Women in PM Leadership

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Brantlee Underhill
Cecilia Boggi
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Our yesteryear grandmothers’ strength, an inspiration for today.

“My name is Steve” / "Mi nombre es Steve"

Come see the world from up here

Leadership styles: opportunities for women

A fair language to build a fairer world

Our yesteryear grandmothers’ strength, an inspiration for today.

I love reading old stories, where I can think deeply about the characters and the situations.  You can feel how living was by those times, and even without that purpose in mind, you find yourself analyzing the role of women in those years. Fortunately, remarkable women have slowly been recovered from the forgotten side of history. Women that contributed or fought for a voice, the right to vote, education and health.

“Buenos Aires in sight: 160 pictures and stories”[1] is not an exception to my preferences. This book, by Daniel Balmaceda, is a compilation of selected captured moments which were published by several antiques media from the old Buenos Aires city, Argentina.  

There is one picture that caught my attention: two high-society ladies going for a drive on a new sporty car Citroën. The journalist who presented the situation, surprised by such female audacity, invited us to think:

“How astonished our yestearyear grandmothers would be to see a female figure, all delicacy and sweetness, wielding the steering wheel to launch her machine to unusual speed overcoming obstacles in the middle of the race.” Caras y Caretas Magazine,1928. [2]

That rhetorical question made me think about my grandmothers and about their own grannies, which inspired me to write this blog.

My two grandmothers, contemporaries to the photo’s ladies, lived in different areas of the region of the Humid Pampas[3] from Argentina, where both families were dedicated to the farming and livestock activity.

One became a widow when she was only 20 years old and was mother to a 6 months-old baby-girl. Quiet and sweet, hardworking and dedicated, it was not the first time neither the last that she made a path for herself.

The other one, the youngest girl out of 10 siblings, a natural leader, gentle but not docile, lost her father when she was only 3-year-old. Unexpectedly, her mother had to move to the town, using all her network to rebuild a new life without the country labor income.

Both families, Spanish-criollos[4] descendants, lived in these latitudes for generations. Their stories are interlocked to the turbulent avatars that this land proposed. It must be kept in mind that this land was a Spanish colony and Buenos Aires was just a small village with a port, going through independence and civil wars, including the land colonization by battles and peace treatments with native people, until it finally became a booming country offering opportunities to the European immigrants.

Through all that, they worked the land, populated the country and followed the frontier [5] progression.

Back to the “Caras y Caretas” magazine’s note with the ladies in the car… the question resonated in my head: “How astonished our yestearyear grandmothers would be to see a female figure, all delicacy and sweetness, wielding the steering wheel to launch her machine to unusual speed overcoming obstacles in the middle of the race.” I couldn’t help but wonder what my grandmothers would have thought about it had they read it by 1928.

I imagine my hardworking grandmother would talk about how it would not surprise her grandmother: there are records of her in 1895, widowed with two little children, after crossing 700 km of the deserted Patagonia [6].

Additionally, my other grandmother, the fierce and gentle one, would think that it would not call her granny’s attention. She grew up listening stories about how her grandmother had lived with all her daughters in the frontier in the year 1875, and the risks that came with that. They were used to the savage malón[7] attacking their country-side properties and livestock. When this happened, they wore all their dresses one over the other and got on their horses, took the reins and escaped at unusual speeds in order to save their belongings, freedom and lives.

Yes, that was their life by that time.

My grandpas would have had a voice too, to tell us that their mothers dared to cross an ocean from Europe to America when the XIX century was ending, to begin a new life in an unknown world.

All those adventures of different families, where the women are also the protagonists, were happening until my parents met in a long trip train a Christmas eve 60 years ago. And here I am, reviewing the women role through their families.

When I was a child, the feminist movement had already had some wins. However, cartoons, movies, magazines and school books insisted on showing us a woman model all delicacy, weak, dependent, passive, dedicated to the home. Those stereotypes were odd to me and did not match with what I saw growing up: my mother, breastfeeding my youngest sister while graduating from a technical career.

What a contrast between my female ancestors and images that represented women at those times!

Despite becoming conscious about those biases due to the stereotypes that society tried to impose, we find ourselves sometimes doubting about women’s abilities.

In those occasions, our female ancestors can be an excellent source of inspiration: even though they lacked both physical strength and legal rights, they knew how to cope with all the adversities and carry on.

They represent all the anonymous women who with their audacity o resistance contributed peacefully and quietly to turn a vast end-of-the-world land into a nation.


[1] “Buenos Aires en la Mira, 160 historias y fotos”, by Daniel Balmaceda. Editorial Sudamericana, 2014

[2] “Caras y Caretas”,Argentine weekly magazine (1898-1939 Collection)//Semanario Argentino (1898-1939)

[3] Humid pampas: extensive fertile region that due to weather propitiates the cereal harvest and livestock. That area made Argentina to become one of the main food providers to the world by early XX century. // Pampa Húmeda: Extensa región de praderas propicia por su clima y terreno para la agricultura intensiva y cría de ganado. Convirtiéndola en una proveedora importante de alimentos al mundo.

[4] Criollos: European descendants born in America’s colonies used in the colonization era.// Criollos: denominación que recibían los descendientes de europeos en américa en la época de la colonia.

[5] Frontier: A fort line which stablished the territory dominated by European-Criollos people// Frontera: Línea movible que representaba el límite del territorio dominado por los criollos, protegida por fortines que luego fueron las bases de las actuales pueblos y ciudades.

[6] Patagonia: Enormous rough, cold and windy terrain, with a unique flora, fauna and landscapes, in the south of South-America that was the last region to be colonized.// Patagonia: Extensa área en el sur de Sudamérica, desierta fría y ventosa, con única flora, fauna y paisajes. Fue la última zona en ser colonizada.

[7] Malón, name given to the surprise raids of some savage native’s bands from 17th to 19th centuries., In the raids they burn houses, stole horses and cows, kill men, and take captive women and children, using spears, arrows and boleadoras, rustic arms made with rounded stones.// Malón: Táctica militar ofensiva empleada ocasionalmente por algunos pueblos indígenas del siglo 17 a 19 que consistía en el ataque rápido y sorpresivo de un grupo de guerrero a caballos con lanzas y boleadoras con el objetivo de saquear el ganado, quemar las casas, matar al criollo y capturar mujeres y niños.


