, increased responsiveness to the market and opportunity to access a much broader talent pool, change seems overwhelming when the change leaders are men. 

The VALUE locked up in and patriarchal boards and societies for this matter is huge. Let’s make this part of our past and see the forest through the trees as we look forward. Most importantly, let’s not transmit our practices to developing economies around the world who do look to the most "advanced" countries for trends, leadership guidelines and practices. Companies are often inadvertently blind to the impact of the smallest decisions related to equal participation of women and thus they become part of resisting change wholeheartedly. 

From Ikea executives choosing to airbrush out ALL of the women from their Saudi Arabian catalogues not long ago to most countries choosing to replace the majority of their freed up board seats this past year with men instead of women, when they already had 80% + men. These are huge missed opportunities to progress.   

In a modern society, where the business case for gender balance is so distinctly laid out and yet so little has been done to change the landscape, one thing is clear.  The fear of change and wanting to maintain control trumps the opportunity to advance our businesses, our economies. 

If CEOs and stakeholders, including current board members, employees, investors, consumers and suppliers, don’t hold corporations accountable for creating an environment that allows gender balanced leadership to thrive, then by all means, a temporary KPI must be legislated in order to move the needle on balanced boards.  

In our societies where both genders together “hold up the sky”, make great efforts to create a better, healthier and more sustainable social and economic future, I’ll close with an emotional and one of the strongest arguments for balanced boards, fairness or justice.  As Sheryl Sandberg said in a recent business video, “A World where men ran 50% of our homes and women ran 50% of our institutions would be a better world.” Gender balanced leadership in a professional setting and in a family environment is within reach if all CEOs and stakeholders commit to accelerate awareness, acceptance and concrete actions.  Culture is irrelevant here. 

If you would like to recommend male champions, advocates on gender balanced leadership at all levels, please connect with us at  EPWN will provide a platform for these men’s voices to be heard.