"Gender equality is not only a moral imperative. Its pursuit stands to benefit our world in other ways too."

Prof. Nicola Kleyn was appointed as Dean of Executive Education in 2020. She is also a professor in the Department of Marketing Management. Her research is applied in nature and focuses on corporate branding and reputation management.

What does International Women’s day, and its theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, mean to you?

Gender equality is not only a moral imperative. Its pursuit stands to benefit our world in other ways too. My sadness is that we seem to  surface this on a single day out of 365 on this. I would so much rather that we were all working to achieve this 364 days a year and that this day could be the celebration of the impact of our collective efforts.

Do you have an RSM “I WILL” statement? If so, please tell us what it is and why you chose this statement.

Being new to RSM, I’m still mulling over this. The one that I’m closest to right now is I WILL CONNECT. Coming from a South Africa, a country with a history is apartheid – an ultimate state of disconnectedness – I am passionate about connecting people across worlds. As a practice-focused scholar, I also seek to connect in multiple ways: thought leadership and impact, business and the academy and sometimes disconnected parties who in collaborating to solve wicked problems will change the world.

Which women are you inspired by – either in your immediate network or globally?

The woman that most inspires me is Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s former Public Protector. During her term of office and as a visiting Professor now she has worked tirelessly, and sometimes at great risk, to fight corruption and promote moral justice.

What barriers have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in my career. Whilst so many of my colleagues have faced seemingly insurmountable external barriers, my biggest barrier has often been the silent voice and learned scripts that come from within that create internal doubt about my ability to have impact. With wonderful mentors (many of them men) I’ve been able to become humbly confident to dream big.

As women, how can we encourage and help other women to achieve more in their careers?

Role-model inclusive behaviours. Speak out when you see inequity or bias at play. Give those without voice a space to speak. Look for younger woman and ask them how you can support them. Tell your true stories so that people do not feel alone as they climb mountains.

What advice would you give women at RSM who want to become leaders?

Spend time with yourself understanding your gifts and how you choose to follow and lead (good leaders are also good followers!). Be vocal about your aspirations (waiting to be noticed is not advisable). Ask for feedback about your blind spots from people who are well-intentioned and want you to succeed.

What are the "women's themes" that still need greater awareness in your opinion?

There are no “women’s themes”. There are human themes. Whilst we are making small strides to embrace diversity, we have a long way to go to build inclusive societies. That means we all need to walk the uncomfortable road of understanding how, across all facets of our lives, we can each contribute to tackling inequality and building social cohesion.

More information

The Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations (ECWO) is committed to women’s continued advancement into leadership positions across multiple sectors – from multinationals and start-ups to not-for-profit organisations. ECWO supports gender-balanced leadership through its management educationresearch and events about gender equality, and by coaching female business leaders. Its strong network leads to women empowerment and gender equality to the benefit of business and society.

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