Me gustan las historias antiguas donde puedo apreciar a sus protagonistas, detenerme e interpretarlos. Es posible sentir como era vivir en aquellas épocas, y sin pretenderlo encontrarse analizando la situación de la mujer en ese entonces. Afortunadamente, lentamente se ha ido rescatando del olvido a remarcables mujeres. Mujeres que abogaron por una voz, un voto, educación y salud.

No escapa a mis gustos “Buenos Aires en la mira: 160 fotos e historias”[1] de Daniel Balmaceda, quien seleccionó momentos captados y publicados por diversos medios de época de Buenos Aires Argentina. Me detengo en una foto: dos señoritas de la alta sociedad de Buenos Aires están por manejar un automóvil Citroën último modelo de 1928. El periodista sorprendido ante tal osadía femenina se pregunta:

Con qué cara de asombro verían las abuelas de antaño una figura femenina, toda delicadeza y dulzura, empuñando valientemente el volante para lanzar su máquina a velocidades inauditas, y para salvar los obstáculos en plena carrera.” Caras y Caretas, 1928.[2]

Y esta pregunta retórica, al hacerme pensar en mis abuelas y en sus propias abuelas, es la que me inspira este blog.

Mis dos abuelas, contemporáneas a las señoritas de la foto, vivían en distintas zonas de la pampa húmeda [3] de Argentina, donde la principal actividad es agro ganadera.

Una quedó viuda a los 20 años con una beba de 6 meses. Callada, dulce, emprendedora, empeñosa sin descanso, no sería la primera vez ni la última que que emprendió el modo de ganarse la vida en la ciudad sin depender de un hombre.

La otra, hija menor de 10 hermanos, huérfana de padre a los 3 años, gentil, nada dócil, líder innata. Inesperadamente, su madre tuvo que recurrir a todas sus redes para reconstruir la vida en la ciudad, lejos del campo que era sostén de la familia.

Las familias de ambas llevaban generaciones de descendientes hispanos-criollos[4] en estas latitudes.  La historia de estas familias se entrelaza con los turbulentos avatares que esta tierra les proponía. Desde cuando Buenos Aires era solo una aldea con puerto del virreinato español, pasando por las guerras de independencia, civiles, incluyendo la colonización mediante batallas y tratados de paz con los nativos, hasta llegar a ser un país pujante lleno de oportunidades para los inmigrantes. Y así fueron, mediante sus trabajos rurales, poblando la nación a medida que la frontera [5] avanzaba civilizando nuevos territorios.

Vuelvo a la nota de Caras y Caretas de las señoritas manejando el auto en 1928, y la pregunta resuena en mi cabeza. “Con qué cara de asombro verían las abuelas de antaño una figura femenina, toda delicadeza y dulzura, empuñando valientemente el volante para lanzar su máquina a velocidades inauditas, y para salvar los obstáculos en plena carrera.”

No puedo evitar pensar que hubieran pensado mis abuelas de haberlo leído.

Imagino a mi empeñosa abuela diciendo que su abuela no tendría ninguna cara de asombro: que hay registros de ella en 1895 cerca de Chile, viuda con dos pequeños niños, después de haber atravesado 700 km de la desierta Patagonia[6].

Y la otra, la gentil, diría que su abuela no sentiría tampoco ningún asombro. Creció escuchando sus historias de vida en la frontera en 1875 y los riesgos que sufrían junto a sus hijas. Cuando venía el salvaje malón [7]  a arrasar con las propiedades de los criollos, se ponían todos sus vestidos uno encima del otro, se subían a los caballos, empuñaban las riendas y a inusitadas velocidades huían del peligro sorteando obstáculos para proteger así sus pertenencias, su vida y su libertad.

Si, así era la vida de ellas por entonces.

Mis abuelos también tendrían que opinar y ellos contarían de sus madres, quienes desde Italia y desde España, se animaron a cruzar un océano hacia América cuando el siglo XIX finalizaba, hacia un mundo desconocido para iniciar otra vida.

Todas estas aventuras de familias diversas, donde las mujeres no dejan de ser protagonistas, se fueron cruzando hasta converger en que mis padres se conocieran una Noche Buena y para siempre en un largo viaje de tren hace más de 60 años. Y acá estoy revisando la historia del rol de la mujer a través de ellas.  

Cuando era niña, el movimiento feminista ya había ganado sus batallas.  Sin embargo, películas, dibujos animados y hasta libros escolares, insistían en mostrar a la mujer como delicada, dócil, débil, pasiva, sumisa, dependiente.  Este estereotipo que me rebelaba tanto, no se condecía ni con mis preferencias ni con mi madre, a quien ví recibirse de una carrera técnica amamantando a mi hermana menor.

 ¡Que contraste entre mis ancestros femeninos y la imagen que se transmitía de la mujer en aquellas épocas!

A pesar de ser conscientes de estos sesgos por los estereotipos que la sociedad construyó e impuso, a veces aún dudamos de las habilidades femeninas.

En esas ocasiones nuestros ancestros femeninos pueden ser una excelente fuente de inspiración:  ellas, sin la fuerza física y sin derechos legales que las amparen, supieron seguir adelante y superar todas las adversidades.

Ellas representan a todas esas anónimas y valerosas mujeres que con su osadía o resistencia contribuyeron pacífica y silenciosamente a que un vasto territorio en el fin del mundo se convirtiera en una nación.


Posted by María del Rosario Valicente on: March 31, 2019 04:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

“My name is Steve” / "Mi nombre es Steve"

Categories: leadership, women

"Leadership has masculine traits"

"Technology is not for women"

"Entrepreneurs are men"

Women still today continue dealing with prejudices, stereotypes and difficulties in our professional development. What has been metaphorically referred to as "Crystal Roof", "Crystal Labyrinth" or "Sticky Floor", is still valid in the XXI century.

However, we could not complain if we compare it with what the courageous women who preceded us have had to fight to open a path for us and make great advances.

One of these brave women is the talented Stephanie Shirley, who had to change her name to "Steve" to be received in the business world of the United Kingdom in the '60s.

At that time, women couldn’t even drive a truck or open a bank account without their husband's permission. Imagine the difficulty to enter into the workforce. Those who achieved it have had to survive with the fear of sexual harassment on a regular basis.

