- Isabella Lenarduzzi

Five attitudes of top-performers and leaders of change

Belgium has a new ambassador for gender equality at work. Michèle Paque, Managing Director of Quintiles Benelux, received the fifth Wo.Men@Work Award 2014 – run by JUMP in association with Coca-Cola Enterprises Belgium at a special award ceremony on 27th of November. The jury and the public recognised her enthusiastic commitment to promoting equality between women and men in the workplace.

In her capacity as Managing Director of Quintiles Benelux, a leader in the field of outsourced health care, Michèle Paque has perfectly managed to put gender equality in the workplace into practice. After the birth of her two sons and being out of the professional circuit for over a year, she managed to get back into a managerial role. With the help of her team, she has transformed an organisation of 23 employees into a major player consisting of 350 committed employees, 60% of whom are women. It builds on a “winning” attitude to help people achieve their potential.

Michèle is proud to have changed the mentality of the company’s management. It is important, she says, to convince women to dare to take the career opportunities that arise and to become aware of their capabilities.

“I support the differences between women and men, but I firmly believe in the balance and equality between them. The development of a strong organisation based on skills, performance, talent and results is the best way to promote equality between women and men at work. Promoting equality in the workplace also means taking initiatives – initiatives that are now obvious to me, but still too often surprise others: for example, granting a promotion to a pregnant woman.”

Michèle Paque was chosen from among 8 other exemplary candidates for this year award. So what made these nominees as well as past candidates and winners of the Wo.Men@Work Award stand out as leaders of better gender balance in the workplace?

After five editions of the Wo.Men@Work Awards, five attitudes of top-performing managers who advocate gender equality in the workplace have come to the fore.

A real change agent:

  • Is driven by personal conviction. These executives are passionate and true believers that the best organisations are the ones that allow the talented to flourish regardless of who they are, the gender they have, their cultural background or sexual orientation. They fully understand the benefits for the organisation of having a strong gender balance and a diverse leadership team. This passion and firm belief is infectious in convincing others.
  • Actively promotes gender equality and balanced leadership at every opportunity. What really wins over the hearts and minds of others, is the consistent and active way in which they support and promote gender equality. They remain firm advocates of balanced leadership and use every occasion to promote that message to as many people as possible, within their companies. But they don’t stop at that. They spread the word and influence debate outside their companies as well.
  • Walks the talk continuously and persistently. These executives seek complementarity and diversity in all their talent management decisions. They prioritise practical solutions that encourage their most talented employees to stay, grow and be happy within their organisations. They find real solutions that work for everyone, instead of stumbling at the first sign of resistance. They are role models in their organisations leading the way for other managers.
  • Acts as mentor to others. What sets an exemplary executive apart from others is that they are active supporters and mentors for other talented female employees. They coach and challenge them with an authentic belief in their potential thus helping them to improve their self-confidence and fight any stereotyping that they may come up against.
  • Educates men and women to overcome their biases. The strongest executives demonstrate the ability to educate and coach men and women to overcome their biases. They share their personal experiences and lessons learned, so that others can avoid fighting the same battles that they have fought. These people have a high degree of self-awareness that enables them to switch off from ancient stereotypes, belief systems and conditionned reflexes to create their own leadership style. They are often charismatic individuals who can inspire others with their extraordinary level of intellectual honesty.

These five attitudes are what make an inspiring leader successful in bringing about cultural change in their organisations and implementing a better gender balance for the benefit not just of the bottom line but also for the development their most talented employees.

Join me in congratulating Michèle and wishing her all the best for the year ahead as ambassador for gender equality at work.