Reflections on the inaugural Future Female Leaders Award

This year, IESE was proud to launch the first edition of the Future Female Leaders Award to recognize and develop women who embody our mission by striving to have a positive impact on people, companies, and societies. Awardees were invited to participate in IESE’s annual Women in Business Conference in Barcelona on Feb 1, 2023 and attend networking events and career development sessions. Read more about the experience of two of our awardees in this post.

Take 1: Sat in my window seat, I look out to the grim, wintery Canadian landscape as the Greyhound bus took me from Toronto to Kingston so I could write my final undergraduate business exam. Unbounding nerves persisted.

Take 2: Deep breaths, in from the mouth, out from the mouth. Trying to focus on my white shoes, as the moving vehicle carts me on the rocky roads from Berlin to Warsaw, I fight the urge to give in to my queasy stomach and nauseous head. Only seven hours to go.

What do these two memories have in common? A forty-two seat charter bus, a sullen mood, and desire to get out as quickly as possible.

Our latest charter bus experience, however, was a stark contrast: brimming with conversation, light, and excitement. Beneath the predominant English chatter, we could hear hints of Mandarin, Portuguese, Swahili, and of course, Catalan. This eclectic mix of 40 women represented your first Future Female Leaders Award recipients hailing from over 20 countries across 5 continents!

Despite the prevailing jetlag, each of us managed to muster up an exuberant energy as we entered Triki-Trac in the Sants district for some welcome wine and tapas. Through avid networking, we learned that we were women from traditional business industries such as finance and marketing, to non-traditional industries like technology and healthcare.

It was wonderful to meet with this diverse group of young women in Barcelona!

Even with our diverse backgrounds, one could easily identify the common thread between all of us: our insatiable desire to make a positive impact on society.

The highlight of our trip – IESE’s annual WIB Conference

The next day, with our new swanky IESE tote bag over our shoulders, we were ready for the chockablock day that would be the 2023 IESE Women in Business Conference. The first observation, other than the sophisticated aura of the North campus, was the litter of white tee-shirts donned by the MBA student conference organizers with the emboldened words on them, “Because gender equality is everyone’s business.” Damn right.

Being frequent conference attendees and speakers ourselves, frankly there are two questions we ask to deem it a successful one: first, is there a sufficient networking to programming – keynotes, panels, workshops – ratio that will be conducive for meeting new people, being inspired and having one’s neural circuits shaken up. Second, is there enough coffee? Needless to say, this conference checked off both boxes.

The keynotes, panels, and workshops consisted of women and men allies sharing their experiences through vulnerability, brevity, and humor, in hopes to inspire and give tactical guidance to the female leaders. Our contemporaries including ourselves have been strewn with advice from negotiating salary to mitigate the gender wage gap, building a strong support system internally (e.g. sponsors, mentors) and externally (e.g. spouses, partners) to level up, and of course, how to be that much more confident.

It’s no secret that the gender pay gap is substantial. Metyis’ Namrata Singh gave straightforward and sage advice to mitigate the gender pay gap on the The Future of Equality keynote. The mere act of asking for more in your initial negotiation before signing will generally give you the desired salary. Despite common misconception, the salary brackets created by HR are not biased. We simply just need to ask.

No one succeeds alone, and that includes those trying to create a successful career. Sadie and Robert Raney shared their journey in the Power Couples to Build Desirable Work-Life Balance keynote where they proved that the partner you choose is key to not only your career, but your work-life balance. While walking us through their ups and downs, you could sense the trust, vulnerability, and resiliency of each and together as a team and how even after 20 some years of marriage, they still manage to surprise each other on stage.

After a whirlwind of inspiring speakers, valuable networking, and of course, copious amounts of coffee, we were transported to El Chipiron on the waterfront. It was the last supper: endless Spanish tapas, unbounding conversation, and reels of photographs.

Some time to reflect on our own goals, and to make our dreams a reality

The third and final day was a welcome segue. The conference from the second day was filled with abundant inputs and exceptional insights , but now was the time to put pen to paper (literally) and devise a plan on how to make our dreams a reality. This started with a career coaching session where IESE MBA graduate Danielle Francis asked us all the hard questions:

“What is your dream career? What goals must you accomplish to reach that dream? How are you holding yourself back?”

With all the best planning and strategy, there is one thing that we still must be cognizant of in forging our career paths, and that is happiness. The final keynote of the conference by Vinning’s Vinicius Kitihara honed in on the sole determinant of a happy career, and happy life: strong relationships. And without a doubt, those forty other women in the charter bus have become, if not yet already, strong relationships and empowering connections that we will relish not only in the business world but also personally as lasting companions.

Hats off to the IESE MBA Admissions Committee (especially Anna Fata, Paula Amorim, Daniela Calleja, and Emilia Drewniak) for hosting us and creating a safe and inclusive space for women in business globally to connect, learn and grow. By working together, instead of against each other, we can accelerate the meaningful impact on society uniting us. The Women in Business Conference and Future Female Leaders Award are testaments to that: the potential of what can happen when you create and nurture a community of women with a vision of and drive towards being the impact and change they want to see.

Written by Brittany Lee and Laura Kiehl, 2023 IESE Future Female Leaders Awardees

Thank you Brittany and Laura, we look forward to connecting with more talented female professionals in next year’s Future Female Leaders Awards! Applications will open in October 2023, don’t miss it! 

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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