Stephanie Shirley, who born in Germany, terrified at the age of 5 years old, in 1939, arrived in England as a Jewish refugee, escaping the Holocaust with her 9-year-old sister Renata. Having escaped from Germany to Austria, his parents raised the two little sisters to the Kindertransport program, famous for having saved a large number of children from the terrible fate that would await them in the Europe of the Nazis. Stephanie and Renata were received by a kind couple who resided close to London.

In her book "Let it Go," Shirley says that being a refugee and saving herself from the Holocaust marked her life in such a way that she decided to make sure that each day was worth living. According to her own words: "I was determined not to allow other people to define me, to open my way by myself, to build something new and not be discouraged by the conventions of the day."

Being that she liked math very much and, at that time the most scientific topic being taught in schools for girls were biology, she decided to enroll in a boys' school, which was not easy for her was to start dressing as boy as a way to not to be noticed.

When she finished her high school she started working, at the same time she began her evening studies to graduate with honors in her Mathematics Degree, 6 years later.

In 1951, being only 18 years old, she was hired at the Research Station of the Post Office in Dollis Hill, at the northwest of London, the place where they had developed World War II decoding machines.  

She worked on transatlantic telephone cables and on the development of the first electronic telephone calls, among other projects.

Although she liked his work a lot, she was frustrated to see that she never received a promotion, unlike her male colleagues, whom, with less merits and qualifications obtained the promotions.

In those years Stephanie Shirley married Derek, another employee of the Post Office, making things even more difficult to her. One of them had to quit the job, and while they both had the same hierarchy at the organization, given Stephanie's frustration to see that she could not thrive in that place, she decided to try something different.

Thus, in 1962, at the age of 29, she founded her company "Freelance Programmers", with the mission of giving jobs to women, avoiding misogyny in the workplace and providing them with fair compensation, without the wage gap by gender that at that time it was far worse than now.

From the table in her dining room and with a minimal investment, Stephanie Shirley became a pioneering entrepreneur in the software development industry.

Another novelty aspect of her enterprise was the flexibility of schedules and the possibility of working from their houses that had their programmers, allowing them to balance the work with their dedication to home and family.

Dame Stephanie Shirley, in the '60s implemented the Home Office concept!

All the technology available for remote work at that time was the ground telephone line, and that was the only requirement that she asked to women during the job interviews.

It is difficult to imagine right now, at the communications revolution era, that those women wrote their programs with pencil and paper, they sent them by post mailing to the processing center, where they drilled the code on tapes or cards, to then process the first execution and debugging after that.

Stephanie tells in her book "Let it Go," that when her son was born, he sometimes cried while she was answering the phone and talking with clients. Trying they would not realize that she was working from home, Shirley put the recording of a typewriter in the background so that the noise covers the crying baby.

Obviously, it was not easy to break through in a world dominated by men.

When she sent cover letters, offering consulting and programming services to potential clients, she did not even receive an answer.

She realized then that using her own name did not give her credibility and at the suggestion of her husband, she began to sign as "Steve", which gave her good results and they started receiving her at business meetings, generating great surprise when “Steve” introduced herself as a woman.

"Freelance Programmers" started to take off, employing most women with only three men. One nice anecdote is that when in England in 1975 it was enacted the law of gender discrimination, Shirley had to hire more men.

Her company grew up rapidly and, in the 1980s, her thousands of programmers, mostly women, wrote software for the best companies in the United Kingdom and developed projects, such as the programming of the flight recorder of the black box of the Concorde plane.

In 1996, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and came to be valued at 3 billion dollars. Since Shirley had distributed more than 50% of her shares to her employees, at no cost to them, seventy women became millionaires at that time.

Upon retiring, Stephanie Shirley began to dedicate herself to philanthropy through the Shirley Foundation, which is dedicated to the research and treatment of autistic children. Having had an autistic child herself, she supports the advancement of science about this disorder.

Shirley was part of the founding members of the British Computer Society in 1957. She was appointed Officer of the Excellent Order of the British Empire and promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. She was also Ambassador of the United Kingdom for Philanthropy and has received other multiple recognitions.

I think we have much to learn from the story of Dame Stephanie Shirley, who was not stopped by the "glass ceiling" or any other of the many difficulties that she had in her life, using all her means to enforce her work and the work of thousands of women who became part of her company.

I propose you that, the next time you face a difficulty in your profession, remember Stephanie "Steve" Shirley!


--- Versión en Español

Título: “Mi nombre es Steve”

“El liderazgo tiene rasgos masculinos”

“La tecnología no es para mujeres”

“Los emprendedores son hombres”


Las mujeres en la actualidad seguimos viviendo con prejuicios, estereotipos y dificultades en nuestro desarrollo profesional. Lo que se ha denominado metafóricamente como “Techo de Cristal”, “Laberinto de Cristal” o “Piso Pegajoso”, aún sigue vigente en pleno siglo XXI.

Sin embargo, no podríamos quejarnos si lo comparamos con lo que han tenido que luchar las mujeres valientes que nos precedieron, que nos abrieron el camino y lograron grandes avances.

Una de estas mujeres valientes es la talentosa Stephanie Shirley, quién se tuvo que hacer llamar “Steve” para que la recibieran en el mundo de los negocios del Reino Unido de los anos ’60.

Por aquella época, las mujeres no podían conducir un camión, ni siquiera podían abrir una cuenta bancaria sin el permiso de su marido, mucho menos insertarse en el mundo laboral. Aquellas que lo lograban debían convivir con el temor al acoso sexual de forma regular.

Stephanie Shirley, nacida en Alemania, en 1939, a sus 5 años llegó aterrorizada a Inglaterra como refugiada judía, escapando del Holocausto junto a su hermana Renata de 9 años. Habiendo escapado de Alemania a Austria, sus padres subieron a las dos pequeñas hermanas al programa Kindertransport, famoso por haber salvado a un gran número de niños del terrible destino que les esperaría en la Europa de los Nazis. Stephanie y Renata fueron recibidas por un bondadoso matrimonio y residieron en las afueras de Londres.

En su libro “Let it Go”, Shirley cuenta que haber sido refugiada y salvarse del Holocausto marcó su vida de tal forma que decidió que debía asegurarse de que cada día valiera la pena ser vivido. Según sus propias palabras: “Estaba decidida a no permitir que otras personas me definan, a abrirme paso, a construir algo nuevo y no dejarme desanimar por las convenciones del día".

