Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. Officially recognized by the United Nations in 1977, this annual celebration is an opportunity to educate the public and mobilize political will and resources toward addressing women’s issues worldwide. On International Women’s Day, we recognize women’s achievements, honor the growing women’s movement, and support women’s rights and equity in political and economic spheres.
INSEAD’s Limitless campaign celebrates women whose strength and determination have driven them to innovate. For 2022, the campaign theme is #BreakTheBias, raising awareness and taking action for equality. These six INSEAD alumnae are leaders in their industries, each with stories of professional and personal growth that can inspire others to #BreaktheBias.
Kritika Singh is Vice President at Citi Private Bank in Singapore. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but the dearth of women in senior leadership roles is changing, and so are attitudes and labels that developed in their absence.
“Early on in my career, I must admit that this fear of being labeled did influence how I approached certain situations,” Singh says. “However, I have been lucky to have developed a strong set of sponsors by personally investing time in these mentor-mentee relationships.”
Singh advises women professionals to network with people who can make a difference in their careers, remain visible in their performance and ambitions, and ensure management knows that they want to take charge of more responsibilities. For her, limitless means “To remain hungry all the time. The day you feel full is the day you will stop pushing to be better.”
Jane Bertch, the founder of La Cuisine Paris, is all about being your authentic self. “One of the belief systems I have heard in my life is the importance of ‘fitting in,’” she says. “I think women tend to suffer this on a different level, particularly when they find themselves in an industry where people look very different from themselves.”
The line between being in tune with your environment and the pressure to conform can sometimes lead women to let go of themselves as individuals and lose touch with their values. Bertch believes that being a strong leader and admitting vulnerability are not mutually exclusive.
“I credit my time on the EMC program for allowing me to understand and appreciate the sheer power and freedom of being vulnerable,” says Bertch. “To the contrary of what you might believe, you can actually build confidence amongst those around you when you are strong enough to admit that you do not have all the answers.”
Bertch sees being limitless as continuously challenging obstacles and constantly growing: “Being limitless means, every day, pushing even just a millimeter past where you were yesterday.”
Lynetta Tan is the Chief Executive of Singapore Space & Technology Ltd and was featured in the Fortune feature Ladies who Launch, highlighting the women behind innovative startups in the private space industry.
Tan’s career upends stereotypical gender labels. “I was fortunate to have spent my formative years in an environment which allowed me access to the best education possible, regardless of gender,” she says. “This is in sharp contrast to the professional field I have chosen. The deep technology and space sector is traditionally much more male-dominated. In spite of this, I have been very fortunate to have supporters, mentors, and positive anchors throughout my life who were ‘gender blind’ and have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.”
Tan’s strong values of treating people well, respecting others, and remaining open to challenges have guided her success in this relatively small business community.
“It is critical that our next generation of tech leaders are grounded by good values, who are sensitive to the challenges we face as humanity, who are gender blind so that we can collectively build a better, sustainable future with planetary-wide impact,” Tan says.
Her work in her organization is not just about advancing technology; it is also about cultivating talent and breaking down barriers in the industry for more people. “Being limitless is about limitless strength – in having the strength to pursue our aspirations, to uplift others, and to make planetary-wide changes for the benefit of humanity.”
A Finance Specialist at ENGIE, Linda Guemne Jouonang believes that when women enjoy a sense of belonging, they can achieve anything. “I recommend that you have a support system which is not only willing to bet on your talent and navigate through the advancement of your career,” she advises, “but also to help you juggle work and time with your family. This could be your partner, your family, sometimes even your coworkers or employees. Everything around you works like an eco-system; everyone has a role to play.”
Guemne Jouonang understands limitless to mean “that everything is possible. If I were to give my younger self advice, it would be to stay true to yourself. If you want to do something, do it. If you want to touch the sky, touch the sky. Because at the end, all that matters is you.”
“When I was young, I was convinced that your identity and your origin were one and the same thing. A person’s origin would dictate who you would become in the future,” recalls Ouiza Bechar. “Over time, I realized they weren’t, and overcoming this was really the key element for me.”
Today, Bechar is the Head of Digital Distribution & Customer Experience at Allianz. Growing up in Algeria, Bechar eventually discovered that change is an inevitable and natural part of life, especially for women. “You adapt as you grow professionally and personally to satisfy your need for experiences and to reach a certain level of happiness,” she says. “And try to understand who you are, what you like, what you don’t like, and be open to try things that you think you may like.”
For Bechar, “Limitless to me means that you need to be fearless about acknowledging that you don’t know a number of things, but also that you are fearless in the process of learning them.”
Jacques Muriel is a Sustainability Solutions Consultant at the dawn of her career. “I have been quite fortunate to not have met any major hurdles due to being a woman,” she explains. “There have been some instances, however, where I felt that being a young woman, in particular a woman belonging to a minority, made me less credible in the eyes of some of my coworkers. While I am not naïve and know these factors affect the way I am perceived, I do feel like the best way to deal with it at such an early stage in my career is to focus on proving those people wrong.”
Originally from Martinique, Muriel studied in France, Korea, and Singapore. She describes struggling with the meaning behind her complex identity: “I felt like I did not fit in any commonly accepted boxes,” she says. “While I’m proud of being a Black young French Caribbean woman, these attributes tied to my roots are not what defines me.”
Muriel trained herself not to try and fit people’s perceptions of who she should be. “Being limitless means to not let social constructs or stereotypes decide what you can achieve. While it is important to know your roots and be realistic of how others perceive you, they should not become mental barriers you create for yourself.”