Women supporting women: Lessons from the Fugro Women in Leadership program

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
Women supporting women: Lessons from the Fugro Women in Leadership program

THNK recently concluded the Fugro Women in Leadership program, aimed at supporting 150 women within Fugro in their personal and professional growth and we consider what lessons from women in leadership we’ve learned.

While it’s important for both men and women to have a professional network, we believe it’s crucial for women to cultivate a strong inner circle of female peers if they want to reach top leadership positions.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, we reached out to a few participants in the Fugro Women in Leadership program to hear more about their experience, challenges, and what makes them hopeful for the future.

Women supporting women: Lessons from the Fugro Women in Leadership program 3

The State of Women in Leadership

While there are more women in the C-suite than ever before, women continue to be underrepresented, underpaid, and at times, discriminated against in the workforce, and there are still more lessons from women in leadership we can learn.

In many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the representation of women managers is some of the lowest in the world. In 2021 in India, for example, women held only 10% of management roles and made up only 5% of CEOs. The pandemic has also taken a toll on women, with levels of burnout escalating much faster among women than men. As of February 2021, women’s participation in the US workforce was at 57% – the lowest it’s been since 1988. 

Despite these drawbacks, women continue to make progress, advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion and pushing for more recognition and equality at work.

As Mariana Souza, Innovation Team Lead at Fugro puts it, “It is not only about getting to the top but also increasing female diversity across the board! We must act on diversity at all levels and make sure we are mentoring not only women but also men.”

For Cynthia Pratt, Coastal Zone Survey Manager at Fugro, learning opportunities like the Fugro Women in Leadership program:

Cynthia Pratt
Cynthia Pratt
Coastal Zone Survey Manager, Fugro
"Empower women as individuals to not be afraid to show their capabilities and strengths. Combine that training with upper managers promoting the strength of all members of the team – both will give others confidence that the right person has been promoted, opening the door for more women to be promoted."

The Importance of Women-only Networks

The Fugro Women in Leadership program focuses on building a strong female network within the multinational company, creating a space for women to discuss the challenges they face in their careers and learn from each other. Through peer coaching circles, participants get the opportunity to practice their coaching skills as well as build long-term support groups.

Creating these support systems is “essential to strengthening women’s participation within the company,” says Michele Barbosa, Senior HSEQ Manager at Fugro.

We’ve also found that this program has served as a powerful place for women to connect and see that they are not alone. Nicole Chong, Legal Counsel at the organization, explains, “We were able to see that the challenges we faced were commonly experienced by other women in other parts of the world and brainstorm strategies or implement solutions that could work at the macro-level.”

Mariana adds, “It feels empowering and fantastic. As a woman in a male-dominated world, learning that we do have peers who want to support us can be the difference between growing or leaving.”

Building New Skills & Mindsets

Research shows that women often showcase more effective leadership behaviours than men, such as empathy, self-awareness, mentorship, and humility. McKinsey found that employees with women managers are more likely to say that their manager has supported and helped them over the past year.

Daniela Taliana
Daniela Taliana
Geoscience Manager at Fugro
"Compared to men, women – in most cases – have more pronounced communication skills, which allow them to resolve conflict and encourage cooperation. Our emotional and logistical skills such as collaboration, flexibility, mediation, listening, resilience, courage, and determination, are all great advantages for the business and for the culture of any company."

In our program, women at Fugro not only learn how they can better support and learn lessons from women in leadership within the organization but also how to fine-tune their own leadership skills. In practical skill-building sessions, we cover topics like how to have crucial conversations, how to influence others without authority, and how to move people to act through storytelling. In other sessions, participants focus on their vertical development and learn how to build more self-awareness.

Daniela says, “The Fugro Women in Leadership program added tools and awareness of my skills and a new ‘compass’ to achieve my goals. What struck me most is the importance of listening and the ability to ask powerful questions.”

“An authentic leader has self-awareness, listens to feedback, practices her values and principles, seeks intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, builds her own support team, and stays grounded,” Nicole adds. “We should develop the skills of influencing, focus on what is within our control, and ask powerful, thought-provoking questions to problem-solve by looking at our concerns from different perspectives.”

Who Inspires You?

We asked the women at Fugro which women inspire them. Here’s what they said:

Daniela: “There are so many women I have in mind and in various fields. What they have in common is they’re charismatic and empathetic with a great collaborative sense, trusting in themselves and in their vision.”

Nicole: “Any woman juggling work, family, children, and encouraging others that we can have a career and family with the support and help of others, including our colleagues and employers.”

Michele: “Marie Curie.”

File:Mariecurie.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Mariana: “My mother, who works in research. My sister, who is a neuroscientist. Within Fugro, I admire Cathy Morris, Cornelia Dean, Linda Stuart, and Rachel Masters – all strong and dedicated women that I see doing their best every day!”

Cynthia: “My daughter. Second to her would be Amelia Earhart.”

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Find your Support System

As Nicole says wisely, “No (wo)man is an island. We succeed because there are people supporting, guiding and helping us.”

THNK is committed to supporting progress on the United Nation’s 5th SDG: gender equality. To that end, we work with public and private organizations around the world on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforce. We design and deliver dedicated development journeys for women and we are adamant that all our corporate custom-designed leadership programs include modules on inclusive leadership. 

Since 2012, we’ve partnered with organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Siemens Energy, Booking.com, Adyen, the Obama Foundation, and the World Health Organization, to develop their senior leaders.

Empower Your Women in Leadership!

Do you want to give your women leaders their chance to shine, or want help with any other leadership challenge your organization is facing? You can organize your own THNK Custom Program just like Fugro did, and THNK will guide your entire organization through its leadership transformation.

You can learn more about what a Custom Program can offer your organization with the brochure download below. 

Download Your Custom Programs Brochure