Como le gustaban mucho las matemáticas y en esa época las escuelas para niñas lo más científico que tenían era biología, decidió anotarse en una escuela de varones, lo que no fue para nada fácil para ella que empezó a vestirse lo más masculino que podía para no llamar la atención.

Cuanto terminó su escuela secundaria comenzó a trabajar, a la vez que comenzó sus estudios nocturnos para graduarse con honores en su Licenciatura de Matemáticas, 6 años más tarde.

En 1951, teniendo apenas 18 años empezó a trabajar en la Estación de Investigación de la Oficina de Correos de Dollis Hill, en el noroeste de Londres, donde se habían construido las máquinas de descifrado de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Trabajó en cables telefónicos transatlánticos y en el desarrollo de las primeras llamadas telefónicas electrónicas, entre otros proyectos.

Si bien le gustaba mucho su trabajo, se frustraba de ver que nunca le llegaba una promoción, al contrario que sus compañeros varones, que con menores méritos y calificaciones obtenían las promociones.

En esos años contrajo matrimonio con Derek, otro empleado de la Oficina de Correos y eso dificultaba aún más las cosas. Uno de los dos debía dejar su trabajo, y, si bien los dos tenían la misma jerarquía, dada la frustración que tenía Stephanie de ver que en ese lugar no podía prosperar, decidió probar algo diferente.

Fue así como en 1962, a los 29 años, fundó su compañía “Freelance Programmers”, con la misión de dar trabajo a mujeres, evitar la misoginia en el lugar de trabajo y brindarles una retribución justa, sin la brecha de salarios por género que en aquel momento era muy superior a la actual.

Desde la mesa de su comedor y con una inversión mínima, Stephanie Shirley se convirtió en una emprendedora pionera del desarrollo de software.

Otro aspecto de avanzada de su emprendimiento era la flexibilidad de horarios y la posibilidad de trabajar desde sus casas que tenían sus programadoras, permitiéndoles balancear el trabajo con su dedicación al hogar y a la familia.

Dame Stephanie Shirley, en los años ’60 implementó el Home Office!

En aquella época, toda la tecnología disponible para el trabajo a distancia era el teléfono de línea, y ese era el único requisito que le pedía a las mujeres en las entrevistas de trabajo.

Es difícil imaginar ahora, en la época de la revolución de las comunicaciones, que aquellas mujeres escribían sus programas con lápiz y papel, los enviaban por correo postal al centro de procesamiento, donde perforaban el código en cintas o tarjetas, para luego poder hacer la primera ejecución y luego la depuración.   

Cuenta Stephanie en su libro “Let it Go”, que cuando nació su hijo, en ocasiones lloraba mientras ella atendía el teléfono y hablaba con clientes. Para que estos no se dieran cuenta que estaba trabajando desde su casa, Shirley ponía de fondo la grabación de una persona tipeando en una máquina de escribir para que el ruido tapara el llanto del bebé.

Obviamente que no fue fácil abrirse camino en un mundo dominado por los hombres. Cuando enviaba cartas de presentación, ofreciendo los servicios de consultoría y programación a los posibles clientes, ni siquiera recibía una respuesta.

Se dio cuenta entonces que usar su propio nombre no le daba credibilidad y por sugerencia de su marido, comenzó a firmar como “Steve”, lo que le dio buen resultado y comenzaron a recibirla a reuniones de negocios, generando gran sorpresa cuando Steve se presentaba como una mujer.

"Freelance Programmers" comenzó a despegar, empleando mayoría de mujeres con sólo tres hombres. Resulta simpático que cuando en Inglaterra se promulgó la ley de discriminación de género, en 1975, Shirley tuvo que salir a contratar más hombres.

Su empresa creció rápidamente y, en la década de los ’80 sus miles de programadores, mayormente mujeres, escribían software para las mejores compañías del Reino Unido y desarrollaban proyectos, tales como el de la programación de la grabadora de vuelo de la caja negra del Concorde.

En 1996, la empresa cotizó en la Bolsa de Londres y llegó a ser valorada en 3 mil millones de dólares.  Dado que Shirley había distribuido más del 50% de sus acciones en sus empleadas, sin ningún costo para ellas, setenta mujeres se hicieron millonarias en ese momento.

Al retirarse, Stephanie Shirley comenzó a dedicarse a la filantropía a través de la Fundación Shirley que se dedica a la investigación y al tratamiento de niños autistas. Habiendo tenido ella misma un hijo autista, brinda apoyo al avance de la ciencia sobre ese trastorno.

Shirley fue parte de los miembros fundadores de la British Computer Society en 1957. Fue nombrada Oficial de la Excellent Order of the British Empire y ascendida a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire en el año 2000. También fue Embajadora del Reino Unido para la Filantropía y ha recibido otros múltiples reconocimientos.

Creo que tenemos mucho que aprender de la historia de Dame Stephanie Shirley, a quien no la detuvo el “techo de cristal” ni ninguna de las dificultades de las muchas que se le presentaron en la vida, usando todos sus medios para hacer valer su trabajo y el trabajo de miles de mujeres que llegaron a formar parte de su empresa.

Te propongo que la próxima vez que te enfrentes a una dificultad en tu profesión, recuerdes a Stephanie “Steve” Shirley.

Posted by Cecilia Boggi on: March 06, 2019 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Come see the world from up here

Today I’m going to spend the day revisiting myself

Resetting my world

Reorganising my shelf

Because yesterday is too far gone

And all I need is to be ready for tomorrow…

Vanessa Guimarães


I wrote this text to myself but I think it should be shared. I want to share it here because we are part of a global community, and that should mean something. We are supposedly open to diversity and more tolerant to the differences. We have travelled around the world, we learned about other cultures, we speak other languages, most of us have been labelled “the foreigner” somewhere. When we speak our minds, people see a person who is international, a leadership. It should mean something. So I want to share this with you, and if you still think diversity is only another policy to tick out of your corporate social responsibility list, please, just please re-evaluate your privileged position and have some empathy. You might be making someone’s life a bit harder.  



Every now and then we have to face a difficult situation. It makes us stronger, it makes us review our values and principles, it tests our patience, it brings us closer to who we really are.

