On March 17, on the Düsseldorf campus at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, a special group from IWiL hosted their kick-off session for this year’s Women into Leadership program. Founded by Dr. Natalie Daghles and Sabine Hansen (EMBA, 2002), this volunteer mentoring network tirelessly advocates diversity and inclusion, all while ensuring that qualified and hardworking women at the C-level have a path to success.
Six years ago, IWiL held smaller meetings that took place in German with all participants based in the Düsseldorf region. Today, the meetings are held in English to accommodate an international audience that fills an entire conference room and comprises people from Germany to Spain to China. “Although you may only be directly involved in the program for one year,” said Klaudia Wilde, Director of Development at WHU, addressing the new crop of mentees, “you’re a part of our family for life.” That sentiment was mirrored in the relaxed and celebratory atmosphere at the meeting, which also featured firsthand testimony from mentee Sarah Blazek, an attorney, and her mentor Frauke Heistermann, an experienced investor and entrepreneur, who joined forces to help the former realize her career goals and maintain clarity as an active professional.
“The challenges were the highlights,” said Blazek, who sought to take the next major step and become an equity partner, find balance between her home life and her work life, and feel fully at ease navigating a working world predominately run by men. Together, the two took on these challenges, even meeting with Blazek’s direct manager to find a viable path to the top.
Between keynote speeches from Hamidreza Hosseini, Founder and Director of ECODYNAMICS GmbH, who promoted the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace, and Andreas Krebs, Chairman of Longfield Invest GmbH and author, who joyfully spoke of his adventures working across cultural boarders in Asia, the mentors and mentees had a chance to come together in brief, one-on-one speed dating sessions. The mentees in particular expressed their appreciation for the “by-women-for-women” approach IWiL takes—an approach that notably does not exclude the involvement of non-female mentors and does fight back against harmful stereotypes.
From IT experts at Telekom to top-level managers at Deutsche Bahn, Audi, and Douglas, the successful women participating in this year’s program have already had a substantial influence around the world: They manage large teams comprising thousands of employees; many have worked abroad; and they are responsible for implementing new sustainable energy solutions, marketing new products, maintaining digital security, and everything in between. Even with all they have accomplished in their many years of experience, they are still hungry to learn more about themselves and what they can realize with the help of their expert mentors.
Ensuring equal opportunity for women on its campuses is one of WHU’s missions, and the school’s direct involvement with IWiL has been supported by Dean Markus Rudolf since the program’s inception. Two of the many participating mentors, alumna Vera Weiß (Diplom, 1990), and Professor Fabiola Gerpott, Chairholder of Leadership, are members of the WHU community.
The previous class of mentees is scheduled to graduate from the program later this month on March 30 at a ceremony in Essen hosted by IWiL cooperation partner Brenntag. To learn more about IWiL and the Women into Leadership program, check out their official website.