Reflections on the Executive Presence Workshop

“Close your eyes and visualize a person of power” challenged Chantal Bellow to an audience comprised of 51 women leaders from around the world. The Executive Presence Workshop held on 11th October at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, aimed at giving practical tools to own and claim power by reframing the stories we tell ourselves.

By definition Executive Presence is the physical embodiment of power. However, what does power mean in different cultures around the world and how does it influence our beliefs systems and behaviours?

Our cultural background and beliefs systems influence the stories we tell ourselves and those stories are the engine system of our actions as individuals and as leaders. Through a series of practical exercises and revealing discussions, the group built a consensus on how women leaders should be less apologetic in a male dominant society.

The stories we tell ourselves should be reframed in order to change the way we are perceived as leaders and future leaders. Women leaders from all around the world shared real experiences on they stood up in situations that reflected implicit bias. It was largely agreed that our society sends mixed-messages to young girls and it Is our duty to clarify misconceptions and break down stereotypes.

The second part of the workshop focused on the unconscious bias, which lead women to believe they should act in a certain way according to society norms.

If you relate to any of the stories below then it is time to take an action and change the narrative:

Story #1: “I’m not good enough

Story #2: “I can’t mess it up

Story #3: “I should be nice all the time. Girls should be nurturing.”

Through a series of different studies, researchers from Stanford University, exposed a participating sample of MBA students to a case study, in which they were asked to describe the leadership style of the protagonist. The same case reflecting a male leader generated a positive response amongst the class, yet when confronted with a woman's name, the students showed a compartmental bias towards the behaviour of the protagonist.

The Executive Presence Workshop finished with an engaging panel discussion with important take home messages on how to close the gender gap. The process to become a thoughtful leader should reflect our own self-development journey and the right balance to empower other women.

Our women leaders in Global Health were inspired to make use of their own resources and platforms, to mentor aspiring leaders and more importantly to mentor men to be become enablers of change.

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