Every now and then we are caught in a dilemma. You can either follow your heart, your guts or your brain. You can hurt, be hurt or let hurt. You can take a breath, take some time, react, overreact, but you can never keep it quiet.

Silence does not exist. Those who are alive are always haunted but a little voice inside asking those questions that we try so hard to avoid. Is this it? Is that all? What is next? Who is next? Am I enough? Am I strong enough? The thing is that the answers to these questions are not relevant. What triggered them, what they make you feel, that´s what really matters.

Understanding the trigger, though, is just as complicated. Sometimes it was just a bad day, you were just not feeling it, it was just the weather, the pending bills, your boss, your partner, a car driving too fast, an unworthy person, an idiot that crossed your way. Do people really say things they don’t mean? How long does it take one to process what is in front of them, rationalise about it, decide to say something about it and… Regret? Really?

Some things just can’t be changed. Yesterday I was a victim of racism. I can’t change the colour of my skin and I shouldn’t need to change the texture of my hair. I can’t change the fact that I heard what I heard. And it was such a dear person to me… It still is. Some things can’t be changed, at least not that fast.

Those who know me will agree that I am not easily offended. And for sure it was not the first time that racism has looked me in the eye… Usually I am strong, I rise above, I prefer to think that I deserve better, that that person is just not worth my energy. But why do I always have to be so strong? Why do I have to wear such a thick shell to protect myself from others, from the world? Why can’t I just be me?

Dressing up, the make-up, the hair, the neutral colours… How much of that is really me? I tried not to be affected by what happened and, like I said, usually I am pretty good at it, but should I?

Going back in time I realise that this so called strength has been with me since I was just a kid. Is it fair that a kid needed to be strong in order not to be broken by the environment? You might think it is an exaggeration, but I remember second guessing myself, not because I did not believe in my potential but because I always had something else to prove. It was always harder for me, I was never an option, I would always have to explain that no, I am not the maid, I am not the babysitter, I am not lost I live here, I was just looking, I want to try that dress and yes I can afford it, please don’t touch my hair, I am not a woman yet despite the body, I don’t need to show my parents’ payslip to be accepted by your family, yes my nose is natural and small, these are not homeless people it’s a picture of my family.

Yesterday, when I heard what I heard, and it wasn’t even the worst thing I’ve ever heard, I just allowed myself to be hit, feel offended, act normal as anyone else would have done in my shoes. And it took me to a very deep place that I had not visited for quite a while.

So yes, today I allowed myself to stay in, to sleep longer, get in touch with these feelings, understand my moment, reassess my plan, and rebuild my pillars. The funny thing is that vulnerability is the key to that room where only a few people are allowed in. We are not born strong, we become strong. We are not born fighters, we become fighters. But what are we actually fighting against? And why now? Why has vulnerability hit me now?

I have recently dropped a brilliant career working for a foreign government to start my own business. Actually two businesses. They are both growing well; I have managed to mobilise more than 20 wonderful women to volunteer in this initial phase; my network is bigger and greater than ever; I am constantly being complimented on my achievements; I keep on having one great idea after the other; strategic partnerships are being established. Why now? Like I said, it was far from being the worst thing I’ve heard, usually I would have ignored, but this time was different, and I believe that it might have something to do with the so-called “Impostor Syndrome”.

Yes, minorities tend to feel unworthy of their accomplishments and we doubt ourselves all the time. It had been a while since the last time I was in that confusing place but here I am again, allowing myself to be offended because being a woman of so much success can only mean I am a fraud, right? So my old friend Vulnerability decides to pay me a visit and next thing I know… Racism and sexism hit me hard. One punch from the world, another punch from my own mind, tricking me into believing that “this”, a successful career, an extensive portfolio of achievements, this can only be one thing: a fraud.

Going back in the whole situation, which happened a few minutes ago, I have come to one conclusion: you can only be a “fraud” if you allow yourself to be one, and there will be many insecurities that will arise to make sure you feel like you are an impostor. Being the only woman in every single board meeting I have recently been to has certainly made me more likely to go down that road, but it can also be proof that this is exactly where I should be:  at the top, because I know it was not an easy mountain to climb, and you know what? I’ll dry my tears – which have reminded me of my struggle -, and instead, I will enjoy the view: oh yes, it was a tough challenge to get to the top, but it is a beautiful view from up here. 



Portuguese version (from Google Translator, sorry)


Eu escrevi este texto para mim mesma, mas acho que deveria ser compartilhado. Quero compartilhá-lo aqui porque somos parte de uma comunidade global, e isso deve significar alguma coisa. Estamos supostamente abertos à diversidade e mais tolerantes às diferenças. Nós viajamos ao redor do mundo, aprendemos sobre outras culturas, falamos outras línguas, a maioria de nós foi rotulada como "o estrangeiro" em algum lugar. Quando nos expressamos, as pessoas veem uma pessoa que é internacional, uma liderança. Deve significar alguma coisa. Então, quero compartilhar isso com você, e se você ainda acha que a diversidade é apenas mais uma política para cortar da sua lista de responsabilidade social corporativa, por favor, reavalie sua posição privilegiada e tenha alguma empatia. Você pode estar tornando a vida de alguém um pouco mais difícil.


De vez em quando, temos que enfrentar uma situação difícil. Isso nos torna mais fortes, faz-nos rever os nossos valores e princípios, testa a nossa paciência, aproxima-nos de quem realmente somos.

De vez em quando, nos vemos presos em um dilema. Você pode seguir seu coração, seus instintos ou sua mente. Você pode machucar, se machucar ou deixar machucar. Você pode respirar, demorar um pouco, reagir, reagir exageradamente, mas nunca conseguirá silenciá-lo.

O silêncio não existe. Aqueles que estão vivos são sempre assombrados, mas uma pequena voz lá dentro faz as perguntas que nós nos esforçamos para evitar. É isso? Isso é tudo? O que vem depois? Quem é o próximo? Eu sou o suficiente? Eu sou forte o suficiente? O problema é que as respostas para essas perguntas não são relevantes. O que os desencadeou, o que eles fazem você se sentir, é o que realmente importa.

