WISH 2019, a recap

WISH 2019, a recap

 A big thanks to the speakers of this edition of the WISH Event: Anne Nijs, Julie Lescut, Yousra Ajouaou (top), Nathalie Roche, Bharati Shivalkar and Brigitte Velkeniers (bottom).

On June 7th, 2019 the sixth edition of the WISH Event (Women in Science and Healthcare) took place in Brussels. For this edition, six inspiring women of all generations took the stage to share their personal stories. Today, we want to share with you the highlights of what these leading ladies taught us.

Expectations about leadership change

How to keep your leadership style up to date? There have been many different expectations for leaders in the past. From visionaries basing decisions on the organization’s goal for the future, to architects shaping their organization by being the fundament organizations can build on. From inspirational leaders guiding their staff with their ideas and motivation to coaches who put their bets on personal development and critical thinking. But what do we expect from leaders today? We want them to be catalysts showing a balanced leadership style: tapping into their organizing qualities to manage the business and into their relational qualities to manage people. Only with this flexibility can they succeed in guiding their organization in times of rapid change.  

International mobility affects your leadership skills. It provides you with opportunities to develop your leadership style further, allowing you to adapt faster, be more mindful to diversity and navigate complex relations better. Our speakers illustrated how working internationally comes in different shapes and sizes: from going abroad to building out an international network by working on assignments with colleagues or clients abroad. No matter how you give your career an international touch, it always seems to be essential to become a more mature leader in today’s corporate and academic world.

The key message of our speakers on leadership? Keep evolving your style. Strive to improve yourself and do not hesitate to do this by asking for advice and support. Take on a coach to help you gain new insight. The journey of a leader is one of continuous learning about all sorts of things, especially of learning to connect with the people around you.

Self-care is key

Women have to apply constant gentle pressure to make their point, to be heard by their colleagues, to get equal opportunities, to accomplish what they want to achieve. This can be very exhausting.

Self-care is key to stay in the game. First physically, by making time to keep your body healthy and by being attentive of the warning signs when you fail to do so. Secondly mentally, by spending time with your loved ones, by not always putting your own wishes aside, by keeping in mind that it is important to do what you love without feeling guilty about it.

The only way to build a career and take care of yourself while doing so is by leaning on others: a partner, a family, friends. So thankfully accept this support without guilt. Making positive selfish decisions from time to time is also allowed. By doing so you will quickly learn to build in the needed resilience to get ahead in your career and become the very best version of yourself.

Be a change agent yourself

“Who’s truth should determine your future as a women?” A great question that definitely provides food for thought. Both our eldest and our youngest speaker touched upon the topic. There is always someone who has your personal or professional future all laid out for you.

Being a change agent means taking matters into your own hands, both personally and professionally. You should decide how you want to develop yourself: What would you be very happy to achieve as a person? How do you interpret lifelong learning for yourself? How do you want to develop your skills? Once you have figured this out, you can translate it into your professional life: What changes can I facilitate to improve my work life and that of my colleagues, my team, my organization, its way of working and its culture? Who needs to be on board with those changes? What barriers might occur in the process?

Many of our speakers talked about the motherhood penalty that is still very much present in both the corporate and the academic world. In this young mothers and fathers can create change by not postponing parenthood for their careers. Some things in life are worth putting your career on hold for, but we should also strive to change systems so that you can combine the personal and the professional without making any sacrifices or experiencing any backlash for your choices.

How you can achieve change will depend on your professional context. Sometimes you can only do this by standing up to others and fighting, but sometimes a more gentle approach via networking and getting to know what’s on your colleagues minds will be a better way of working. No matter the change or the way you want to achieve it, it is important to believe in yourself! Your intuition will get you a long way, and your skills will get you over the finish line.

Almost every story WISH women shared during the event was one of perseverance, of endless personal and professional drive to not just be good but to excel. We hope to hear from even more inspiring women next year.

And WISH women, remember: Bob Marley might have said No woman, no cry, but we say No woman, no innovation!


Karen Vanherck

D&I Communications Manager