Reflecting on the first year of INSEAD Women in Business in Zurich

2017 has been an extraordinary year professionally and personally for me and I have much to be thankful for. As I spend some time reflecting on the year that’s gone by and recharging for the year ahead, one of the highlights was launching and developing the INSEAD Women in Business (IWIB) chapter for Zurich INSEAD alumni.

INSEAD Women in Business Lunch, Zurich, 2017

If you are reading this and have attended one of the events in 2017, thank you again for your contributions to make this first year in Switzerland such a success. As we finalize planning for 2018, I would like to share those personal reflections on the club’s journey so far.

Three Reflections on IWIB Zurich’s First Year

  1. Listen to our powerful community.
    We kicked off activities with a set of quarterly lunches limited to 20 participants, seeking ideas on how the club could serve alumni. The pilot mentoring program launched in the summer was a result of ideas voiced. While it took a fair amount of work to lift the program off the ground, I believe its success was based on relevant, actionable alumni insight, which we fine-tuned through a detailed survey. If nothing else has given it away when we met during the year, then this is the section where you see my “marketer at heart” personality coming through, I’m an “insight first” believer.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for more.
    We asked many alumni and guests to contribute throughout the year. As mentors or mentees in the pilot program, as guest speakers, preparing training material, or even just brainstorming ideas for next events. Every time I’ve reached out, you’ve all stepped up to the challenge, bounced back new thoughts, and kept the momentum going. The pilot mentoring program garnered positive feedback since the kick-off. We now have 18 pairs matched up in Zurich alone, and an extremely balanced mentor and mentee pool in terms of gender, age, experience, and INSEAD program. Switzerland is the first national alumni association to offer a mentoring program for all generations under the IWIB umbrella, and we’re proud of the fact that our alumni are not afraid to “run with” untested ideas. I can confirm the program will return in 2018 and we will collect learnings from this first cohort to do any minor adjustments in the next edition.
  3. Grow the inner circle.
    We have successfully tested collaborations with other women’s networks and external speakers during 2017, such as Simona Scarpaleggia. Simona is one of the most inspiring and pragmatic speakers today on what it takes to move equality in business forward. Based on this, we will keep the dialogue open for other opportunities in 2018. As I shared at the Christmas lunch, we are still looking for a small group of alumni volunteers (3-4 people) in Zurich to help sustain the momentum in 2018 and beyond. Volunteering for INSEAD and IWIB is always a great experience, so why not join? If you want to become more deeply involved, drop me a note and let’s meet up in January 2018.

Also, a sincere thank you to Laurence Amand-Jules, my “partner in crime” on this journey, and the other half of the Swiss IWIB club in Geneva. It has been a pleasure to share this intense year with her, and if you are in Geneva make sure to check out the activities there too.

I am aware that achieving gender equality in business worldwide involves multiple factors and stakeholders; our “club” is but a small part of a gigantic task. I regularly ask myself the question, “if not now when?” and “what can I personally do within the time I have available to nudge things forward?”.

More importantly, I remind myself that every journey starts with one single step, and a journey is only concluded when the traveler decides it to be so. Therefore, I encourage you to continue to “show up at the table”, “be bold for change” and engage, perhaps even invite other friends of INSEAD to join. Do continue to share the opportunities and challenges so that INSEAD alumni can have an impact, combining individual contributions to forward a cause where business can indeed be a force for good.

Save the Date for IWIB Zurich events in 2018!
March 8, June 7, September 12, December 6

Wishing you a relaxing holiday season break ahead and a great start to the year, along with a virtual postcard from my painting desk.

With Season’s Greetings,

INSEAD Alumni Association Switzerland
Mafalda Tenente, IWIB President, Zurich

Japanese ink painting postcard with a bird, 2017



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