Entender o gatilho, no entanto, é tão complicado quanto. Às vezes, era apenas um dia ruim, você simplesmente não sentia, era apenas o tempo, as contas pendentes, seu chefe, seu parceiro, um carro dirigindo rápido demais, uma pessoa indigna, um idiota que cruzava seu caminho. As pessoas realmente dizem coisas que não querem dizer? Quanto tempo leva para processar o que está na frente deles, racionalizar sobre isso, decidir dizer algo sobre isso e… Arrependimento? Mesmo?

Algumas coisas simplesmente não podem ser alteradas. Ontem fui vítima do racismo. Eu não posso mudar a cor da minha pele e não preciso mudar a textura do meu cabelo. Eu não posso mudar o fato de que ouvi o que ouvi. E era uma pessoa tão querida para mim ... Ainda é. Algumas coisas não podem ser alteradas, pelo menos não tão rápido.

Aqueles que me conhecem concordam que não me ofendo facilmente. E com certeza não foi a primeira vez que o racismo me olhou nos olhos ... Normalmente sou forte, me elevo, prefiro pensar que mereço melhor, que essa pessoa não vale a pena minha energia. Mas por que eu sempre tenho que ser tão forte? Por que eu tenho que usar uma concha tão grossa para me proteger dos outros, do mundo? Por que eu não posso ser apenas eu?

Vestindo-se, a maquiagem, o cabelo, as cores neutras ... Quanto disso é realmente eu? Eu tentei não ser afetado pelo que aconteceu e, como eu disse, normalmente eu sou muito bom nisso, mas eu deveria?

Voltando no tempo eu percebo que esta força tão chamada tem estado comigo desde que eu era apenas uma criança. É justo que uma criança precise ser forte para não ser quebrada pelo meio ambiente? Você pode pensar que é um exagero, mas lembro-me de adivinhar a mim mesmo, não porque não acreditava em meu potencial, mas porque sempre tinha outra coisa a provar. Sempre foi mais difícil para mim, eu nunca fui uma opção, eu sempre teria que explicar que não, eu não sou a empregada, eu não sou a babá, eu não estou perdida, eu moro aqui, eu estava apenas olhando, eu quero tente esse vestido e sim eu posso pagar, por favor não toque no meu cabelo, eu não sou uma mulher ainda apesar do corpo, eu não preciso mostrar o salário de meus pais para ser aceito por sua família, sim meu nariz é natural e pequeno, estes não são pessoas desabrigadas é uma foto da minha família.

Sim, as minorias tendem a se sentir indignas de suas realizações e duvidamos de nós mesmos o tempo todo. Já fazia um tempo desde a última vez que eu estava naquele lugar confuso, mas aqui estou eu de novo, me permitindo ficar ofendido porque ser uma mulher de tanto sucesso só pode significar que eu sou uma fraude, certo? Então meu velho amigo Vulnerabilidade decide me fazer uma visita e a próxima coisa que eu sei… Racismo e sexismo me atingiram com força. Um soco do mundo, outro soco da minha mente, me enganando em acreditar que "isso", uma carreira de sucesso, um extenso portfólio de conquistas, isso só pode ser uma coisa: uma fraude.

Voltando em toda a situação, que aconteceu alguns minutos atrás, eu cheguei a uma conclusão: você só pode ser uma "fraude" se você se permitir ser um, e haverá muitas inseguranças que surgirão para ter certeza de que sinta-se como um impostor. Ser a única mulher em cada reunião de diretoria a que fui, certamente me fez mais propenso a seguir esse caminho, mas também pode ser a prova de que é exatamente onde eu deveria estar: no topo, porque sei que não uma montanha fácil de escalar, e sabe de uma coisa? Eu vou secar minhas lágrimas - o que me lembrou da minha luta - e, em vez disso, vou apreciar a vista: ah, sim, foi um grande desafio chegar até aqui, mas é uma bela vista daqui de cima.


Posted by Vanessa Guimarães on: February 02, 2019 05:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Leadership styles: opportunities for women

Categories: leadership, women

Much has been studied about leadership styles and about the characteristics a leader should have. However, not as many studies include gender as a variable in their evaluations. Additionally, the studies that have done it differ in design, methodology and evaluations performed so though it is tempting to make an assertion about the case, it is difficult to conclude that there is a feminine leadership style in contraposition with a masculine one. Nonetheless, women have been associated more than men to exert a transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership style is often compared with the transactional style and is a model that takes into account different variables addressed separately by other leadership theories like traits, behavior, context and organizational culture that are combined in this model. Below is a brief summary and comparison of both models.



The transformational model of leadership focus on team-building, motivation and collaboration with employees to accomplish a desired change. Transformational leaders motivate and inspires employees through incentives and by providing opportunities for growth while setting goals that are aligned with the strategic vision of the organization as well as with the team and the employee’s own interests, values and needs. This style of leadership is proactive and best for turbulent or changing environments. Women are more identified with this style of leadership where cooperation, collaboration, equity and empathy are characteristics traits.

Transactional leaders, on the other hand, use disciplinary power and incentives as rewards or punishments to motivate employees to perform at their best. They are more concerned with maintaining the normal conditions and operations of the organization rather than with achieving change. This style of leadership is reactive and more suited for settled environments.

The transactional style is the traditional leadership style used extensively across different organizations for many years and it is identified with masculine traits like self- interest and competitivity, authority, control, effectiveness, etc.

Today many companies are immersed in changing and dynamic environments where the ability to response fast is highly valuable and needed to stay competitive. The traditional leadership model, based almost exclusively in increasing productivity and efficiency is being challenged. Strong hierarchized and bureaucratized organizations with specialized functional areas may not have the adequate structure for this new globalized environment.

Opportunities arise here for women who generally exert a transformational leadership style that is more suited in this scenario. Inspirational motivation, the ability to create a sense of purpose and commitment, intellectual stimulation and the creation of shared spaces for discussion and joint resolution of problems are all traits and abilities associated with feminine characteristics related to cooperation, collaboration and empathy. These characteristics are needed in organizations that required flexibility and rapid adaptation to change, where innovation and changes are not only needed but welcomed.

In summary, though is it difficult to differentiate and define a feminine leadership style it seems that women are more identified with the transformational one in which more feminine characteristics are represented. Certainly, also men could have them and exert a transformational style. Though transactional style has been the model widely accepted and used in traditional organizations, a fact that may have contributed to the under-representation of women in managerial positions, there seems to be now good perspectives for women with the values and attitudes needed to be a transformational leader.

