Hedwige Nuyens: The feeling of being “only” a girl ignited my passion for equal rights


Hedwige Nuyens, Chair of EWOB, on gender equality, challenges, and achievements of EWOB

Businesswomen of the Year. Author of the book on the glass ceiling. Mentor to over 100 women. There are many shining moments and achievements in over 30 years of work of Hedwige Nuyens, Chair of European Women on Boards (EWOB), when it comes to empowering women in business and confronting the hardest challenges women face in their careers. Her motivation behind these outstanding accompaniments? In the pursuit of gender diversity and inclusion in the corporate world, personal motivations can often drive the most impactful change.

We sat down with Hedwige Nuyens to gain insights into her incredible journey and contributions to the cause of women’s empowerment in the corporate world, and beyond.

Can you tell us about your personal and professional motives of choosing to work on the topic of diversity and inclusion in companies?

Hedwige Nuyens: My father desperately wanted a boy. He ended up with 7 daughters. That feeling of being “only” a girl, planted the seed of my work and passion for equal rights. For more than 25 years, I have tried to move the needle, as a mentor, speaker, author and now as the Chair of European Women on Boards. I am incredibly proud of the over 100 volunteers and staff members who are working to achieve gender equality in decision making.

You have over two decades of experience of mentoring hundreds of female executives. Can you tell a bit more about the positive developments and persistent challenges that still remain for the women that wish to access senior decision-making positions?

Hedwige Nuyens: Gender Equality has progressed a lot. For example, 60% of university students are female now. But moving up the career ladder is still much harder for women. To change this, you need a push and pull strategy. At EWOB we do both: we help women get ready for a C-level and Board position, extending their network and becoming more visible. But we also encourage and help companies to create a more inclusive environment. Setting targets for positions at the top is key as well and that’s why we pushed for the approval of the Women on Boards Directive with a goal of 40% non-executive director positions at the Board level.

Can you share with us your opinion on main areas that the Adria region will need to tackle in order to achieve greater inclusion of women in senior decision-making positions, as a region that is still on the beginning of this journey? Can you share some practical advice on this matter?

Hedwige Nuyens: Each country is different, with a specific culture and history. That is why we chose as EWOB to work with local partners like Women on Boards Adria. To make change happen, you need a solid business plan, and create alliances to get buy in. Last but not least, incredible determination and resilience as you will face backlash. WOB Adria is a great example as they are building a strong community of female talent and male allies, and as they are engaging with politicians, looking at how to implement targets similar to what the Directive is doing in the European Union. I wish Women on Boards Adria a lot of success and I am proud of our collaboration.

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