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What we don’t say about Women in Leadership Positions with Marwa Soliman

An enlightening conversation with Marwa Soliman who gives us great insights on women in leadership positions and positions of power, gender equality in the workplace, and the complementary relationship between men and women in society. In this episode of Learn with Bessern, we aim to find answers to a very important question.

What is the reality about women in Leadership?

About the speaker Marwa Soliman!!!

Marwa Soliman has held senior positions across pharma, dermo cosmetics & medical industry. Today she is the General Manager in a Danish medical device company. She went through the (tough) path of "making it to the top" and is a fierce advocate of women to be able to get equal opportunities and exposure in leadership positions.

Check out the full video down below!!!

Key Takeaways from the Podcast:

About women support, biases and confidence

Marwa said: I believe personally, that really, if you want to do something, whether you're a woman or a man, if you put something in your head, you will do it. But you need some support sometimes and women needs more support. But most of the times it's almost like our society that includes our parents, and kind of programming in our brains, certain biases is almost like, and this is something that is quite true in in human psychology is that most of our brain is consisted of formatting a number of rules that have been dictated by our society, and is constantly reminding us where we belong, right. So we all know that because of human evolution, men were supposed to be stronger. Men were were supposed supposed to take care of the family. It's us men because of our biases, our considerations about women capabilities we think women need more support than usual. We have women that have been constantly being pushed that has affected their ability to be confident or the capacity to be whatever they want to be. And that is a big problem.

The current situation of women in corporations

It's putting women in leadership and toward more stereotyping women and men role in the corporation. But there is a real progress there. And if we talk about progress in the corporation, we talk about Two types, gender equality and gender equity. Because they are different. So the general equality is let's say that this is giving fair treatment for all genders. So what what does, what do I mean by equal treatment? First of all, for example, equal pay, you cannot hold the same position, and there is a difference between white man and woman. There is a progress in that. And you really see that there is a lot of payment policies and procedures are being revised in the corporation.

Two major issues for women in leadership in corporations

First is the lack of enough pipeline of talent that is ready to take on board and that comes from the educational system. We may have been biased to certain directions a loop psychology do something else don't do don't be an engineer, don't be a tech person, don't be a programmer. That's one problem. And the other thing is more about the, the the human context that in order to reach to that leadership position, women will have to go with more struggles than men.

Personal Bias

We all have our own personal biases that have been instilled in us by our parents, teachers, society etc. For example, there are some lures in the society like boys cannot cry, boys can find outside women are more into the household business they are more caregivers for the family, they need to be in dresses polite, not shouting while the boys can shout and can play around no issues. This is all let's say a social and gender norms that control our voice and simply it controls how we accept this or not accepting a certain behavior action from a specific male or female. So you are stereotyping so if I interview somebody now for position I revert back in my brain to my norms and my bringing up and how it works and then I can say okay, probably even fits the job or not.

Workplace bias

If you segment the job function in the workplace, and you start with the HR, the regulatory you will find at least 60-70% woman, it is a brain domination for women. This is again a background or a result of the social norms, gender roles, the biases, even for the hiring manager or bias to take a woman in this position this is a bias against men. They don't believe that men fitting this position, they believe that women more fitting this position and if you go the other side into commercial leadership into sales marketing, IT service the IT service is much worse, much worse bias against women. So, these are the type of biases you s need to be aware of as a leader by developing self-realization sessions in the company.

Are women that good in leadership positions? In what skills are they better than men?

Marwa said: I personally believe women if adequately trained and educated and exposed to proper work experience like men they will be more effective leaders, and I will not talk here on my own opinion or obseravation from more than 20 years of working in diverse environment but also will refer to that researches and studies confirms that and will shed a light on a recent research conducted by Zegner / Folker (authors of make yourself indispensable) done on more than 800 leaders 360 Women and 450 men , the research was done using the 360 assessment score across peers/subordinates and managers of the sample above to test over all leadership effectiveness and the leadership competencies , the overall effectiveness was score better for women than men and the assessment was done before and after the crisis of COVID and the after results were even better for the favor of women.

Diverse and Inclusive workplaces

Male and female are complementary genders in the progress of the Society of a corporation or a school of any place in this world. And I personally believe that the most, let's say, healthy culture of a corporation is where you have a balanced representation. Not only between male and females, but between different backgrounds, different education, different nationalities. So the balance is always there, because this is the real truth behind the diversity. And the other truth is do not stop at a diversity, how you include those togethers. What is your inclusion action that you are doing because the inclusion actually is more important than the diversity? The diversity it just having different head counts, but how you can make those headcounts counts which is the inclusion this is this is the key and how you can make a male learn from a female a trait that he doesn't have like what you refer to, like multitasking. For example, women are better at multitasking than men and this is evidence across years. But you also the male or the female also can learn from a Male. Male can be more assertive in controlling things. Females usually tend to be softer way but sometimes you need to be assertive. So how you learn from a male and this will be achieved by creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

What can women practice in order to overcome the barriers that are limiting them into their growth?

There is also some barriers inside the head of the lady ladies are more used to be or more famous to suffer from impostor syndrome. And this is research evidence. It's not you know, among among 100 List leaders in the senior leadership 75% Suffering from impostor so they are always self doubt themselves. So it's very clear barrier because when you self doubt, you are even sometimes the self doubting is preventing you from even speaking out in a meeting. So when you have in a meeting, you start out okay, do I understand the topic correctly? Probably not. So it's better not to answer this question. It's better not to comment. So this is a barrier because your exposure is limited because you don't expose yourself again, because you self doubt.

Firstly, to overcome this I believe personally start with yourself to change yourself. Because the society change is difficult. So changing yourself is easy. So be aware about your values and be let's say honest with yourself, what is what are your values? And I know my parents, I personally know my barriers very, very clearly. I know that I'm having self doubts a lot. I know I'm imposing sometimes I know the answer. I don't say it because I feel shy or embarrassed.

Secondly, enroll yourself in a mentorship program, hire a mentor, hire a coach as can be even if you don't go to a mentor or a coach in a formal way but find a buddy or a manager that you can trust and you can be open.

Thirdly, work on your education. Don't spend one single year without adding to your skills, something on top because this will empower your self confidence. This empowerment, reduce your self doubt and it makes you feel better even psychologically it also will give you this post of pushing.

What should MEN change / improve / remove to support gender balance?

Support diversity as the balanced work environment will make both grow up as they learn from each other, lower individualistic decision making and endorse participative decision making, endorse as well work-life balance, balance between control and coach if not done, continue a healthy ego.


Vipasha Balani,

Digital Communication Associate.


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