Lastly but not less, many studies reveal that men outperform women when testing self-confidence perception. We should pay attention to this, it is time to start working on it so as to be able to fully seize every opportunity that arise.



Spanish version


Estilos de liderazgo: oportunidades para las mujeres.


Mucho se ha estudiado sobre los estilos de liderazgo y sobre las características que debe tener un líder, sin embargo, no se han realizado muchos estudios que incluyan al género como una de las variables de sus evaluaciones. Los estudios que sí lo han hecho, además, difieren en el diseño, la metodología utilizada y las evaluaciones realizadas, por lo que, si bien es tentador hacer una afirmación sobre el tema, es difícil concluir que existe un estilo de liderazgo femenino en contraposición con uno masculino. A pesar de esto, las mujeres se han asociado más que los hombres a ejercer un estilo de liderazgo del tipo transformacional.

El estilo de liderazgo transformacional normalmente se compara con el estilo transaccional y es un modelo que toma en cuenta y combina diferentes variables que han sido abordadas por separado por otras teorías de liderazgo tales como rasgos, comportamiento, contexto y cultura organizacional. A continuación, se muestra un breve resumen y comparación de ambos modelos:


De: https://www.aiesec.nl/blog/personal-development/transformational-leadership-vs-transactional-leadership/


El modelo de liderazgo transformacional se centra en la formación de equipos, la motivación y la colaboración con los empleados con el objetivo de lograr un cambio deseado. Los líderes transformacionales motivan e inspiran a sus seguidores a través de incentivos y brindan oportunidades de crecimiento al tiempo que establecen objetivos que están alineados con la visión estratégica de la organización, así como con el equipo y los intereses propios, valores y necesidades del colaborador. Este estilo de liderazgo es proactivo y es mejor para ambientes turbulentos o cambiantes. Las mujeres están más identificadas con este estilo de liderazgo donde la cooperación, la colaboración, la equidad y la empatía son características.

Los líderes transaccionales, por otro lado, utilizan el poder disciplinario y los incentivos como recompensas o castigos para motivar a los empleados a rendir al máximo. Están más enfocados en mantener las condiciones y operaciones normales de la organización en lugar de lograr un cambio. Este estilo de liderazgo es reactivo y más adecuado para entornos establecidos.

El estilo transaccional es el estilo de liderazgo tradicional que ha sido utilizado ampliamente en diferentes organizaciones durante muchos años y que se identifica con rasgos masculinos como el propio interés y la competitividad, la autoridad, el control, la efectividad, etc.

En la actualidad, muchas empresas se encuentran inmersas en entornos cambiantes y dinámicos donde la capacidad para dar respuestas rápidas es muy valiosa y, aún más, necesaria para mantener la competitividad. El modelo de liderazgo tradicional, basado casi exclusivamente en el aumento de la productividad y de la eficiencia, está siendo desafiado. Las organizaciones fuertemente jerarquizadas y burocratizadas, con áreas funcionales especializadas pueden no tener la estructura adecuada para este nuevo entorno globalizado. Es aquí donde surgen oportunidades para las mujeres que generalmente ejercen un estilo de liderazgo transformacional, más adecuado a este nuevo escenario.

La motivación inspiradora, la capacidad de crear un sentido de propósito y compromiso, la estimulación intelectual y la creación de espacios compartidos para el debate y la resolución conjunta de problemas son rasgos y habilidades que están asociados con características femeninas relacionadas con la cooperación, la colaboración y la empatía, características que se necesitan en organizaciones que requieren flexibilidad y rápida adaptación al cambio, donde la innovación y los cambios no solo son necesarios sino también bienvenidos.

En resumen, aunque es difícil diferenciar y definir un estilo de liderazgo femenino, pareciera ser que las mujeres se identifican más que los hombres con el estilo transformacional en el que están más representadas características femeninas. Ciertamente, también los hombres podrían tener estas habilidades y características y ejercer un estilo de liderazgo transformacional. Si bien el estilo transaccional ha sido el modelo ampliamente aceptado y utilizado en las organizaciones tradicionales, hecho que puede haber contribuido a la subrepresentación de las mujeres en puestos directivos, pareciera ser que hay ahora buenas perspectivas para las mujeres que poseen los valores y las actitudes necesarias para ser una líder transformacional.

Por último pero no menos importante, cabe notar que existen varios estudios que revelan que los hombres superan a las mujeres en su percepción de confianza en sí mismos. Deberíamos prestar atención a esto, pareciera ser hora de empezar a trabajar en esto de manera de poder aprovechar de lleno las oportunidades que se nos presentan.




-Liderazgo femenino: un modelo transformacional frente al paradigma de la organización tradicional. Thesis · September 2013. Maria Medina-Vincent. Universitat Jaume I. España

-Mujer y liderazgo en el siglo XXI: una aproximación psicosocial a los factores que dificultan el acceso de la mujer a los puestos de alta responsabilidad. Memoria Final (Abril 2009). Proyecto nº: 22/05. Investigador principal Fernando Molero Alonso. Instituto de la mujer. Secretaría General de políticas de igualdad. Ministerio de igualdad. España.

Posted by Fernanda Quinteros on: January 16, 2019 07:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

A fair language to build a fairer world

Categories: leadership, women

"Language is not a mere tool through which we express and communicate our thoughts. Language makes thought – when we speak we are thinking - and at the same time, we are representing and constructing our surrounding reality. (...) The biased use of language (...) influences our attitudes, behaviors and perceptions of the world..."


From the article “Non-sexist language and barriers to its use. A study in the university environment”, University of Sevilla (1)


When analyzing journalistic notes, conversations, books, advertisements and other symbolic products, we notice the lack of awareness of the undeniable fact that we are recording certain messages biased in our minds. We seem to find it hard to notice that apart from merely speaking or writing we are forging culture.


Therefore it seems appropriate to include an article about language as a fundamental tool in Project Management. We spend many hours of our day communicating. It is one of our most important tasks and merits a conscious effort to spot possible gender biases such as prejudices, stereotypes and mandates.


In Spanish, the masculine gender is inclusive compared to the feminine gender, which happens to be the exclusive one: "Los alumnos de esta clase" includes men and women, but "Las alumnas de esta clase" excludes the males. The masculine is the default, the generic principle.[i]

According to the Real Academia Española: "The explicit mention of the female is only justified when the opposition of the sexes is relevant in the context". It is the definition of a use of the language in which women are invisible.

Concerned about the undesirable effects of this generic masculine principle which invisibilizes women, linguistic policies have been implemented in the English-speaking world, which aim at focusing on the replacement of masculine terms by neutrals. For example, the noun “fireman” has been modified so that it includes both male and female candidates to the professions. Nowadays, the neutral noun “firefighter” is preferred. This is a clear and graphic example in which the old biased role expectation (for firefighters to be men) has been replaced for a fairer noun which includes both men and women.

We must bear in mind that language is not only an instrument for us to use consciously but the medium by which we build ourselves as desiring subjects. We either aspire to something or refrain from it according to the options that our language offers us.
In certain cases, such as job descriptions, the use of a neutral language has become a legal requirement.

In my case, I should mention that when I questioned the fact that my salary receipt indicates the male noun "Jefe" [ii] and not the female "Jefa", this -innocent?- issue was not considered important by most women. This lack of awareness of the invisibility of women in certain jobs is due to our unconscious use of the language.
My decision to make my electronic signature to indicate "Jefa" (the female noun) far from whimsical, or even politically correct, is a commitment to make women visible in leadership positions. (It must be noted that -after two years- I am still struggling to get the fair print “Jefa” on my salary receipt)

We all know that full equality can only be achieved through deep cultural changes. Nevertheless, the conscious effort of younger generations to intervene language with forms such as @ or "x" or "e" should be taken as the relentless call for attention concerning the unequal state of affairs. The asymmetry regarding the possibilities of men and women in the labour market comes as an urgent concern for us all.

New measures are being implemented in the developed countries to modify the status quo that has for centuries marginalized women from positions of power, or subjected them to unequal payment. All these modifications are emerging from numerous and global social and linguistics studies which take the issue of inequality in the workforce as of paramount importance.

Language builds reality and helps transform it.Quoting the philosopher Francis Steiner (2) "What is not named does not exist".



  1. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/descarga/articulo/4731542.pdf

       2. Francis George Steiner (Paris, April 23, 1929) is a writer, philosopher, and critic and theoretician of literature and culture. He is one of the most important intellectuals of international influence since the mid-20th century


[i] Both sentences in English means the same: "The students of this class" but in Spanish nouns, articles and pronouns are marked for gender

[ii] “Jefe” / “Jefa” means both “Boss”



Un lenguaje justo para construir un mundo más justo

 “El lenguaje no es una mera herramienta mediante la cual expresamos y comunicamos nuestros pensamientos. El lenguaje hace pensamiento- se piensa cuando se habla-y al mismo tiempo, representa y construye realidad. (…) El uso sesgado del lenguaje (…) influye en las actitudes, el comportamiento y las percepciones de las personas…”

Del artículo “Lenguaje no sexista y barreras a su utilización. Un estudio en el ámbito universitario”, Universidad de Sevilla (1)


Al analizar notas periodísticas, conversaciones, libros, publicidades y otros productos simbólicos, notamos la falta de concientización de que estamos grabando ciertos mensajes sesgados en nuestras mentes. Pareciera que nos cuesta tomar conciencia de que estamos forjando cultura.

Por eso me parece apropiado incluir en nuestro blog un artículo respecto al lenguaje como una herramienta fundamental en la Dirección de Proyectos. Quienes nos dedicamos a esta profesión pasamos muchas horas de nuestro día comunicando. Es una de nuestras tareas más importantes y amerita un esfuerzo consciente para detectar los posibles sesgos de género tales como prejuicios, estereotipos y mandatos.

En el español el género masculino es el inclusivo o incluyente frente al femenino marcado, que pasa a ser el género exclusivo o excluyente: "Los alumnos de esta clase" incluye a hombres y mujeres, pero "Las alumnas de esta clase" excluye a los varones. El masculino es el default, el principio genérico.
Según la Real Academia Española: “La mención explícita del femenino solo se justifica cuando la oposición de sexos es relevante en el contexto”. Es la definición de un uso de la lengua donde las mujeres están invisibles.

Atentos a los efectos indeseados de este principio del masculino genérico, en el mundo angloparlante se han enfocado en el reemplazo de términos masculinos por neutros. Por ejemplo, fireman (bombero). En este caso hoy se usa preferentemente firefighter, que es neutro. En este ejemplo queda graficada la expectativa de rol que si bien antes quedaba limitada al varón hoy en día se abre (mediante el uso del neutro) tanto a varones como a mujeres. Hay que recordar que la lengua no sólo es instrumento que usamos sino que es el medio en el que nos construimos como sujetos deseantes. Aspiramos o no a algo según las opciones que nos proponga nuestra lengua.
En ciertos casos, tal como descripciones de trabajos, se volvió un requisito legal el uso de un lenguaje neutro.

Como ejemplo personal, al mencionar que mi propio recibo de sueldo indica “Jefe” y no “Jefa”, el tema no fue considerado importante por la mayoría de las mujeres. La decisión de que mi firma electrónica indique “Jefa” es un compromiso con visibilizar a las mujeres en puestos de liderazgo, aun cuando sigo en la lucha de que esto se refleje en la descripción de mi cargo.

Más allá de que para lograr la equidad sean necesarios cambios culturales profundos, el esfuerzo consciente de las generaciones más jóvenes de intervenir el lenguaje con formas como el @ o la “x” o la “e” debería tomarse como el llamado de atención constante que estos jóvenes hacen sobre la urgencia de intervenir en otras esferas.
Apuntan a modificar el statu quo que ha mantenido durante siglos una asimetría en los puestos de poder, evidenciada por el pago desigual, la falta de mujeres en puestos directivos, el lenguaje sexista en las oficinas, y otros hechos que son hoy en día objeto de numerosos estudios en todo el mundo.

El lenguaje construye la realidad y contribuye a transformarla.
Citando al filósofo Francis Steiner (2) “Lo que no se nombra no existe”.



  1. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/descarga/articulo/4731542.pdf

       2. Francis George Steiner (París, 23 de abril de 1929) es un escritor, filósofo, y crítico y teórico de la literatura y de la cultura. Se trata de uno de los intelectuales de influencia internacional más relevantes desde mediados del siglo XX

Posted by Marcela Terzi on: January 06, 2019 05:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

"Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world."

- Dave Barry